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Virtual competition ends in a “photo finish”

The first student competition to design investment strategies that tackle climate change while driving economic growth in India came down to the wire.

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s Center for Sustainable Enterprise  hosted the India Impact Challenge powered by Quantum Advisors April 16-17 2021.

The Center for Sustainable Enterprise, with sponsorship from Quantum Advisors, created the competition to engage students from around the world to create investment strategies for addressing climate change while spurring equitable economic growth in India.

Six teams from six countries – India, Brazil, France, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland and the U.S. – made it to the finals weekend.

On the first day, each team pitched to a panel of five judges, who gave them a score between one and 10 on six criteria ranging from investment return and risk to climate change impact.

Two teams made it to the second round. They pitched to a panel of 13 judges who evaluated both pitches using the same methodology.

The teams tied with the same score, so the judges came back together to vote for the winner.

The victorious student team, Green Winx, from Fundação Getulio Vargas in Sao Paolo, Brazil, includes Alice Grinbaum, Sophia Hess, Gabriela Pinheiro da Rocha Campos, Victória Rieser and Carol Zweig.

“We spent countless nights learning different aspects about India, different financing methods and alternatives to measure impact, but it was incredibly worth it,” said Zweig. “Not only was the experience extremely enriching and inspiring, but it was also eye-opening to us as students.”

“If every Indian in 2050 has the same consumption patterns that a resident of Europe, the U.K. or the U.S. enjoy today, India alone could make a devastating hole in the Paris Climate Accord targets,” said S. Natraj, portfolio manager for the Q India responsible returns strategy at Quantum Advisors. “The inaugural India Impact Challenge highlighted the need to address this issue to participating students and judges from all over the world.”

“I have not seen a final like that before in a competition like this,” exclaimed Jeff Mittelstadt (MBA ’07), executive director of the  Center for Sustainable Enterprise and professor of the practice of strategy and entrepreneurship at UNC Kenan-Flagler. “These student teams diligently addressed all the feedback they received on Friday during their Saturday pitches and it showed. What a ‘photo finish’!”

The team that challenged Green Winx to the final vote was Ravi EV LLP from UNC Kenan-Flagler. The Tar Heel team includes Anagha Kalvade, Lauren Ma and Brandon Siew.

The other teams were fielded by:

  • XLRI Jamshedpur from India
  • University of St. Gallen (HSG) from Switzerland
  • BITS Pilani Dubai Campus from United Arab Emirates
  • HEC Paris from France

“We could not have accomplished this amazing competition without our 28 esteemed judges from around the world. They were truly selfless with their time and their desire to provide productive, invaluable feedback to all of the teams,” says Mittelstadt.“The variety of proposals was remarkable and reflected solid research and creativity”, said Marlene Puffer, president and CEO of CN Investment Division, a Canadian pension fund. “I learned something from each proposal!”

Lori Collins, principal of Collins Climate Consulting and a UNC Kenan-Flagler graduate, appreciated the global approach and focus on the challenge of addressing climate change through investment in India. “I appreciated the wide range of ideas and incredible judges,” she said. “I really liked that the judges got to chat together because it made the discussion more valuable as well as more enjoyable.”

The competition also featured a global list of climate change and investment keynote speakers:

  • Simone Robbers, assistant governor and general manager of governance, strategy and corporate relations of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand
  • Jeb Burns, chief investment officer at the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System of Michigan
  • Eloy Lindeijer, former chief of investment management from the Dutch pension planPGGM N.V.
  • Ajit Dayal, founder of Quantum Advisors India and a UNC Kenan-Flagler graduate

While champions were crowned, the Center for Sustainable Enterprise’s new Invest for the Future initiative is using the competition as a launching pad for the participating students to connect with students from schools around the world to elevate the conversation and drive conversation about addressing climate change through investment in India and other emerging markets. The Center for Sustainable Enterprise is in the process of hiring full-time interns to lead this effort over the summer.