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By Adam Rabinowitz ’14
It seemed like a tall order, but for three teams of Brandeis International Business School (IBS) students competing in the second annual Bunson Impact Investment Challenge on March 1, the mission had been accomplished.
Organized by Net Impact and the Global Markets Investment Club, and sponsored by the Steven M. Bunson '82 Finance and Society Initiative, the event found teams of students presenting investment proposals that reconciled the goals of sound investment and sustainability.
Professor Warren Leon, the advisor of Net Impact, acknowledged it was not an easy task.
“It is quite a challenge to be successful as a financial investor while also having a social and environmental impact,” he said. “You have to be creative.”
As for successful, sustainable investment, one did not need to look farther than the panelists participating in the challenge. Net Impact and GMIC collaborated to assemble Raytheon’s Antoinne Machal-Cajigas, who serves as the Chief Operating Officer and co-founder for AltruHelp, as well as sustainability consultant Karin Chamberlain and Edward Dugger III, who currently heads the National Institute for a Sustainable Economy.
While impressive projects regarding provision of basic health insurance to Malawians and energy efficiency in Mongolia emerged during the day, it was the duo of Nuo Chen, MA ’14 and Ahmad Furmolly, MA ’14 that ultimately sealed the competition. Their initiative, Afsolar, honed in on the commercial possibilities of solar-powered water pump installation in Afghanistan.
For event coordinator Jonathan Fish, MBA ’14 and the assembled panelists, the idea held extraordinary potential.
“I loved that the AfSolar team had thought through a lot of the challenges that they would face, and offered ways to get over them,” Fish said. “They addressed a serious problem that I didn't realize existed – getting enough water consistently to Afghan farmers.”
The road does not end here for Chen and Furmolly, who will now have the opportunity to represent Brandeis IBS in the prestigious International Investment Challenge
Fish expressed enthusiasm for the future of the Bunson Challenge, especially as it continues to illuminate the collective importance of sustainability and social impact.
“My hope is that the Bunson Challenge demonstrates that sustainability and social impact are not separate from business, but are instead integral parts of it,” he said.