10:00am - 12:00pm EDT


This year the 3rd Annual GRASFI Conference will be hosted online using the virtual conference software REMO.

The Program is indicative and is subject to change; all listed times are EDT. 

A Phd workshop will be organized on Friday 11th September, where pre-selected PhD students will be invited to present their papers or projects. Faculty and senior researchers from Alliance Universities will provide feedback, as well as advice on research, publications, and careers. . 

On Friday 11th September there will be a strategy session for the Alliance Organising Committee on key areas of future cooperation. There will also be a debrief on the 3rd Annual Conference and a discussion of plans for the 4th Annual Conference hosted by Central University of Finance and Economics, Beijing in 2021.

Download the Program
GRASFI 2020 Program.jpg
Tuesday September 8

7:30am - 7:55am EDT

Professor Jeffrey D Sachs, University Professor, and Director, Center for Sustainable Development in the Earth Institute

8:00am - 9:00am EDT

Panel Discussion 1 - Revisiting the Role of the Corporation

Moderator: Femi Oke, International journalist, writer, and moderator

Confirmed Speakers:

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation

Congressman Ro Khanna, U.S. Representative of California’s 17th Congressional District

Sanda Ojiambo, Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact

Adam Zurofsky, Founding Executive Director, Rewiring America

The responsibilities of corporations to all stakeholders have increasingly been recognized and demanded, calling for the fundamental role and purpose of the corporation to be revisited. The GRASFI conference will take place nearly 50 years to the day after Milton Friedman’s infamous and narrow suggestion that businesses should focus on maximizing shareholder value, irrespective of costs imposed on others. This high-level discussion will critically reexamine the role of the corporation in light of today’s business ecosystem, as well as the current economic fallout from COVID-19.

9:30am - 10:30am EDT

Paper Presentation 1a
ESG: What Are We Talking About?
Paper Presentation 1b
​Climate Change: Financial Implications of Physical Risks

11:00am - 12:00pm EDT

Paper Presentation 2a
ESG Performance and Financial Performance
Paper Presentation 2b
Actors and Approaches for Driving Change

12:15pm - 1:30pm EDT

Countdown to 2030: The role of the investment industry in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals 

The United Nations (UN) launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 as a roadmap for governments, businesses and civil society to achieve a more sustainable and equitable society by 2030. The UN estimated that to meet these aspirational goals, it will require investments of about USD 3.5tr a year, both from public and private capital. It's been five years since this announcement, and estimates show an annual funding gap of about USD 2.5tr, in large part due to disappointing participation of private sector investors. ​

In this practitioner-led panel discussion, we'll present the findings of a nine-month research study that sought to answer the question: What would it take for institutional investors to increase their level of commitment and participation to mobilize capital towards the SDGs? We'll discuss, from the perspective of both asset owners and asset managers, the role of the investment community in the achievement of the SDGs, why the SDGs are relevant to and important for the investment community, the obstacles that these investors are facing to integrate SDGs in their investment mandate, and, more importantly, how to ensure that investors and asset managers contribute to, and do not undermine, the achievement of the goals by 2030. 


Luciana Aquino-Hagedorn, Senior Fellow CCSI

Mirtha Kastrapeli, Fellow CCSI, Founder of Beyond Alpha

Confirmed Speakers: 

Scott Kalb, Founder and Director of the Responsible Asset Allocator Initiative at New America

Christopher Kuales, ESG Product Manager, ISS ESG

Rick Lacaille, Executive Vice President and Global CIO, State Street Global Advisors

Ellen Quigley, Advisor to the Chief Financial Officer (Responsible Investment) and Research Associate at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge

9:00pm - 10:00pm EDT

Panel Session 1 replay & networking session
Wednesday September 9

7:00am - 8:00am EDT

Understanding the financial impact of climate change issues is a complex task, but research is evolving rapidly to meet this challenge. This session, organized by Fitch Ratings, is intended to draw input from participants on what are the most important and pressing areas of research on the subject area. Amongst the topics that will be covered in this session are Climate Change in Financial Theory; Assessing and Quantifying Transition Risk; Assessing and Quantifying Physical Risk; Improving Climate Scenario Analysis; and Improving the Impact of Sustainable Finance.


Participants will be asked to submit research ideas on each of those topics, and vote for the ideas they find most interesting. The Co-moderators will monitor research ideas submitted and discuss them with speakers, offering their views on those ideas. Audience participation is highly encouraged.



  • Mervyn Tang, Senior Director and Global Head of ESG Research, Fitch Ratings

  • Tracy Van Holt, Director of Academic Research, Center for Sustainable Business, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, NYU


  • Emily Chasan, Sustainable Finance Journalist

  • Johannes Stroebel, David S. Loeb Professor of Finance, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, NYU

8:00am - 9:00am EDT

Panel Discussion 2 - The Role of the State

Moderator: Femi Oke, International journalist, writer, and moderator

Confirmed Speakers:

Per Bolund, Minister for Financial Markets and Housing, Deputy Minister for Finance, Government Offices of Sweden

Martín Guzmán, Minister of Economy for Argentina

Jorge Moreira da Silva, Director, OECD Development Co-operation Directorate

Carmen M. Reinhart, Vice President and Chief Economist, World Bank Group. Minos A. Zombanakis Professor of the International Financial System, Harvard Kennedy School.

This panel discussion will examine the Purpose and Role of the State in shaping sustainable finance and investment to align with domestic and global needs, goals and commitments. In the midst of the COVID epidemic, we have been reminded of the power of the state to shape market forces, correct market failures, and step into the market directly as investors and providers of public goods; this high-level discussion will critically reexamine when and how states are - and should be - using monetary policy, regulation, and other tools to more actively manage their economies.

9:30am - 10:30am EDT

Paper Presentation 3a
Economic Ecosystems for Sustainability
Paper Presentation 3b
Where the Market Is Not Getting It Right

11:00am - 12:00pm EDT

Paper Presentation 4a
The Role of the Law: Climate Litigation, Disclosure Rules, and Corporate Governance
Paper Presentation 4b
ESG: What Lenders Want, Do, and Can Do

12:15pm - 1:15pm EDT

Ask the Academic: A conversation between practitioners and researchers on sustainable investing

This session, organized by BNP Paribas Asset Management, is meant to facilitate dialogue between practitioners and academics working on sustainable investing and ESG issues in order to promote better understanding between the diverse set of actors working in the field.



Jane Ambachtsheer, Global Head of Sustainability at BNP Paribas Asset Management

Lisa Sachs, Director of the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment



Professor Dan Esty, director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and co-director of the Yale Initiative on Sustainable Finance

Rob Bauer, Professor of Finance (chair: Institutional Investors) at Maastricht University School of Business and Economics in The Netherlands.

2:00pm - 3:00pm EDT

Although a growing number of companies are now espousing their commitment to “purpose,” the fact remains that the gap between words and actions remains a large one. This gap will persist until a company’s board of directors publishes a company-specific, stakeholder-inclusive “Statement of Purpose.” It is a necessary but not sufficient condition but is the basis for how the company’s board and senior management can work with shareholders and other stakeholders to enact the purpose espoused in its board statement. To date, not a single one of the signatories to the Business Roundtable’s “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” have produced a company-specific statement. There are only a handful of companies worldwide that have done so. This panel, moderated by Robert G. Eccles, will discuss why such a statement is important and how, far from being just about words, it relates to and affects real-world impact. This panel will also explore why companies have been slow to adopt this practice, the process by which the statement is produced, and what must be done to take this practice to scale. It will build on and go deeper into some of the points raised in the opening panel on the Role of the Corporation.

Moderator: Robert G. Eccles, Visiting Professor of Management Practice, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford


Frederick Alexander, The Shareholder Commons

Lila Karbassi, Chief, Programmes, United Nations Global Compact

Andrew Parry, Head of Sustainable Investment, Newton Investment Management

Roberto Tallarita, Associate Director and Research Fellow of the Program on Corporate Governance, Harvard Law

Adam Zurofsky, Adjunct Professor, Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, Former Director of State Policy for the State of New YorkSchool

8:00pm EDT

Online Workshop on Climate Finance in Asia and Australasia
8pm EDT/ Thursday 10th (China Standard Time 8am)

Sustainable finance and managing climate risk are becoming two of the most important issues facing investors and financial regulators. The financial risks and opportunities associated with climate change are particularly acute in Asia and Australasia. The region is highly vulnerable to climate change related natural disasters. Further, in meeting the demand of growing populations and economic growth, governments in the region have tended to lag other part of the world.


WORKSHOP: The aim of the workshop is to encourage community building among researchers focused on climate finance in Asia and Australasia. We take a broad definition of climate finance-related topics (see list of topics below) and we welcome submission from a range of methodological approaches (empirical analyses, theoretical, macroeconomic/monetary-environment models, case studies, policy analyses etc.). Papers should have clear relevance to policy or investment practice and utilise Asian and Australasian data or context.

CALL FOR PAPERS: Submit full paper or a long abstract by Monday 24th of August 2020 to CEFGroup@otago.ac.nz putting ‘Asia GRASFI Workshop – Paper Submission’ in the subject line.

REGISTRATION: Registration is free. Should you wish to attend the event please email CEFGroup@otago.ac.nz putting ‘Asia GRASFI Workshop – Attendance’ in the subject line

10:00pm - 11:00pm EDT

Thursday September 10

7:00am - 8:00am EDT

Designing Sustainable Crisis Responses for Central Banks and Supervisors

Central banks and financial supervisors are playing a crucial role in shaping the responses to the crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic in both the immediate stabilisation phase and the subsequent recovery phase. To avoid lock-in to a high-carbon recovery and fulfil their mandates for financial stability, central banks and supervisors need to align their COVID-19 response measures with the Paris Agreement.

Numerous instruments that are already being applied by central banks and financial supervisors in the crisis can be calibrated in ways that account for climate- and other sustainability-related financial risks and/or contribute to the achievement of climate and sustainability goals. Against the background of an INSPIRE Policy Brief produced by the LSE Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the SOAS Centre for Sustainable Finance, this special INSPIRE session at the Annual GRASFI Conference 2020 will discuss options for central banks and financial supervisors to incorporate climate and sustainability factors into COVID-19 crisis response measures.

Chair: Nick Robins, Professor in Practice for Sustainable Finance, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

Presentation of the INSPIRE Briefing Paper “A Toolbox for Sustainable Crisis Response Measures for Central Banks and Supervisors"

Simon Dikau, Research Officer, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

Ulrich Volz, Director of the SOAS Centre for Sustainable Finance at SOAS, University of London


Discussion with opening statements by each panellist, followed by Q&A with:

Chris Faint, Head of Division & Head of the Bank’s Climate Hub, Bank of England

Adele Morris, Joseph A. Pechman Senior Fellow & Economic Studies Policy Director, Climate and Energy Economics Project, Brookings Institution

7:00am - 8:00am EDT

Over the past decade, asset managers have faced increased pressure to account for sustainability when managing their portfolios. In the U.S., asset managers now consider ESG criteria across 11.6 trillion dollars in assets (USSIF, 2018). To integrate ESG considerations, finance professionals interact with companies within their portfolios to foster more sustainable practices. This explosion has led to variation in expertise among these asset managers, and innovations towards sustainable finance in interactions between finance professionals and the companies they manage. Many investors and capital asset managers receive little training on these topics in business schools. They are learning--on the job-- how to incorporate ESG into their work. In this session, we will first here from an asset manager about the challenges that ESG investors face, and what are the next generation skills needed. We follow with a discussion from those that are changing business school education. 


Mette Morsing, UN PRME

Tracy Van Holt, NYU Stern, Center for Sustainable Business


Bob Eccles, Visiting Professor of Management Practice, University of Oxford Saïd Business School

Sustainable Business Education Discussants:

Dave Chen, Adjunct Professor of Finance, Kellog School of Management, Northwestern University and CEO & Chairman, Equilibrium

Constanza Consolandi, Associate Professor of Finance, University of Sienna

Tensie Whelan, Clinical Professor of Business and Society and Director of Center for Sustainable Business, New York University Stern Business School

8:00am - 9:00am EDT

Panel Discussion 3 - Revisiting the Role and Responsibilities of the Investment Community

Moderator: Femi Oke, International journalist, writer, and moderator

Confirmed Speakers:

Jane Ambachtsheer, Global Head of Sustainability, BNP Paribas Asset Management

Hiro Mizuno, Former Executive Managing Director and CIO, Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF). Independent Director, Tesla, Inc. 

Anne Simpson, Interim Managing Investment Director, Board Governance & Sustainability, CalPERS

Mervyn Tang, Senior Director, Global Head of ESG Research, Sustainable Finance, Fitch Ratings

This panel will revisit the role and responsibilities of the Investment Community in an era of sustainable recovery and development. The proliferation of sustainability principles, frameworks, and ESG and ‘impact investing’ products reflect a widespread and growing shift in expectations of - and opportunities for- investors to shape the impacts of the business sector. At the same time, many business impacts and corresponding development indicators suggest worsening outcomes - of inequality, rights violations, food insecurity, global warming, and loss of biodiversity; and COVID revealed the systemic vulnerabilities of our markets. This high-level discussion will critically examine the meaning and direction of ‘sustainable investment’ within the investment community, identify what changes in practice are needed, and articulate what is required to effect those changes. 

9:30am - 10:30am EDT

Paper Presentation 5a
Shareholders: Drivers of ESG Change(?)
Paper Presentation 5b
A Financial Lens into the Crises of Our Times

11:00am - 12:00pm EDT

Paper Presentation 6a
Shareholders: Drivers of ESG Change(?)
(continued from 5a)
Paper Presentation 6b
ESG: Does It Matter to Investors

12:15pm - 1:15pm EDT

The "S" in "ESG"

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) research among institutional investors has historically focused mostly on the “E” and the “G,” leaving social issues and social investment risks—especially risks related to racism and racial injustice—often taking a back seat. The evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and the powerful reaction of society against police violence, however, have forced international attention on linkages in social and environmental justice that marginalized populations have long understood. These societal challenges are not new, and they are likely to grow in importance and materiality, underscoring the importance of assessing the “S” in concert with the “E” and the “G.”


This session will explore the historical factors that may have led institutional investors to deemphasize social issues in their research, as well as why – in 2020 – social issues and indicators have become as important as effort. Panelists will then identify the challenges, opportunities and tools to identifying the “S” and integrating social issues into investment decisions.



Katherine Kroll, Senior Institutional Sustainable Investing Specialist, Brown Advisory


Mamie Parker, Board of Directors, Sustainable Investing Advisory Board, Brown Advisory

Caroline Rees, President and Co-founder, Shift

Emira Woods, Senior Adviser, Shine

1:00pm - 1:45pm EDT

Assessing Corporate Governance: Material Findings for Investors

Corporate governance assessments are an integral part of company research because they can be an indicator of how well a company identifies material environmental and social factors and manages associated risks and opportunities. However, incorporating governance information into investment decision-making poses challenges as there is an abundance of publicly available data. But there is little clarity on which of those measures may be linked to performance, or the impact the rules and practices of different countries may have on those links. The latter is especially relevant as responsible investing becomes an increasingly global phenomenon. This study was conducted to determine which governance factors, ranging from accounting risk to shareholder rights, materially affected financial performance in 49 countries. Through the research we uncovered the impact that factors had on performance differed depending on the relative strength of governance practices and rules in a given country. The research offers guidance for investors in assessing the impact of governance factors by grouping companies by practices and rules. 



Anne Matusewicz, Director, Calvert Institute for Responsible Investing


Hellen Mbugua, Senior ESG Research Analyst, Calvert Research and Management

Daniel Rourke, Senior ESG Research Analyst, Calvert Research and Management; Research Contributor, Calvert Institute for Responsible Investing

Tanguy Dauphin, ESG Quantitative Research Associate, Calvert Research and Management

9:00pm - 10:00pm EDT

Panel Session 3 replay and networking session
Friday September 11

7:00am - 8:00am EDT

Climate Action in the Time of Debt Distress
7-8am EDT / 12-1pm BST / 1-2pm CEST / 4-5pm PKT
A global debt crisis is looming. Even before COVID-19 swept the world, the International Monetary Fund deemed global public debt burdens a high risk for the majority of developing countries – noting that half of the lower-income countries were ‘at high risk of or already in debt distress.’ As the COVID crisis worsens, developing countries face steep output contractions, while the COVID relief and recovery effort demands a massive upscaling of expenditures. This new, systemic debt crisis emerges at a critical time when the global climate crisis demands the urgent mobilisation of huge efforts on mitigation and adaptation. Moreover, partly driven by policy, partly by technological disruption, fossil fuels are transitioning from being an asset to a liability, amounting to a third systemic crisis sweeping capital markets and the developing world. It is at the intersection of these three systemic crises that new and innovative answers need to be found, breaking through silos of international policy making. Against this backdrop, this special session at the 3rd Annual GRASFI Conference will discuss solutions for addressing the debt crisis in the Global South while enabling far-reaching action for climate adaptation and mitigation. In particular, it will examine the options for debt rescheduling that will allow for people-centered investments that address climate change and inequality by leaving fossil fuels in the ground, and investing in climate adaptation while expanding job and livelihood opportunities.
Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
Panel Discussion 
Jean-Paul Adam, Director for Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Management in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
Shamshad Akhtar, Chair of the Board of Directors at Karandaaz Pakistan & Member of the of Global Advisory Board, SOAS Centre for Sustainable Finance at SOAS, University of London
Stephany Griffith Jones, Financial Markets Program Director at the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University
Romina Picolotti, President of the Center for Human Rights and Environment & Climate Change Senior Advisor at the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development
Ulrich Volz, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Finance at SOAS, University of London (chair).

8:00am - 9:00am EDT

Panel Discussion 4 - Financing the Paris Agreement post-COVID-19

​Moderator: Femi Oke, International journalist, writer, and moderator

Confirmed Speakers:

Barbara Buchner, Global Managing Director and Executive Director of Climate Finance, Climate Policy Initiative

Joan Carling, Co-Convenor, Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development 

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

Bill McKibben, Co-founder and Senior Advisor, 350.org and author, environmentalist, and activist

The GRASFI conference will take place roughly five years since the world’s governments adopted the Paris Agreement and committed to the objective of keeping global average temperature increases to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Achieving those objectives requires a tremendous mobilization of resources and fundamental shifts in existing capital flows and allocation. But success in financing the Paris Agreement over five years has been patchy and lacking in required ambition; while many governments have mobilized resources and a number of investors and companies have decarbonized their portfolios, investments in and financing for new fossil fuel projects and infrastructure continue to increase, and the energy transition remains underfunded. This high-level discussion will take stock of progress to equitably and effectively finance the energy transition, including reflections on whether the vulnerabilities exposed by COVID have provoked new thinking on climate resilience and action.

9:00am - 10:00am EDT

Paper Prize Session

9:15am - 11:00am EDT

Food Systems Dialogue (invite-only)

This will be a discussion among leaders from global food companies and investment firms on food systems policies and practices. The two-hour, invite-only online session will include topics on the coherence and rigor of SDG measurement and reporting, internalizing food system externalities, and investor use of disclosed information for portfolio management decisions. This session will have a specific focus on the EU and UK and will reflect on impacts of COVID-19 on the regional and global food system.

10:00am - 12:00pm EDT

PhD Workshop

9:00pm - 10:00pm EDT

Panel Session 4 replay and networking session


8-11 September 2020

Columbia University

The Global Research Alliance for Sustainable Finance and Investment


10:00am - 12:00pm EDT