Leading Shareholder Advocacy and ESG Groups Crown Champions in Sustainable Investing Contest’s Undergraduate and Graduate Divisions.
NEW YORK – MAY 3, 2022 – The Corporate Engagement Competition, a semester-long investing tournament that saw student teams from 10 universities across the U.S. and Canada compete head-to-head, has new champions. Bard College in upstate New York and Virginia Wesleyan University in Norfolk are the 2022 graduate and undergraduate division winners, respectively. The contest was hosted by the Intentional Endowments Network (IEN) and focused on sustainable investing and environmental, social and governance (ESG) shareholder advocacy.
Connor Merk, a junior at Virginia Wesleyan University, said: “We had a great experience with the IEN Student Corporate Engagement Competition. We did not come into this competition as experts in investing, ESG factors, or corporate engagement, but through tutorials presented by IEN, communication with our mentor, and collaboration with the group members, we were able to grow our knowledge in each of those areas.”
Lindsey Moreau, an MBA Candidate at Bard College, said: “As Bard College MBA students, we see an opportunity to drive systemic environmental and social change by leveraging the influence of capital markets. The IEN Corporate Engagement Competition allowed us to demonstrate the value of creating an investment recommendation and engagement strategy that is 1) backed by risk mitigation, market opportunity and long-term returns, 2) seeks to catalyze a more equitable and sustainable economy, and 3) is underscored by a clear financial case for investment.”
Last week, student teams from Bard College in New York and Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco advanced to the finals in the graduate division, with Bard edging out Presidio to receive top honors for their shareholder proposal addressing human rights risks in the renewable energy supply chain of a major U.S. energy firm. In the undergraduate division, the student team from Virginia Wesleyan University won the final round of competition for its endowment investment proposal focusing on Ford Motor Company with Central Washington University securing second place honors.
Moreau continued: “We built our strategy to inspire system-level thinking in future corporate engagements. We focused on the energy utilities sector because of its critical role in decarbonizing the global economy, and industry leader NextEra energy because of its potential to influence industry expectations and impacts on workers in global renewable energy supply chains. Participating in this competition gave us the opportunity to work alongside faculty, industry professionals and colleagues, and we are grateful and empowered by their support to take our learnings into our professional careers.”
Merk added: “We chose to study Ford Motor Company, specifically because of their commitment to Electric Vehicle production, changes to U.S.-based manufacturing, commitment to reduce waste and emissions made it a worthy consideration for investment, and its status of being a globally recognized brand. For the engagement strategy, our proposal included the development of EV-Lithium-Ion battery recycling program through Ford's factories and dealerships.”
Universities from across the country and Canada participated in the competition as a real-world introduction to sustainable investing and shareholder advocacy. Sponsored by Federated Hermes and TIAA, the competition focused on the responsibility of shareholders to directly engage company management on the risks and opportunities they see to improve company financial performance, as well as social and environmental impact.
Nicole Torrico, Program Director at the Intentional Endowments Network, said: “The investment recommendations and engagement strategies proposed by the winners of this year's Student Corporate Engagement Competition exemplified the power investors have to hold corporations accountable through shareholder advocacy. Their inspiring strategies showcase how to integrate active stewardship into investment decision making -- an essential skill for the next generation of ESG leaders.”
A member of the judging panel, Miguel CuUnjieng, Associate Director, Engagement, EOS at Federated Hermes, said: “It was impressive to see the robustness of the ESG investment analysis performed by this year’s student teams, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Following the experience, I am left with greater confidence in the emphasis on ESG in higher education, and awareness of ESG issues by the next generation of professionals. I greatly appreciate case competitions, like the IEN’s in particular, for inspiring and empowering the next generation of leaders to translate passion into profession.”
A member of the judging panel, Megan Fielding, Senior Director, Responsible Investing, at Nuveen, a TIAA Company, said: “TIAA is delighted to support the IEN Student Corporate Engagement Competition this year. At Nuveen, the TIAA asset manager, responsible investing is an integral part of our work and has been for over 5 decades; the Competition offered us the opportunity to see up close the next generation of experts dedicated to ESG principles for our communities and our world, all of whom show strong passion, insight and intellect and left us very inspired!”
The ten colleges participating in the competition were: Arizona State University, Bard College, Central Washington University, New York University: Stern School of Business, Presidio Graduate School, Ryerson University, University of California Berkeley: Haas School of Business, University of Minnesota, and Virginia Wesleyan University.
Each student team worked throughout the spring 2022 semester to produce both a written investment recommendation for a publicly-traded company listed on any major exchange and a proposed shareholder engagement strategy that aligned with IEN’s Social Equity and Climate Goals. Along the way, the students received sustainable investing and shareholder advocacy coaching and training from members of IEN and As You Sow, an in-kind sponsor and educational partner.
A panel of judges selected the winners based on their presentations, provided evidence, scale of embedded ESG analysis, and the creativity and efficacy of the shareholder engagement strategy to both improve company financial performance and make a meaningful positive social or environmental impact.
MEDIA CONTACT: To receive a copy of the investment competition final presentations or interview any of the participating teams and/or sponsors, contact Alex Frank, (703) 276-3264 or [email protected].
The Intentional Endowments Network (IEN) is a peer learning network of colleges, universities, and other mission-driven institutional investors working together to achieve their risk and return objectives through investment actions that create a thriving, sustainable economy. IEN has more than 200 network members including endowments, asset managers, investment consultants, nonprofit partners, and individuals.