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Mendoza dean joins business and humanitarian leaders in Rome for ‘Investing for the Poor’ conference

by Christine Cox

July 18, 2014

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With a special blessing from Pope Francis, a coalition of 100 global leaders concerned with impact investing gathered in Rome on June 16 and 17. The Investing for the Poor Conference was jointly convened by Mendoza College of Business, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Catholic Relief Services. Roger Huang, the Martin J. Gillen Dean of the Mendoza College of Business, presented at the conference.

Experts in business, finance, academia, humanitarian causes and faith-based communities learned core concepts of impact investing, which is investing with the intention to generate social and environmental impact alongside financial returns. The consortium also discussed how impact investing aligns with the Catholic Church’s mission and how the Church might promote such investing to serve the poor.

The first day included a private audience with the pope, who blessed and expressed his appreciation for the symposium. Pope Francis also underscored the significance of impact investing.

“It is important that ethics once again play its due part in the world of finance and that markets serve the interests of peoples and the common good of humanity,” the pope said in an address to conference participants. “It is increasingly intolerable that financial markets are shaping the destiny of peoples rather than serving their needs, or that the few derive immense wealth from financial speculation while the many are deeply burdened by the consequences.

“Advances in technology have increased the speed of financial transactions, but in the long run this is significant only to the extent that it better serves the common good,” the pope continued. “In this regard, speculation on food prices is a scandal which seriously compromises access to food on the part of the poorest members of our human family. It is urgent that governments throughout the world commit themselves to developing an international framework capable of promoting a market of high impact investments, and thus to combating an economy which excludes and discards.”

Huang said the goals and concepts of impact investing align with Mendoza’s mission to “Ask More of Business.” “Historically, financial investment and helping the poor have been considered two separate functions: You make money through financial investing, and help the poor by giving away money,” he said. “Impact investing merges the two in a very powerful way, so that an investor’s value system and business knowledge align toward a shared goal of creating wealth while also achieving social and environmental objectives. This is a transformational approach to affecting world poverty, and one that fits perfectly with Mendoza’s mission.”

Former Mendoza dean Carolyn Woo, now the president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, was a key participant in the conference. “Pope Francis has called on the world to find ways to use wealth to help the poor and each and every one of us,” she said. “Impact investing is an approach to eradicate poverty by putting investment capital to work in addressing the growing inequality in the world today. It is important we all take a lead role to actively evaluate the use of innovative financing to serve the poor and that is what this conference is all about.”

For more information about the conference and impact investing, visit investingforthepoor.org