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Alumni Experts Work with Erb Institute to Facilitate New Course in Sustainable Finance

3/30/2010 --

Content explores social and environmental dimensions of market investments.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Sustainable finance used to be the exclusive domain of activist investors. But the practice is becoming increasingly common among mainstream global players. More investors today are seeking ways to deliver market rate returns and generate positive social and environmental impacts.

Five of those players are Ross alumni who have returned to campus to facilitate a new course offered by the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise.

"Sustainable Finance: Impact Investing" debuted this spring in response to student demand. Enrollees span a spectrum of U-M schools including Ross, the College of Engineering, the Ford School of Public Policy, and the School of Natural Resources and Environment. With each session, students engage with Ross alumni experts in the areas of carbon markets, energy efficiency, microfinance, renewable energy, and clean tech.

"I have seen firsthand how sustainability-related investment opportunities have grown significantly over the last several years," says Mike Hokenson, MBA/MS '05, managing director of Minlam Asset Management LLC. He brings expertise in commercial microfinance investing to the course. "It is an honor to be a member of the professional team helping Michigan students gain insights into this dynamic market."

Other alumni facilitators include Gabriel Thoumi, MBA/MS '08, project developer, Forest Carbon Offsets LLC; Kipp Baratoff, MBA/MS '07, principal and co-founder, Equilibrium Capital Group LLC; Jon Koch, MBA/MS '96, managing director, US Renewables Group; and Ryan Waddington, MBA/MS '99, director, ZBI Ventures.

During the seven-week class, students and alumni are exploring the social and environmental dimensions of market rate investing. "The class provides a foundational fluency for students to better operate in the new green economy," says Thoumi.

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 for sustainable finance instruments to be adopted more widely?

Students are collaborating on group projects to create a financial vehicle (such as a private equity fund, a debt instrument, etc.) that could fit within institutional investors' portfolios while delivering social/environmental impact.

"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," says Rick Bunch, managing director of the Erb Institute. "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 Ross and the School of Natural Resources and Environment. 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, contact:
Bernie DeGroat, (734) 936-1015 or 647-1847,