SOURCE: Erb Institute

Erb Institute

March 09, 2010 08:00 ET

Erb Institute Tackles Social Dimensions of Market Investments

All-Alumni Faculty Will Facilitate Seven-Week Course

ANN ARBOR, MI--(Marketwire - March 9, 2010) -  Although global markets continue to reel from the failure of complex financing instruments gone awry, the use of innovative financial strategies to create social and environmental benefits is gathering steam. Recognizing the importance of this emerging trend, The Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan is pioneering a unique, seven-week course titled "Sustainable Finance: Impact Investing."

Numerous Erb Institute alumni already are at the forefront of sustainable finance, including leading roles at investment firms Equilibrium Capital Group, Forest Carbon Offsets, Minlam Asset Management, US Renewables Group and ZBI Ventures. Five of these alumni are coming together to teach "Sustainable Finance: Impact Investment."

Drawing on these practitioners' real-world experiences, the course reflects a growing trend for institutional investors to choose new forms of "impact" investment designed to generate both market rate returns and positive social and environmental impact. Formerly the domain of activist investors, sustainable finance is increasingly being adopted by mainstream, global financial players.

Students in the course will tackle some of the social and environmental dimensions of market rate investing. For example: can an investment strategy focused on generating superior financial return also create positive change in the environment and society? How do investors evaluate, value and structure deals for renewable energy projects, clean tech venture capital, energy efficiency projects, etc.? What additional development needs to take place in for sustainable finance instruments to be adopted more widely?

As part of the requirements for the class, students will collaborate in group projects where they create a financial vehicle (e.g. private equity fund, debt instrument, etc.) that could fit within institutional investors' portfolios while delivering social / environmental impact.

"I have seen first-hand how sustainability-related investment opportunities have grown significantly over the last several years," notes Mike Hokenson, a 2005 Erb Institute graduate and instructor on commercial microfinance investing. "It is an honor to be a member of the professional team helping Michigan students gain insights into this dynamic market, and look forward to the insights and innovations we believe this course will help foster within The Erb Institute."

The Erb Institute's Sustainable Finance was created in response to student demand, and those enrollees span a spectrum of University of Michigan schools including the College of Engineering, Ford School of Public Policy, School of Natural Resources and Environment, and the Ross School of Business. The instructors, all of whom are Erb Institute alumni, are innovators from across the sustainable finance spectrum, including:

  • Gabriel Thoumi, project developer, Forest Carbon Offsets, LLC
  • Kipp Baratoff, principal and co-founder, Equilibrium Capital Group, LLC
  • Mike Hokenson, managing director, Minlam Asset Management LLC
  • Jon Koch, managing director, US Renewables Group
  • Ryan Waddington, director, ZBI Ventures

"We often think of finance and sustainability as living in two separate worlds, but as this course demonstrates, there is increasing momentum behind innovative financial approaches that incorporate socially or environmentally sustainable elements," said Rick Bunch, managing director of The Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise. "We're excited to add this course to our curriculum and to raise the awareness of sustainably-minded businesspeople and future business leaders about the importance of sustainable finance."

About the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise
Created in 1996, the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise is a 50-50 partnership between the School of Natural Resources and Environment and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. The Institute fosters professional education, public outreach and scientific scholarship supportive of the transition to sustainability -- that is, meeting the fundamental needs of a growing human population in an equitable manner within the means of nature. Utilizing a collaborative approach, the Institute helps business, government and civil society organizations to achieve meaningful progress toward sustainability. Its mission is to be a premier source of knowledge and leadership for the achievement of environmentally, economically and socially sustainable development and enterprise. For more information, visit www.erb.umich.edu.

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