• Institute for Sustainable Investing

The Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge: Encouraging the Future Leaders of Sustainable Finance

Our Sustainable Investing Challenge is a global student competition, conducted in partnership with the Kellogg School of Management and INSEAD.

“Brownfields are vacant lands that you can’t redevelop due to contamination, so our proposal is to build hybrid poplar farms. Hybrid poplars can naturally remediate soil through their roots while also providing a profitable product we can sell by harvesting the trees for bio energy or timber products. On top of that, we expect the land value will appreciate as a result of our trees,” Nicole Chavas told CNBC after winning the 2014 Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge along with her team.

The annual competition, organized by the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing, INSEAD and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, invites students to brainstorm ideas that address social and environmental issues, and then create a funding mechanism that would attract institutional investors seeking to finance sustainable projects with competitive returns.

The idea behind the Challenge is simple: Sustainable investing is a long-term strategy that requires a pipeline of innovative thinkers and leaders to continue beyond today’s players. The Challenge seeks to encourage, identify and nurture the talent that will one day lead the industry.

In April 2015, the Challenge will bring the competing students to Morgan Stanley’s offices in London to present their investment proposals to panels of judges drawn from experts across the sustainable investing space. Additional information about the competition can be found here, including deadlines for requesting a mentor and submitting a prospectus.

For the 2014 competition, Chavas and three other students from the Kellogg School of Management proposed an elegant solution in planting brownfields with hybrid poplar trees, which grow quickly as a source for inexpensive timber and, at the same time, help restore contaminated land. It’s exactly the kind of creative but practical and profitable thinking that embodies the spirit of the Challenge.

Through the competition, teams of students develop ideas on how to address a sustainability issue related to food, energy, resources, health, education or climate change through finance. They then submit proposals to the Challenge. A panel of judges weighs every submission on its merits and selects a group of finalists. Finalist teams receive mentorship from Morgan Stanley advisors and other experts in the field. The Challenge culminates when finalist teams present at Morgan Stanley in April, where a winning team is chosen.

In 2014, students from 10 different countries competed. They included participants from the Kellogg School of Management, Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, Yale School of Management, Yale School of Forestry, London Business School, Said Business School at University of Oxford, Darden School of Business at University of Virginia, Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the Indian School of Business, Thammasat University in Bangkok, the Sustainability Management Program at Columbia University and INSEAD.

Find out more about Morgan Stanley's Institute for Sustainable Investing and its pioneering role in this space, or contact a Financial Advisor to discuss how sustainable investing may complement your financial goals and strategy.