Climate change through the lens of impact investing

Author: Carol Elliott


Climate change presents daunting challenges along myriad fronts, including environmental effects, government policies, human services — and business investment. In just the next two decades, an estimated investment of $53 trillion will be required to limit the rise in global temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius, according to the International Energy Agency. Even at that level, the agency puts the odds at just 50 percent.

Given the size and complexity of the challenges, and the disastrous consequences of failure, it’s clear that new models of capital allocation and investment vehicles will not only be needed, but vital to providing new opportunities for innovation on a global scale.

The Notre Dame Climate Investing Conference, led by the Mendoza College of Business, will bring together researchers, business leaders, investors and environmentalists to explore the changing role and potential impact of investing in regard to climate change. The conference, “Climate Investing: Transition to a Low-Carbon World,” will take place Sept. 29-30 in McKenna Hall on the University of Notre Dame campus.

“This conference is occurring at a most opportune moment,” said Leo Burke, the director of the Global Commons Initiative at Mendoza College of Business, who is leading the conference. “In June, the Vatican published Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, which speaks to the moral issues involved. In December, the nations of the world will gather in Paris to address the issue of binding agreements on carbon emissions. We’re at the very beginning of a major shift in the global energy system. This has significant implications for every sector of society — including business.”

The event is open to the public. Attendees can register through the conference website at The initial deadline for registration is Aug. 31 (Monday).

Through keynote speakers, panels of experts and small group discussions, the conference aims to develop a comprehensive understanding of the relevant issues surrounding climate change, determine actions that both institutional and individual investors can take, and identify new investing opportunities that will positively impact the climate.

Speakers and panelists represent a range of energy, investment, nonprofit and academic organizations, including Mark Campanale, founder and executive director of the Carbon Tracker Initiative; John Fullerton, founder and president of the Capital Institute; William Hederman, deputy director for Systems Integration and senior adviser to the U.S. Department of Energy Secretary; and Carolyn Woo, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services.

“The issue of climate change is very complex and no single point of view is sufficient for generating solutions, so it is important to bring multiple perspectives into the room,” said Burke. “As we listen carefully to each other, I have no doubt that a more coherent mutual understanding will emerge. And such an understanding will be very helpful for guiding investment decisions.”

“As the world’s awareness of the need to adapt to climate change grows, innovative investors are poised to translate the emerging risks of climate change into entrepreneurial opportunities that save lives and improve livelihoods,” said Joyce Coffee, managing director of Notre Dame’s Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN), which is part of the Climate Change Adaptation Program of the University of Notre Dame’s Environmental Change initiative (ND-ECI). The ND-GAIN Country Index follows a data-driven approach to show which countries are best prepared to deal with global changes brought about by overcrowding, resource constraints and climate disruption.

In addition to ND-GAIN, Climate Investing Conference co-sponsors include the Center for Social Concerns, the Notre Dame College of Science minor in sustainability, QCoefficient, Accenture and NORDAM.

“We cannot escape the fact that climate change is shaping our way of life even now,” said Roger D. Huang, Martin J. Gillen Dean of the Mendoza College of Business. “But it’s critical that we not merely accept a view of the future predicated on annihilation as the likely outcome. Instead, we need to bring our best minds together to envision the opportunities offered through impact investing — benefiting the environment while earning investors equitable returns — which is what this conference accomplishes.”

Contact: Carol Elliott, Mendoza College of Business, 574-631-2627,

Originally published by Carol Elliott at on August 12, 2015.