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UNC's Impact Investing Club promotes climate resilience

"Being a part of solving these world issues can be attainable for any UNC student."

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UNC's Impact Investing Club, as pictured in 2019, was founded the year prior in 2018 to educate students who want to bridge their passions of finance and sustainability. Photo courtesy of Justin Fligstein.

Antonio Petrazzuolo created UNC's Impact Investing Club in fall 2018 to educate students who want to bridge their passions of finance and sustainability. Two years later, the organization gives its over 150 members tools to help them succeed in the investment job market. 

“Gen-Z students are really interested in careers and organizations that align with their values," club adviserCarol Hee said. "It is the perfect alignment of industry trends."

Impact investing is a strategy in finance that looks at a company's ethics as well as potential success when deciding whether or not to invest. Many impact investors focus on social issues, and the club specifically focuses on the Climate Resilience Impact Fund, Hee said. 

Petrazzuolo, who has since graduated from UNC, started the Climate Resilience Fund. His successor is Justin Fligstein, an economics major and the current President of IIC.

The fund invests money into companies and organizations that have a positive effect on the environment. 

The members created a proposal for the fund that speaks to their wish for a healthier planet. With Fligstein’s background in sustainability and the outdoors, he said he believes that impact investing they can bridge the finance gap — whether it's a social or climate issue. 

In order to make positive environmental change, Fligstein said he needs a motivated group behind him pushing for climate resilience. One of those members is first-year Ashanti Greene. 

Greene is a member of the Impact Fund Team within the IIC. She first joined the club looking for ways to invest in companies that represent her interest in sustainability. 

Before joining IIC, Greene said she had already dipped her toes into investing and realized that there is a whole world of ethical investment opportunities.   

“It is still a new field and is constantly growing," Greene said. "I want to be a part of that growth process." 

Even those who are not affiliated with the club have seen the effect it has had on campus.

Professor Christian Lundblad teaches and researches investment management at Kenan-Flagler Business School. He said impact investing is a valuable field for students to become involved in. 

“I'm not surprised that students gravitate towards it, because it's not la la land," he said. "We want to solve problems.” 

Lundblad said he sees impact investing as a way to allocate money as a means to do something about real-world issues.  

Fligstein has been talking to Vice Chancellor for University Development David Routh to work on the club's main goal of gaining capital to bolster the fund.

The club plans to recruit alumni and donors to support the Climate Resilience Fund. The club currently practices its own investments but hopes to soon have financial help from the University's endowment.

The University endowment is managed by UNC Management Company, University spokesperson Pace Sagester said. UNC's annual fund in the 2020 fiscal year had $9.8 million that was used toward investments in support of clean energy and sustainability. Some of the fund's managers identified sustainability as an important factor when evaluating businesses — and appreciate its impact on risk and return, Sagester said. 

Fligstein said it's important for the University to be transparent about its efforts to divest from the fossil fuel industry. He said he is confident the Climate Resilience Impact Fund can prove that money can be made while doing good. 

Climate change is a salient issue that cannot be ignored, Fligstein said. 

"Being a part of solving these world issues can be attainable for any UNC student," Lundblad said.

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