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A Different Take on Doing Good

Impact investing reflects a bubbling moral revolution around the world. Taught in leading-edge business classes at University of St. Thomas, investing with a conscience is experiencing explosive growth and aiming to disrupt environmental and social outrages wherever they exist. 

UST’s chief innovation officer, Dr. Beena George, discusses impact investing in her business class.

“At its core, impact investing is faith in action — the faith that requires us to drive change through bold moves,” she said.

It evokes a John Lennon world of passionate belief: Imagine there’s no hunger, it’s easy if you try.

This relatively new asset class proposes to sustainably feed the hungry, fiercely defend the environment, stop climate change, genuinely educate marginalized communities, foster peace and more.

“Doing Good” That’s Different from Philanthropy

While the related investment funds focus on healing our planet and easing human suffering, they differ from pure philanthropy in that investors also achieve a desirable financial return.

“That’s one reason the sector is growing so fast,” George explained. “While investing always carries some risk, it’s now entirely possible to do well while doing good. Many investors were yearning for this. A study by Global Impact Investing Network found that more than 90% of impact investors meet or exceed their own earning projections.”

Sustainable Opportunities to Ease Suffering

Impact investor funds, such as Acumen, look for sustainable business models and substantial market opportunities.

For instance, Bitwise Industries’ Geekwise Academy trains marginalized people to code, giving them critical skills for today’s job market; Indigo Ag develops crops capable of surviving climate change; and PEG Africa supports the growth of off-grid solar energy in West Africa, where traditional energy delivery is unreliable and costly.

Other opportunities underscore gender equality or access to affordable education, housing and quality basic services. These choices tend to be rewarding in every way.

International studies alumnus Mike Menendez ’03, who also has an MBA from Cornell University, is an impact investment professional and president of

Southern Impact Investing Alliance, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

“Funds like Calvert Impact Capital are available even for small investors who long to make a difference and still grow wealth,” Menendez said. “You can identify the causes that are dearest to your heart and invest in a company that’s truly in alignment.”

Encouraging Continued Impact

In fall 2020, for the second year in a row, University of St. Thomas will lead the way to doing what is right as we host the Houston area’s only financial conference dedicated to the topic. The event is titled “Impact Investing: The Future is in Your Hearts and Hands.”

George, the conference leader, expects to see a number of students taking advantage of no-cost student admission to learn more about boldly building a world based on dignity.

“Leaders of the future fill UST’s classes,” George said. “At the conference, they will hear and connect with big thinkers who make ethical decisions that result in business success and sustainability.

“We’re here for our students and every person who is on fire to create hope for our world,” she said.

Watch for an announcement soon with details about the upcoming conference.

“You can identify the causes that are dearest to your heart and invest in a company that’s truly in alignment.”

Read Part II

About the Author — Jamie Roark

Jamie RoarkJamie Roark is an experienced, Houston-based content creator & communications skills coach. Through her company, Simply Communicate USA, she especially enjoys helping Higher Education and healthcare organizations to tell stories that inform and influence.

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