Investing in Environmental Sustainability

Smith Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Mike Howard (left) and Sustainability Director Dano Weisbord lead a session on a new student-led sustainability investment portfolio.

Smith is providing $100,000 to the Smith College Investment Club to create and manage a new portfolio of fossil-fuel-free investments.

The new fund—which grew out of a recommendation from the Study Group on Climate Change—offers a unique opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience in the growing field of impact investing.

“Impact investing is about investments that achieve financial objectives while also accomplishing a social good,” said Mike Howard, Smith’s executive vice president for finance and administration and co-chair of the study group. “Our student club has been managing an investment portfolio here for some time. With these new unrestricted funds, students will have an opportunity to create a portfolio of socially responsible investing focused on climate change.”

Here’s how the new sustainability fund will operate:

  • It will be managed independently from the college’s other investments by student members of the Smith College Investment Club, which is supported by the Jill Ker Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center.
  • Students will set criteria for what meets the standard of a fossil-fuel-free portfolio, and will make investment decisions, including whether to invest in clean energy enterprises.
  • Through stories in the Conway Center’s newsletter and the center’s annual report, students will discuss the challenges and successes of managing the portfolio.
  • Acting as advisers to the fund will be Howard, Sustainability Director Dano Weisbord, and economics professor Roger Kaufman, who is faculty adviser to the student investment club.

The idea for the sustainability portfolio grew out of Smith’s commitment to using the college’s liberal arts program to address climate change, Howard said. 

“This is about seeing our campus as a classroom,” he said. “Success of the new portfolio will be evaluated first and foremost on educational objectives—how well it engages students and what has been learned about impact investing.”

Student leaders of the Smith College Investment Club said they are excited about the opportunity to launch the new fund.

“We believe we are on a new frontier of portfolio management, as sustainable investment is quickly expanding,” said club co-presidents Natalia Kreciglowa ’18 and Mariyam Indhar ’18 in a joint statement. “This portfolio challenges us to become pioneers, in line with Smith tradition.”

Club members—who currently manage a separate $160,000 portfolio—are now working to create a process for building the sustainability portfolio, including defining criteria for sustainable stock and the structure of stock pitches.

“This new portfolio has completely changed how we are approaching the importance of structure, goal setting and problem solving,” the students said.

An information session held last month about the sustainability fund drew an enthusiastic crowd—including many students new to the investment club.

Rene Heavlow ’08, program director for the Conway Center, said the new portfolio promises to help further extend the club’s reach.

“We are hoping this new opportunity will bring in a variety of students, especially those interested in sustainability,” she said. “The goal here is to encourage cross pollination and sharing of expertise among students from different disciplines.”