Students Glean Expert Wisdom on Sustainability and Socially Responsible Investment
Tony Davis of Inherent Group Visits the Rumsey Hall Finance Club
The Rumsey Hall Finance Club connects students who are interested in the world of money with experts in the field. Students gather weekly to learn about investing, follow the stock market, and develop an understanding of the world of money from former Wall Street trader and History Teacher Eric Scheidt, Associate Head of School Brooke Giese, and Athletic Director Jay Pryzgocki.
The Finance Club welcomed Tony Davis, CEO and CIO of Inherent Group, for a virtual discussion on his endeavors in socially responsible investing. Inherent Group, an investment management firm focused on the equity and credit markets, uses environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors to source and underwrite investments. Davis’s visit was inspirational for the club attendees, reinforcing Rumsey’s efforts to teach sustainable living and promote action to make a change for the betterment of society and the environment.
Davis began the session by explaining that the GDP per capita of the world has risen exponentially in the last century. While modern capitalism has benefited humanity with longer lifespans, improved accessibility to education, and a decrease of measured violence, it’s come at a cost to the planet. Davis displayed a chart illustrating the skyrocketing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels over the last century, resulting in a decline of clean water, loss of biodiversity, and other significant indicators of environmental degradation. Overall, the increase of wealth produces externalities that negatively impact people and the planet.
Next, Davis explained how the UN Sustainable Development Goals are a strategic plan for the planet. He further expanded on Inherent Group’s drive to embrace these goals in their investing activities. In the past, it’s been the sole responsibility of governments to step in and regulate sustainable action; however, the results of government regulation alone take too long and are not sufficient.
That’s where the role of businesses and individuals comes in. Davis explained,“We need governments, but governments are moving too slowly in many cases. As a result, we need businesses to help us address these challenges. Finally, it’s incumbent upon us to try to make the most sustainable choices that we can as we live our lives.”
Davis went on to describe how Inherent Group is living out their mission to support the Sustainable Development Goals by investing in ideas and companies that address the goals. Some of the initiatives that Inherent has invested in are: solid state lithium ion batteries (used in electric vehicles); energy-efficiency projects; green hydrogen (used for energy storage and transportation); sustainable farming; plant-based proteins; online education technology; and a span of different companies that are uniquely addressing the goals through their own products and services.
Students then asked Davis to expound on why it’s advantageous for businesses and individuals to engage in sustainable money decisions. Brian Yun '22 asked what the incentives were for young people like him to make socially responsible investments. “No matter how small you are,” Davis said, “it’s important to try to do your part with your personal decisions as a consumer and how you live. If you throw your stone into the middle of the pond, you don’t know where the ripples are ultimately going to go and how they’re going to affect the world. Don’t underestimate the power of one individual to change the course of history.”
Taking it to a personal level for middle school students, Gunther Scheidt ’25 asked Davis for advice for sixth graders to better understand ESG to be ready to invest in the future. “Keep having conversations like these,” Davis guided. “Be aware and read as much as you can on the topic. Reflect on what you can do in your own life and in your own activities to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle.You’re at this age where you need to get a great, well-rounded education—both in STEM and the humanities—having that combination of studies will allow you to choose whatever path you want to take later in life, including investing.”
Dan Lufkin P'12, '20, '24, co-founder of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (DLJ) attended the Finance Club for Davis’s visit. Lufkin shared gems of wisdom from his wildly successful career on Wall Street and the Department of Environmental Protection with the Finance Club earlier in the year. Lufkin, who was instrumental in the founding of Earth Day in 1970, has a keen interest in the future of sustainability in businesses.
Lufkin commended Davis on setting an example for future generations and asked him what could be done to accelerate the process. Davis responded by saying, “On the government side, we need big action. We need to push politicians to price externalities we know are bad for us, like carbon emissions. We need smart regulation. Consumers and employees can take action to affect the way businesses operate. We need the whole industry to move.”
The Rumsey Hall Finance Club will continue to explore how to be better citizens through their knowledge of socially responsible investing and the Sustainable Development Goals.