Environmental Impact Investing Internship Update

My name is Christin, and I’m studying Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University. College, people say, is the best time to explore your academic interests, take risks, try new things, and develop yourself. However, being surrounded by accomplished and ambitious classmates who seem to be done with the exploring part and already on to the have-your-future-all-figured-out part can be a bit…stressful, to say the least.

In the middle of my second semester sophomore year, I felt a bit stuck. I knew that I wanted to somehow connect what I was studying, business, to creating positive impact and serving underserved communities. But I did not know what that would look like, or where to really start. So, when I—with the help of several Google searches, website clicking, and divine providence—found out about the environmental impact investing internship with the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions and Everence, I was more than thrilled. CSCS would be a vital resource in providing greater context and depth into climate issues and solutions that individuals, communities, and corporations are facing today. Everence, a faith-based financial services firm, would provide not only valuable insight into the nitty gritty financial details on investing, but their concept of stewardship investing would help tie in the financial details to faith and positive impact. And I am happy to say that the past two weeks into this internship has gone above and beyond my expectations.

In the beginning of June, I arrived at Everence’s corporate office after a 9-hour drive from my home in Maryland to Goshen, IN. Right beside the front desk area as I walked in, on the leftmost wall, was a large plaque indicating the building’s LEED GOLD Certification: a physical manifestation of the company’s dedication to environmental sustainability. The building is thoughtfully designed, with light shelves, rain gardens, low VOC emission products, and other features that help it conserve energy and resources.

Stairs lead up to a parking lot through a densely packed area of shrubs and grasses.
Everence’s bioretention area collects stormwater runoff from the parking lot. The area consists of soils, mulch, and native plantings that contribute to pollutant filtration and evapotranspiration.

My first assignment was to become more familiar with the impact investing industry. I did a bit of research on industry segments, markets, and organizations that related to Socially Responsible Investing, Faith-based Investing, Impact Investing, Community Development Investing, Shareholder Advocacy organizations, and more. I found out about different firms active in the industry and learned more about the specific impact their investments make. I was introduced to proxy voting and shareholder advocacy organizations. What was particularly interesting to me was to see how faith-based groups have historically been active in the realm of responsible and impactful investments.

I also started working on another project with Praxis Mutual Funds’ Positive Impact Bond Fund. My task was to research the use of proceeds on different impact bonds within Praxis’ portfolio and provide a quick snapshot on the quantitative environmental and social impact of these bonds. As I shuffled through company reports and bond prospectuses and second opinions, I found myself growing increasingly encouraged. Reading about companies investing into new wind farms and solar facilities to deliver clean energy to thousands, seeing huge corporations such as Apple issue green bonds and reach their goal of being 100% powered by renewable energy, was uplifting. Although there is still so much to
be done, it was encouraging to see companies and industries stepping towards the right direction in combatting different environmental and social issues.

My favorite part of the internship so far has been meeting different colleagues and fellow interns. From daily chats about what’s happening in the market, to learning more about the work individuals do from different departments of the company, to casual conversations about our lives outside of work, I’ve been enjoying the opportunity to not just learn about financial topics but also learn more about the people that I’m working with. The genuine kindness and thoughtfulness of those around me always makes me feel comfortable and glad to be at work each day. (The doughnuts and endless supply of deluxe popcorn my supervisors spoil the team with help, too.)

These first two weeks have been a very educational and enjoyable experience. Despite initial fears that I would not be able to adjust to this new and unfamiliar environment, I have been blessed by caring colleagues who help me learn and a hospitable host family that I come home to every day. I look forward to working on new projects and especially look forward to learning more about climate change issues and their specific impact on individual lives. Before, I was unsure of how to tie in business with positive impact, but now this experience is drawing a clearer picture of what that could look like. Overall, I am grateful for this opportunity and excited to continue growing and learning over the next few months.

Article by Christin Li

2019 Environmental Impact Investing Intern

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