The Real-World Impact of Sustainable Investing

Erol Gurian
Sustainable Finance
“The ideal scenario would be: many billions invested in ways that make a positive contribution.”
Julian Kölbel

Unlike the gold-filled private vault of Scrooge McDuck, the money in your bank account does not get hoarded. It is invested by the bank – in ways that are either good or not so good for people and planet. For the latter, think nuclear weapons or companies with ongoing controversies related to workplace discrimination. Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria are an increasingly popular way for investors to evaluate companies in which they might want to invest. And researchers like Julian Kölbel focus on measuring the impact of such investments.

Julian Kölbel is an economist and environmental scientist and currently BMW Foundation Fellow at the Center for Sustainable Finance and Private Wealth (CSP) at the University of Zurich. Julian has studied at ETH Zurich and the University of Oxford, and has worked as a post-doc at MIT Sloan. His research covers the real-world impact of sustainable investing, analysis of ESG metrics, as well as the effects of climate change on risk and return.

Launched in 2017, the CSP does research at the interface of private wealth and sustainable finance. Among other things, the center is investigating the relationship between sustainability and investment returns, and how these things can be measured. Researchers like Julian are looking into the question of how impact investing can be incorporated into conventional investment portfolios.

Since the first day, the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt is a partner and Institutional funder of the CSP. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda, it takes a profound transformation of our financial system towards sustainability and impact. That is why the BMW Foundation focuses on sustainable finance and impact investing as levers for social change.

In addition, the Foundation invests its endowment along clearly defined sustainability criteria. The asset allocation of the endowment aligns with ESG criteria as well as with SRI (socially responsible investment) standards. Moreover, we annually invest parts of our endowment in impact opportunities through the Eberhard von Kuenheim Fund (EKF). In 2019, the Foundation – together with its network partners Toniic, Nexus, Katapult (Oslo), and the CSP – created the “Coalition for Impact”. Its mission is to drive transformation by inspiring, encouraging, and enabling the mobilization of trillions of USD for impact to reach the tipping point when impact investments are the new normal.

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