July 31, 2023 – The Investment Integration Project (TIIP) and the Sustainable Investing Research Initiative (SIRI) at Columbia SIPA have announced a strategic partnership to advance the field of system-level investing and foster greater cross-disciplinary scholarship in the field. The partnership hopes to advance education, research, and dialogue on system-level investing with an aim toward driving progress on combatting climate change, biodiversity loss, social inequality, and global poverty, as well as meeting the other UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Caroline Flammer, professor of international and public affairs and of climate and the director of SIRI, notes that addressing these challenges and meeting the UN SDGs requires “the adoption of a system-focused approach that considers how business and investment practices influence broader environmental, social, and economic systems, and how these systems in turn impact business and investment practices and opportunities.”
“Our theories, frameworks, models, and practices need to move beyond mere portfolio- and firm-level perspectives,” she adds.
“System-level investing extends analysis of individual stocks and portfolios to include the context or social, environmental, and financial systems in which these portfolios exist,” said William Burckart, CEO of TIIP and co-author of 21st Century Investing: Redirecting Financial Strategies to Drive Systems Change (Berrett-Koehler Publishers 2021). “Investors are increasingly utilizing investment techniques and approaches to support the health of systems and address the externalities being created under current paradigms.”
He adds, “This partnership with SIRI, the trailblazing academic hub focused on system-level investing, will help drive its awareness and adoption through rigorous academic research, convenings of key stakeholders, and training the current and next generation of leaders.”
The partnership aligns with Dean Keren Yarhi-Milo’s vision of the School to leverage relationships with the private-sector and practitioners to find solutions to a set of five global policy challenges. “The work of SIRI, especially around system-level investing, is so important and impactful and cuts across nearly all our Global Policy Challenges – not just climate and sustainability but also inclusive prosperity and macroeconomic growth, technology, and geopolitical stability,” said Yarhi-Milo. “And our partnership with TIIP is a great example of how we hope to leverage the expertise of scholars like Professor Flammer with the experience and know-how of the leading practitioners in the field. That is how we will drive change and create responsible stewards around sustainable investing going forward.”
The partnership will deepen the existing collaboration between SIRI and TIIP. In particular, Flammer and Burckart jointly developed and co-taught the first-ever course on system-level investing at SIPA, which is open to all Columbia graduate students. In addition, the partnership will help advance the field of system-level investing through rigorous academic research, consulting projects and internships for students, as well as convenings and other jointly organized events—such as the annual SIRI Sustainable Investing Career Fair and TIIP’s yearly state-of-the-industry investor conference—that bring together investors with scholars, students, and alumni to shape the field going forward.
Jon Lukomnik, an eminent expert in system-level investing who recently joined the SIPA faculty, highlights the complementarity of this partnership. “Practitioners benefit from having their assumptions challenged by the rigors of academia,” says Lukomnik, who is also a SIRI Fellow, member of TIIP’s Advisory Council, and co-author of the book Moving Beyond Modern Portfolio Theory: Investing That Matters (Routledge, 2021). “Academia benefits from the on-the-ground expertise and relevance of thoroughly understanding practice. This partnership should benefit both foundational research and expert system-level investing in practice.”
The Investment Integration Project (TIIP)
Established in 2015 by Steve Lydenberg and Burckart, TIIP’s mission is to help investors understand how healthy social, environmental, and financial systems can benefit their portfolios. TIIP provides consulting services, applied research, and a turnkey solution (SAIL) that supports investors’ pursuit of system-level investing, an advanced approach to sustainable and impact investing that focuses on managing systemic risks and investing in solutions to systemic problems. For more information, visit https://www.tiiproject.com.
Sustainable Investing Research Initiative (SIRI)
SIRI’s mission is to foster cross-disciplinary scholarship, education, and dialogue on the interplay and interdependencies between investment and the most complex challenges facing our world. Drawing on faculty expertise from SIPA and across Columbia University, the initiative’s focus is the nexus between corporations, investors, policy, and system-level challenges. For more information, visit https://www.sipa.columbia.edu/global-research-impact/initiatives/sustainable-investing-research-initiative-siri.