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Can Green Finance Spark COVID-19 Recovery?

By focusing on sustainable, equitable, and long-term outcomes, here's why green finance initiatives could be key to coronavirus recovery


Mon Jun 7 2021

Green finance—any financial activity designed to generate a climate-friendly outcome—could be the best way to recover from this pandemic and protect our planet.

Jennifer Oetzel, professor at American University’s Kogod School of Business, educates future business leaders in green finance concepts like the green economy and ethical management.

She focuses on financial risk in crisis situations and how companies can mitigate business risk while promoting peace in the countries where they operate. fee0fd80db04ba3dc26d6ecdd35a8c6ce627d924.png

For Jennifer, green investing and green lending, which have environmental criteria for how funds are used, could be the key to a sustainable long-term recovery from COVID-19 that takes into account the economy, environment, and social implications.

BusinessBecause spoke to Jennifer, who told us three ways green finance initiatives could help us bounce back from COVID-19.

1. Green finance sparks economic growth

Since the start of the pandemic, green investments have been performing better than their non-green counterparts. 

Green bonds—investments that support climate and environmental projects—were responsible for almost 17% of all capital flow in 2020 despite representing just 2% of the total bond market. 

These sustainable green investments could trigger wider economic growth, which would support the global economy as it recovers from the impact of coronavirus, creating new opportunities for employment, upskilling, and mobility, Jennifer notes. 

“COVID has revealed so many social problems and, at the same time, there has been so much interest in green lending in particular,” Jennifer reflects. “In times of crisis, like recessions and pandemics, green finance does not drop in revenue in the same way many financial instruments do.” 


2. Global collaboration

As green finance grows as a movement, countries and corporations are coming together to work toward similar overarching goals.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is just one organization that wants to see greater efforts to combat the long-term financial risks of both coronavirus and the effects of climate change.

“The SEC is forcing banks to declare their climate risk so that the broader risk in their portfolio is clear,” says Jennifer. The SEC also monitors market functions and risks in relation to COVID-19 so that it can provide targeted regulatory relief and guidance to those impacted.

3. Greater support for social initiatives

Green finance also encourages investment in renewable energy and climate risk mitigation, which in turn helps address important social issues, including the consequences of COVID-19.

With greater investment in sustainable business initiatives like green power and recycling, Jennifer predicts there could be greater employment and, therefore, broader economic prosperity.


This will likely have a positive impact for communities who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, such as communities of color, those on the poverty line, and those in poor health. Since climate change also disproportionately impacts poorer communities, sustainability and social wellbeing go hand-in-hand.

“Environmental change can have a huge impact on social wellbeing and health, so even if someone is just interested in green financing, they are still helping people beyond that,” Jennifer notes.

Business Schools like Kogod are playing a key role in developing future green finance leaders to spearhead these initiatives.

Kogod’s MS in Sustainability Management equips students with the tools they need to solve organizational problems in their environmental context and produce ecologically and socially responsible solutions.

Kogod’s Master's in Finance program also gives students a firm grounding in global emerging markets and investment analysis, which is valuable for students interested in the role of green finance in economic recovery.

With a sustainable and green finance approach, Jennifer says, businesses and the wider economy can recover from COVID-19.

Student Reviews

Kogod School of Business - American University




On Campus

Clean and well maintained campus

I am completely enamored with this school. The entire student body is driven, inclusive, and highly intelligent. The decision to attend American University is not made haphazardly. Its close proximity to Washington DC, making it one of the most strategically located schools after Georgetown, means it's just a short train ride away. The campus is well-maintained, with mostly attractive buildings, although there are a few that are less appealing. Additionally, there are numerous excellent food options available. The wide range of clubs and organizations to join is remarkable. It is undeniably a school filled with immense passion.




On Campus

City life

I’m having a wonderful time at American University. I love that I can get to a big city and still feel like a traditional campus. Sincerely, it is a school that may require some adjusting to, but in the end, it is a very good school with numerous opportunities for its students. The atmosphere in AU is so great that it pushes you in a positive way and offers every opportunity you could want.




On Campus

Amazing helpful professors

American College is an incredible school with astounding teachers. Best professors I could have asked for at an amazing school. My opinion is that American University's professors are its greatest asset. They are extremely intelligent and always eager to assist their students. They go above and beyond in their classes to make sure that their students do their best.




On Campus

AU Review

The workload is quite high and AU is definitely not an "easy" school. Students take their studies very seriously and can almost always find a group in the library, DAV, Starbucks or MGC. Courses can be quite ambitious if the right courses are offered and the admissions process can be confusing at times, but with the help of an advisor it is quite easy to navigate. The library can be crowded, and while it's not huge, there are plenty of other places to study on campus. The professors really want to help during office hours and interact with students. I've had good experiences with the professors and workload at AU, but it's an expensive city.




On Campus

Majoring in Political and International Relations

The instructors are unique and the classes can be boring at times. Check-in is stressful (but it is everywhere). The workload is what I expected. The most popular majors are international relations and political science




On Campus

I Love Being A Musical Theater Major

I love being a musical theater student, if you want to help behind the scenes, if you want to be an assistant director, if you want to be a director, if you want to write, you can do anything at this academy, very supportive, it's amazing, they are always there to help you. This is their working time. Even after the audition tells you what you did wrong, you can do better, or if you get picked, you know why they picked you, which is great




On Campus

AU's Business Model

Overall, there were a lot of good opportunities at UA, both in terms of course range and faculty. However, I had a few complete misfires. People who shouldn't have taught at all. Like all universities, AU's business model is to hire hands-on assistants so they don't have to pay them extra or perform well. They are signed and if that does not work, they are not hired any more. The problem with this is that you end up with people who are unqualified and bring their own agendas, biases that may or may not be based on research. Most of the professors were absolutely fantastic.




On Campus

AU - The Real Problem With Academics

Some teachers are amazing, some awful - typical of any school. But the real problem with AU is that many students don't care about academics as much as other things (eg, partying). The academics are really interrupted by the Greek life and the social life of the students. This makes it difficult for students interested in academics to get the most out of their school experience. Some students do not take classes seriously and do not respect teachers and other students. Courses and opportunities at UA are perfect for people who want to take advantage




On Campus

American University - The Best Place to Study

They know their stuff - I chose American University because the campus is beautiful and the biology program is relatively small. But after the first semester, I realized that all the professors, especially the people in the science department, are experts in their field. They are enthusiastic and helpful in lecturing; even the TAs who teach the labs are amazing and engaging.