Fund teaches MBA students about socially responsible investment

The Haas Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Fund — the first and largest student-led investment fund of its scale — offers students at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business real-world experience in bringing not just a financial lens, but a social and environmental lens, to professional asset management.

Since 2008, the student principals have grown the initial investment of $1.1 million to more than $2 million. That's more than a 50 percent return on investment over five years. Launched by the Center for Responsible Business (CRB), the fund is part of CRB's mission to ensure that Berkeley-Haas students bring a sustainability lens to business decisions.
 
Launching Berkeley-Haas' first crowdfunding campaign

It is time to scale the fund and think big. Our aim is to elevate student learning to a new level, enhance the fund's influence and generate new leaders in sustainable finance. We are excited to announce a new campaign to raise $100,000 for the fund by April 4. To reach our goal, we are turning to crowdfunding. Alumnus Charlie Michaels, BS '78 and a force behind starting the Haas SRI Fund, will match every dollar given during this campaign.

All funds raised will go directly to the fund to be invested by student principals, providing them the opportunity to experience the fiduciary responsibility of managing a multi-asset class fund. To understand more about what motivates students to get involved with managing the fund (it's a hefty three-semester commitment and competitive application process) and what they expect to learn, we caught up with student principals Chad Reed and Megan Bradfield.

Chad Reed: The 'impatient optimist'

Chad Reed, a CRB Alumni Scholar, describes himself as an "impatient optimist." A first-year Berkeley-Haas MBA student, he recently joined the Haas SRI Fund because he is interested in exploring solutions to overcome persistent challenges impeding the flow of capital to socially responsible ventures, clean energy technologies and climate resilient infrastructure. "I am passionate about fostering shared and environmentally sustainable prosperity," explained Reed.  

His background and excitement over learning about SRI personify the strength and quality of Haas students. He has years of experience under his belt working in the field of energy and sustainability, including working with the Rockefeller Foundation on the financing of urban sustainability projects such as renewable power generation, stormwater retrofits, and universal energy access projects. "Through that role I became very interested in accelerating finance to socially responsible causes more broadly," said Reed. Through interfacing with some investors, he came to see the centrality of finance to the completion of sustainability projects.

The Haas SRI Fund was of interest to him, in part, because Reed does not have a traditional banking background. Reed concluded: "Honing my expertise on the intricacies of investment management and gaining additional exposure to equity analysis and corporate valuation were very attractive to me personally."

Megan Bradfield: Putting capital to work for good

With a background in international development, first-year Berkeley-Haas student Megan Bradfield saw firsthand how emerging markets in the healthcare, education and microfinance sectors could benefit if they integrated sustainability, both from an efficiency standpoint and a financial one. "One of the reasons I specifically came back to school was I saw the lack of sustainability in those models," Bradfield said.

"One of the reasons I applied to Haas was the fact that its business program integrates environmental, social and financial perspectives," she added.

Bradfield was drawn to the fund because of her interest in understanding how people put their capital to work and invest in responsible businesses. "I am also interested in how businesses report about their responsibility in a meaningful way," Bradfield said. She was also looking to enhance her finance skill-set.

She is excited about the fund gaining an infusion of new capital and learning more about impact investing and other new asset classes such as social impact bonds. "New funding will support diversification of asset classes and provide me valuable, real-world insights that can be difficult to find in other MBA programs. … Gaining experience investing in socially responsible enterprises, and seeing firsthand how it actually earns you better returns, is an important learning tool for students and the broader SRI community," Bradfield concluded. 

Green piggy bank image by Zketch via Shutterstock.