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Impact Investing at Harvard with Shawn Cole and Vikram Gandhi
Impact investing, and sustainable investing more broadly, has been making significant strides not only in capital markets and in the world of philanthropy, but in higher education as well. Increasing numbers of graduate and undergraduate schools, often led by intrepid pioneers located in business schools, are establishing courses that introduce students to the many aspects of the triple bottom line — from democratizing impact investing and financial inclusion to private/public markets and mission-related investing, to measuring and managing impact.
Under the leadership of Shawn Cole and Vikram Gandhi, Harvard Business School has launched an impact investing course focusing on “the intersection of investing/finance and key global challenges, guided for example by the Sustainable Development Goals, including climate, gender equality, and poverty reduction.” In this program, Impact Entrepreneur’s Laurie Lane-Zucker welcomes Harvard’s Vikram Gandhi and Shawn Cole to discuss the course and how it fits into HBS’s evolving relationship to mission-driven business and investing, and whether (and how) it reflects an accelerating wave of transformative change in academia’s engagement with sustainability.
Shawn Cole is a professor in the Finance Unit at Harvard Business School, where he teaches and conducts research on financial services, social enterprise, and impact investing. He has worked in China, India, Indonesia, South Africa, and Vietnam. He is an affiliate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development. He is on the board of the Jameel Poverty Action Lab, as the co-chair for research.
Before joining the Harvard Business School, Shawn worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in the economic research department. He has served on the Boston Federal Reserve’s Community Development Research Advisory Council, served as an external advisor to the Gates Foundation, and was the chair of the endowment management committee of the Telluride Association, a non-profit educational organization. He is a cofounder and board chair of a non-profit, Precision Agriculture for Development. Shawn received a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005, where he was an NSF and Javits Fellow, and an A.B. in Economics and German Literature from Cornell University. His work on insurance earned the 2015 “Shin Research Excellence Award;” in 2015 he was also named given a “Faculty Pioneer Award” from the Aspen Institute.
Vikram Gandhi is a Senior Lecturer in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School. He has developed and teaches a new course, Investing – Risk, Return, and Impact, in the Elective Curriculum of the MBA Program. He also teaches The Entrepreneurial Manager, and FIELD Global Immersion in the Required Curriculum of the MBA Program, as well as various Executive Education Programs. In addition, Vikram is a visiting faculty member of Schwarzman College and Tsinghua University, Beijing. He is a member of the Impact Co-Laboratory focusing on research in the area of Impact Investing.
Vikram is the Founder of Asha Impact, an impact investing platform and is a Senior Advisor to The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. He is a member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) since 1997 and has been a part of the New York, Hong Kong and Mumbai chapters. He has spent 23 years in investment banking at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School (Class of 1989) where he was designated a Baker Scholar, and a B.Com with high distinction from the University of Mumbai. He is also a qualified Chartered Accountant.
Laurie Lane-Zucker is Founder and CEO of Impact Entrepreneur, PBC, an impact economy business that hosts the Impact Entrepreneur Network — a large, global network of “systems-minded” entrepreneurs, investors, and scholars of social and environmental innovation — and editor and publisher of Impact Entrepreneur, a digital magazine covering the emerging Impact Economy. For over 30 years, Laurie has been a “pioneer” (Forbes) and recognized leader in sustainability, social enterprise, and impact investing. Laurie was the founding Executive Director of the international environmental organization, Orion Society, which publishes the celebrated Orion Magazine, as well as the founder of a global sustainability think-tank, the Triad Institute, and Hotfrog, a Founding B Corporation, GIIRS Pioneer Company, and the first company ever to complete an equity transaction on an impact investment exchange. Laurie is the bestselling and multiple award-winning publisher and editor of books and magazines on sustainability and social impact — having worked with such acclaimed authors as Wendell Berry, Barry Lopez, Terry Tempest Williams, and David James Duncan — and the author of numerous articles on entrepreneurship and impact investing. Laurie is contributing author of the recently published academic textbook from World Scientific, Sustainability: Business and Investment Implications (2023).