Institute at Brown for Environment and SocietyIBES

Sophie Purdom '16

Last Spring, Sophie Purdom ‘16 became the first undergraduate appointed to the IBES Advisory Council; however, this is far from Purdom’s first advisory role. Over the last four years, she has served on the University’s Environmental Change Task Force, headed the Departmental Undergraduate Group for Environmental Studies and Science concentrators, engaged in policy negotiations at the UN climate talks in Warsaw and Lima, and more.

Purdom is especially passionate about tackling environmental issues from an economic perspective. After quickly rising through the ranks to become co-president of the student-run Socially Responsible Investment Fund (SRIF), Purdom became convinced that the University could apply similar principles to the management of its endowment. With support from President Christina Paxson and members of the University’s Corporation, Purdom’s idea became the brand new Brown University Sustainable Investment Fund.

"The Fund is ground-breaking on both an environmental and an accessibility front," she explains. “First, it has a special investment focus on outstanding environmental, social and governance companies. Second, it has no minimum—meaning that anyone can give any-sized gift to the endowment."

Purdom also designed a brand new undergraduate course: The Theory and Practice of Sustainable Investing. She spent her final semester at Brown teaching the course alongside Cary Krosinsky, an Adjunct Lecturer in International and Public Affairs whose expertise in sustainable investing is internationally renowned.

The course, which includes guest lectures by high-profile luminaries as well as opportunities to research and pitch real-world equities, was in high demand.

“We thought that maybe 30 students might be interested in such an intense, focused, niche seminar,” says Purdom. “We were wrong on that estimate; over 100 students showed up to the first class, and we already have a waiting list for future years."

She is looking forward to bringing her unique point of view to the Institute’s roundtable. “I've touched many different sides of the student perspective throughout my time at Brown and with IBES,” she says. “I'm well-positioned to bring this perspective to the Advisory Council, and am honored to be working with the other brilliant and passionate council members."

Purdom explains that she is proud of the Institute’s engaged, hands-on focus when it comes to tackling complex sustainability challenges. “It's fine and well to discuss issues and problematize all day,” she says, "but IBES differentiates itself by taking research and learning outside the lab and the classroom, and putting solutions into practice. I think that's essential."


Purdom is currently an Associate Consultant at Bain & Company in Boston. Her new book is co-edited with Cary Krosinsky and is called Sustainable Investing. The book will launch at Brown on Tuesday. March 7, 2017 at 5pm.
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