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CHAPEL HILL –The Center for Sustainable Enterprise at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School announced Tuesday a new student competition supporting the center’s Invest for the Future initiative. Through the competition students will learn about social impact and environmental-themed financing and investment models, such as blended finance and impact investing. This initiative is in partnership with Bank of America, a founding sponsor of both Invest for the Future and the new competition.

The competition, titled “Launching Investment for Future Transformation” or LIFT, is a pioneering blended finance challenge asking students to propose investment and finance solutions that focus on using sustainability to drive social equity and economic mobility.

Students will learn about blended finance, an approach that helps to stimulate and mobilize additional private capital to scale sustainable development and can include public or philanthropic funding. The initiative aims to expand knowledge about how blended finance can help scale impact for sustainability projects that might have been unable to gain funding due to potential associated risks. Students will receive coaching on how to develop sustainable solutions; and build deeper expertise in these financing structures.

“While students learn about these important, complex issues, they will research, explore and propose solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges,” said Jeff Mittelstadt, executive director of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise and a professor of the practice of strategy and entrepreneurship at UNC Kenan-Flagler. “They also will start building a global network of like-minded students and business leaders.”

“Having students study how finance can be part of the solution is a critical element as they become the next generation of emerging leaders who will drive social and environmental impact through positive, profitable investments,” said Alex Liftman, global environmental executive at Bank of America. “We are proud to support the LIFT competition and the Invest for the Future initiative launched by the Center for Sustainable Enterprise at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.”

The overarching IF initiative will ensure UNC Kenan-Flagler students have training in essential environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles in finance and investment analysis, and be well prepared to enter the workforce as ESG professionals.

“Our goal is to design the most comprehensive, cohesive ESG integration, sustainable finance and impact-investing program possible,” said Mittelstadt, “so that we prepare future business leaders to drive positive social and environmental impact through profitable investments.”

“We are honored by the support of Bank of America,” said Mittelstadt. “In addition to its financial support, Bank of America brings its expertise in blended finance to support climate resiliency, access to clean energy, affordable housing, water, sanitation and more.”

The competition will be held this fall, and details include:

  • Open to graduate and undergraduate students – from any department or school – enrolled in higher education institutions throughout the world;
  • Held online to expand access to experiential learning, networking and competing by removing the financial barriers of travel;
  • Engagement with business leaders as mentors and judges, who will have the opportunity to identify the top emerging talent in the fields of blended finance, sustainable finance and impact investing.

With support from Bank of America, the Center for Sustainable Enterprise hired student interns to help organize the competition and create resources for student competitors.

The competition is a strategic step in fully launching the Center for Sustainable Enterprise’s Invest for the Future initiative. It includes a new Leadership Council of alumni and industry leaders to advise the Center for Sustainable Enterprise on expanding the center’s work and meeting industry needs.

“Through the LIFT challenge and Invest for the Future, we are bringing our alumni network together with professionals around the globe to make sure we fulfill the roles industry needs while providing networking and career development opportunities for our students,” said Mittelstadt.