Morgan Stanley
  • Institute for Sustainable Investing
  • Apr 12, 2021

Beekeeper and Conservation Financing Wins 2021 Sustainable Investing Challenge

Graduate students from the University of Oxford proposed financing to help beekeepers scale and expand practices that drive biodiversity conservation.

With a proposal to finance beekeepers and practices that conserve biodiversity, the BeeBank & Brokerage team secured the top prize in the 2021 Kellogg-Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge. This year’s prize for a proposal aimed at reducing plastic waste went to the European Circular Fund team from the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

The competition, now in its 11th year, invites teams of graduate students to develop and pitch innovative finance and investing ideas to address critical social and environmental issues.

“The investment ideas shared by competitors in this year’s Challenge are the most wide-ranging and diverse in the history of the competition,” said Audrey Choi, CEO of the Institute for Sustainable Investing at Morgan Stanley. "The winning teams, BeeBank & Brokerage and European Circular Fund, as well as the overall runner-up, the Fund for E-Bus Batteries, are proof that our most critical global challenges can be addressed through innovative financial solutions.”

BeeBank & Brokerage Takes the Grand Prize

Students from University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment and Medical Research Council Brain Network Dynamics Unit impressed the judges with their BeeBank & Brokerage proposal. The idea would give investors an opportunity to support bee pollination and sustainable food production in an effort to stem the die-off of honeybees, a problem that endangers the global food supply. BeeBank & Brokerage’s model facilitates contracts, working capital and resources to provide farmers with healthy bees for crop pollination.

The Fund for E-Bus Batteries team from University of Edinburgh Business School, University of Edinburgh School of Engineering won the runner-up prize. Its proposal for a leveraged fund financed by private-equity and asset investors seeks to help accelerate the adoption of electric buses in The Netherlands, by creating a solution for second-life application of batteries.

Putting a Cap on Plastic Waste

To reduce plastic waste, the European Circular Fund team from the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management proposed a plastic packaging-focused cap-and-trade system that would support a loan fund for waste collection, waste treatment and recycling companies within the EU. The prize reflects the commitment Morgan Stanley made in its Plastic Waste Resolution to help prevent, reduce and remove 50 million metric tons of plastic waste from entering rivers, oceans, landscapes and landfills by 2030.

Overall, more than 400 students participated in this year’s competition, a 34% increase from 2020. Student competitors represented 50 home countries and 87 graduate schools, with projects targeting impact in 33 countries. Volunteers from across the sustainable investing community participated as mentors and judges to help identify 16 teams to advance to the finals.

Judges watched the teams pitch their ideas and interviewed them before winnowing the field. Four teams advanced to the final event, where they presented their proposals and answered questions from judges during a live video conference attended by more than 200 viewers.

“The winning teams’ ideas gave us a glimpse of the sustainability challenges in our future,” said David Chen, Professor of Finance at the Kellogg School of Management, CEO of Equilibrium Capital and founder of the Sustainable Investing Challenge. “The students told us this year that they have grown up knowing that climate change and social inequity were critical for their generations. Their proposed financial innovations took that on and proved that out.”