NYU launches impact investing series at Law School

The NYU Series on Impact Investing commenced on March 1 with a group of leading practitioners in the field sharing their perspectives on the present practice and future promise of an emerging industry. The first of four panel discussions dedicated to the topic of impact investing, the event provided an overview of the industry, with panelists explaining the innovative and distinctive nature of impact investments.

Kevin Davis, Beller Family Professor of Business Law, moderated the inaugural panel, which included Zoravar Dhaliwal, a managing director at Osaka Capital; Amy Bell, a vice president in J.P. Morgan’s social finance business unit; Laurie Lane-Zucker, CEO and co-founder of Hotfrog LLC; and Birju Pandya, a managing director at Armonia LLC.

Impact investments are broadly defined as investments that pursue the dual objectives of achieving financial return and attaining positive social and/or environmental impact. Panelists engaged the audience with accounts of their everyday practice of impact investing, from raising capital to create jobs and build technical capacity in the mining sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to pursuing ecological balance through investments in the regeneration of grasslands across the world.

Throughout the discussion, panelists sought to describe how impact investments are distinctive from traditional forms of investing and methods of pursuing social and environmental objectives. As one panelist explained, impact investing can be viewed as dissolving a traditionally bifurcated world by creating a space for investors that falls between purely philanthropic activity on one end of the spectrum, and solely profit-motivated investments on the other end.

Panelists also shared their thoughts on the philosophical underpinnings of impact investing, with some arguing that impact investments are not only an emerging alternative asset class, but are also reflective of a new mindset among investors who are part of an increasingly socially and environmentally conscious society. Those who share this belief are optimistic that the growth of impact investing is part of a gradual shift toward a new paradigm in which the pursuit of social good will become integral to every mode of living, including the commercial.

The idea to organize an NYU Series on Impact Investing was driven by an ever-growing interest from NYU students across varying schools and disciplines who are seeking to learn more about impact investing and the immense opportunities presented by the industry. The series is aimed at providing a space for students to engage in a productive exchange about critical issues in impact investing, inspired by insights from practitioners and thought leaders in the field.

The NYU Series on Impact Investing is sponsored by the NYU Africa House, the Law and Social Entrepreneurship Association, the Society of International Business and Development, and the African Law Association. Forthcoming events in the series will occur throughout the Spring 2012 semester, including events focusing on issues related to the measuring of impact, the key regulatory questions raised by impact investing, and the role that development finance institutions play in impact investing.

Posted on March 9, 2012