A Brazilian Sustainable Solution to India’s Climate Change Challenge

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s Center for Sustainable Enterprise hosted the India Impact Challenge powered by Quantum Advisors, April 16-17 2021.


The India Impact Challenge engaged students from around the world to create investment strategies for address the issues of climate change while spurring equitable economic growth in India.


The objective of the India Impact Challenge was to bring to the attention of global policy makers and investment institutions the need to shift the dialogue from what seems to be a conversation dominated by efforts to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions in the developed world and shed light on potentially alarming levels of GHG due to the necessary and continued economic development in the emerging economies. Over the next 25 years, if developing markets don’t attract capital to invest in GHG-reducing technologies and products as they continue on their path to higher GDP growth, the potential savings in emissions in the developed world could be nullified.


Six teams from six countries – Brazil, France, India, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and USA – made it to the finals weekend.


On the first day of the finals weekend, the teams were divided into two groups and each group was assessed by a panel of five judges. The two teams with the highest score made it to the final face-off. The judges were asked to score on the basis of six criteria ranging from investment return and opportunity for climate change impact and a score from 1 to 10 for each criterion. The Top 2 teams presented to a panel of 13 judges.


In an unusual outcome, both the teams tied with the same score! This triggered a huddle among the judges to vote for a winner.


“I have not seen a final like that before in a competition like this,” exclaimed Jeff Mittelstadt (MBA ’07), executive director of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise and professor of the practice of strategy and entrepreneurship at UNC Kenan-Flagler. “These student teams diligently addressed all the feedback they received on Friday during their Saturday pitches and it showed. What a ‘photo finish’!”



The victorious student team (pictured above), “Green Winx, from Fundação Getulio Vargas in Sao Paolo, Brazil, includes Alice Grinbaum, Sophia Hess, Gabriela Pinheiro da Rocha Campos, Victória Rieser and Carol Zweig. The solution was using agriculture residue to generate biomass, thus substituting carbon intensive thermal power, reducing air pollution by preventing crop burning as well as encouraging wider gender participation.


The team that challenged them to the final vote was “Ravi EV LLP” from UNC Kenan-Flagler which included Anagha Kalvade, Lauren Ma and Brandon Siew.


“We spent countless nights learning different aspects about India, different financing methods and alternatives to measure impact, but it was incredibly worth it,” said Zweig. “Not only was the experience extremely enriching and inspiring, but it was also eye-opening to us as students.”


The other teams were fielded by:

  • XLRI Jamshedpur from India

  • University of St. Gallen (HSG) from Switzerland

  • BITS Pilani Dubai Campus from United Arab Emirates

  • HEC Paris from France


“We could not have accomplished this amazing competition without our 28 esteemed judges from around the world. They were truly selfless with their time and their desire to provide productive, invaluable feedback to all of the teams,” says Mittelstadt. Additionally, also per the UNC press release, Marlene Puffer the President of Canadian Pension Fund CN Investment Division and one of the Judges noted that “the variety of proposals was remarkable and reflected solid research and creativity, I learned something from each proposal!”


Lori Collins, principal of Collins Climate Consulting and a UNC Kenan-Flagler graduate, appreciated the global approach and focus on the challenge of addressing climate change through investment in India. “I appreciated the wide range of ideas and incredible judges,” she said. “I really liked that the judges got to chat together because it made the discussion more valuable as well as more enjoyable.”


The competition hosted by UNC’s Center for Sustainable Enterprise featured a global Who’s Who of climate change and investment keynote speakers:


  • Simone Robbers, Assistant Governor and General Manager of Governance, Strategy and Corporate Relations of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand

  • Jeb Burns, Chief Investment Officer, at the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System of Michigan

  • Eloy Lindeijer, former Chief of Investment Management, from the Dutch pension plan PGGM N.V.

  • Ajit Dayal, founder of Quantum Advisors India and a UNC Kenan-Flagler graduate (MBA, 1983).


What next?


Developing countries like India are major contributors to GHG emissions and their share of annual global emissions will increase alarmingly unless they have access to capital to fund technologies and ideas which will allow them to progress on the path of continued economic growth, but with lower GHG emissions.


S. Natraj, Portfolio Manager for the Q India Responsible Returns strategy, highlighted that “India’s current per capita emission is 2.7 tonnes per annum as compared to the world average of 4 tonnes per annum per person. If every Indian in 2050 has the same consumption patterns as a resident of Europe, UK or the US enjoy today, India alone could make a devastating hole in the Paris Climate Accord targets”.


The ‘inaugural’ India Impact Challenge highlighted this issue to students and judges from all over the world.


The less developed countries do not have the capital to invest the estimated annual USD 2.5 trillion required to get the planet on a more balanced path to economic development. However, the existing pools of capital with the SWFs and Pensions may be a part of the solution.


Global wealth is estimated to be over USD 250 trillion. About USD 100 trillion is under the control of SWFs, pensions, endowments and the Top 100 wealthiest individuals who inhabit Planet Earth. Their mandate and time horizons are long term and inter-generational. If the owners of this pool of USD 100 trillion were to allocate 1% of their capital each year for 3 years as catalyst investors, the world would have access to the required capital needed for investment and successfully shift to a cleaner carbon and lower GHG world.


Ajit Dayal, Founder, Quantum Advisors said, “As students of leading business schools, your passion, your originality and your enthusiasm is unmatched. Your participation in the India Impact Challenge is proof of that. However, it takes two hands to clap. You – and other green entrepreneurs – have done your bit by identifying a problem, evaluating the solutions and zoning in on the best idea. You have shown your hand. It is now the turn of the asset allocators and owners of capital to do their bit, to start the process of funding your bold ideas from that ‘Save The World bucket. When your ideas are matched with their pool of funds, you will hear the joyful sound of a victorious clap and feel the elation of a renewed energy from a planet that managed to support the needs and wants of billions of people – and, yes, allowed us to breathe.”




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