Accounting, Finance, and Modeling of Sustainable Investments

by |July 12, 2018

M.S. in Sustainability Management faculty member Brad Schwartz

Brad Schwartz, a new faculty member in Columbia’s Masters of Science in Sustainability Management program, will be teaching the class, Accounting, Finance, and Modeling of Sustainable Investments, in the Fall of 2018. The course examines traditional and emerging financial and cost accounting practices, non-financial sustainability performance metrics, their interdependencies and influence on corporate management, corporate reporting, and other systems. Schwartz, who holds an MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business and is also a licensed CPA, began his career as an auditor at Ernst and Young. He has also worked for JP Morgan Chase in their Private Equity Fund Services business and at Lincolnshire Management on their finance and accounting team.

Schwartz will bring his industry expertise to the new class, and he will also give students a solid foundation of finance and accounting.

“Accounting and finance are the backbone of all business,” Schwartz says. “It is necessary to speak the language of business if you want to have a positive impact on a business’s sustainability practices. You must be able to clearly pitch to stakeholders who do not understand sustainability in a language they can understand and appreciate.”

In the class, students will learn how financial performance is presented within traditional financial reports and analyzed using benchmarks, ratios and through interconnections with real world trends. Students will leave the class with practicable knowledge that Schwartz believes will be relevant not only to sustainability, but to many aspects of business.

At its core, business is about getting the most output (profits) using the least amount of inputs (resources).

Sustainability naturally lends itself to becoming more efficient and thus more profitable, which is why a lot of companies have been embracing sustainability. It also makes for good investments not just as an investor but also as a manager deploying resources within a firm. In this class students will learn how implementing a sustainability-oriented operating plan is good for all stakeholders of a business, including the environment.

Schwartz is currently the chief financial officer at Encourage Capital, an impact investment firm which seeks financial returns alongside social and environmental returns. His experience there will help guide classroom discussion around trends in sustainable investments. “As impact/ESG investing is a nascent investment strategy, various authoritative bodies are jockeying to become the reporting standard,” he says. “In class we will explore what these measurements and guidelines mean and how to avoid the pitfalls from investment advisors who are repackaging existing products and pawning them off as impact investing.”

Schwartz found a natural intersection between his career interests in impact investing: “I knew I always wanted to be in finance, but after having children it became important what world I left for them. Impact investing made the most sense as a bridge between the two.”

The M.S. in Sustainability Management, co-sponsored by the Earth Institute and Columbia’s School of Professional Studies, trains students to tackle complex and pressing environmental and managerial challenges. Visit the website to learn more.

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