Old buildings with picturesque views of the British countryside. An academic institution with hundreds of years of history. A lecture room filled with leading academics and practitioners. Another day in Cambridge? Actually, it was my first day in St. Andrews, Scotland.
The end of the Easter term was an opportune time to take advantage of Cambridge’s proximity to centres of excellence in the beyond profit sector. This sector is rapidly evolving and includes organisations ranging from traditional non-profits to social enterprises to socially-oriented investors to responsible multi-nationals. The UK has a long history of charitable activities and is now at the forefront of innovations in the beyond profit sector. As part of the beyond profit concentration, my classmates and I had the opportunity to learn about and discuss these innovations through coaching sessions with leaders in the field. One topic that struck a chord with me was the power of large investors to shape sustainable corporate behaviour. And so, I decided to dive deeper into the world of responsible investing by attending this conference in St. Andrews.
The conference was jointly hosted by the Centre for Responsible Banking and Finance at the University of St. Andrews and Responsible Investor magazine. Attendees came from around the globe, representing academic institutions, asset management firms, sustainability data providers, and institutional investors to name a few. Over the two days we heard about how investors can incorporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into their investment decisions. We saw tools to help compare responsible investment products, and academic research on the financial benefits of investing in responsible equity instruments. Dynamic discussions followed the presentations and whether you were a Scandinavian asset manager, a North American Pension Fund representative, or a Cambridge MBA student, it seemed everyone walked away with valuable new insights and increased enthusiasm for the sector.
As I sat on the train back to Cambridge, I reflected on the beyond profit opportunities I have had this year starting with the beyond profit career trek in the fall (see our blog post about it here) to the Leading and Managing Beyond Profit class with Professor Dame Sandra Dawson to the guest lecture by Unilever’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Gail Kenilworth, to the Skoll World Forum held in “the other place” to the HULT Global Challenge in Dubai. Entering the Cambridge MBA programme I knew I was passionate about social impact and believed in the potential of business to achieve it. Through the experiences of this year, I have expanded my understanding of beyond profit issues and refined the role I want to play in the sector. And as the summer term begins, I look forward to spending more time exploring the world of responsible investing through my summer dissertation and taking all of these experiences with me into my career.