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Kellogg, Johnson Schools Launch New Impact Investing Competition

The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University have launched a new competition designed to help MBA students hone their skills in the emerging field of impact investing, the schools announced earlier this month.

The 2011 International Impact Investing Challenge recognizes that more and more institutional investors today are focusing on business ventures that address social and environmental issues. The challenge to MBA students is to spot and execute investment strategies that address global impact issues while also achieving economic returns.

Teams from a dozen top MBA programs will compete for more than $40,000 in awards as part of this inaugural challenge, and winners will be chosen at a final event on April 8th in New York City at J.P. Morgan, one of the competition sponsors. Other sponsors include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the McCall Foundation, Equilibrium Capital Group, the Calvert Foundation, Impact Assets and the Milken Institute.

“The goal of the competition is to fuel interest for impact investing as an investment strategy that’s attractive to mainstream investors, while underscoring environmental and social impact,” Jamie Jones, associate director of the Social Enterprise at Kellogg (SEEK) program at the Kellogg School, said in a statement announcing the competition.

A panel of experienced investors and senior officials who manage family foundations, pension funds and university endowments will judge the competition, and the 12 student teams will pitch their investment ideas to this panel on April 8th.

“This competition is exciting and unique because it challenges MBAs to think about how we employ capital so that competitive investment returns flow from the value created by solving our biggest problems – poverty, climate change, ecosystem degradation – with innovation and entrepreneurship,” Mark Milstein, director of Johnson’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise, said in a statement.

The sponsors, for their part, see the competition as part of a broader commitment to building impact investing as a sector. “We recognize that there is a crucial role for large-scale financial institutions to play in bringing financial services, capital, research and skills to this growing segment of the global economy,” said Christina Leijonhufvud, head of J.P. Morgan’s Social Finance business, which commits to investments that generate social, environmental and financial returns. Sponsoring the competition is just one part of J.P. Morgan’s strategic approach to impact investing, she added.

“MBA students bring remarkable energy, insight and innovation to this field, and it’s our hope that involvement in an event like this will help students find ways to create the next generation of impact investing,” said Dave Chen, managing principal at Equilibrium Capital Group, another of the competition’s sponsors.

For more on the 2011 International Impact Investing Challenge, click here.

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