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Meet the Finalists for the Sustainable Cities Impact Investing Challenge

Meet the Finalists for the Sustainable Cities Impact Investing Challenge

Sustainable Cities Impact Investing Challenge

Cities - in all of their faults and splendor - are responsible for 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. More than 55% of the world’s population lives in cities, and by 2050, it will swell to 70%. In other words, if we want to create a world that is more inclusive and sustainable, cities are a good place to start. But, practically speaking, how do we actually do that? 

This central question was the impetus of The Sustainable Cities Impact Investing Challenge, a global case competition in partnership with Nuveen, A TIAA Company, that challenged Net Impact’s global audience to use the discipline of impact investing as an approach to creating inclusive and sustainable cities. Impact investing, as defined by The Global Impact Investing Network, refers to investments made with the intention to generate positive social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.  

The challenges of climate change and inequality have been brought even further to the fore in the last several years. As the urgency to address these issues increases, investors have come to realize climate change and inequality are inextricably linked,” Managing Director at Nuveen Sam Hodas said. “Building on Nuveen’s record of leadership and innovation in measuring, documenting, and communicating the real-world outcomes of our global impact investing strategies, we wanted to help introduce the next generation of investors to the field of impact.

In its first year, the challenge generated almost 30 impact portfolio submissions from 6 different countries: the United States, Germany, China, India, the Netherlands, and Portugal. More than 29 different educational institutions were represented in the global challenge, with the 90+ participants spanning undergraduate, graduate, and professional. Challenge participants were asked to construct their own impact portfolios that measured impact across three themes: affordable housing, resource efficiency, and inclusive growth. 

Meet the Top 5 Finalists (In no particular order) 

  • Electromaim, representing Columbia University and George Washington University,  focuses on addressing the affordable housing shortage, energy efficiency and emissions reductions, and inclusive development.
  • Elysium, representing Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), aims to decarbonize real estate development to satisfy the growing demand for affordable housing among underserved populations, reduce GHG emissions in urban areas, and create employment among low-income and minority groups.
  • Inclusive America, representing professionals from Center for International Private Enterprise and Dorilton Capital aims to build a "strong community where all residents have access to clean energy sources, jobs, public transportation, healthy food, child care, and housing, without restrictions by socioeconomic status or concerns driven by natural disasters." 
  • The Livable Cities Fund, representing ESMT Berlin Graduate School, is committed to addressing urgent challenges that are strongly aligned with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. The diversified portfolio comprises equity in startups, debt financing for sustainable projects, and real assets in affordable housing. 
  • Building Green Futures, representing the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management, focuses on making residential buildings and homes sustainable. 

“As a student interested in impact investing, I have been in the process of screening and conducting due diligence on companies. However, there was never the opportunity for me to implement my values through researching and building an investment thesis and portfolio. The Sustainable Cities Impact Investing Challenge allowed me to experience what it was like starting my own fund, and to also learn more about measuring impact of potential investments,” one program participant reflected. 

In the final stage of the program, the Top 5 teams will present their impact portfolios to a panel of expert judges on July 19, 2023. The judging panel includes expert impact investors with more than 35 years of combined experience in the impact investing space: Elisabeth Chasia, Investment Director at Momentus Capital; Randall Strickland, Director at Westfuller; and Pete Murphy, Director and Head of ESG, Private Equity Impact Investing at Nuveen. 

The first-place team in the challenge will take home a $10,000 grand prize, with the second- and third-place teams winning $5,000 and $2,500, respectively. 

“We hope this hands-on, experiential learning opportunity will provide real-world experience to students and young professionals thinking through the challenges facing impact investors today, like asset allocation and collecting meaningful impact metrics. As Nuveen’s track record demonstrates, investors can direct capital to specific, measurable social and environmental outcomes without sacrificing performance,” says Hodas.

Learn more about Net Impact’s open programs here.


This program was made possible by

NuveenLupoff Stevens Family Office