Dorrit Lowsen '97 Invests in a Greener Future
The Change Finance President and COO has created the first carbon-neutral exchange traded fund (ETF) on the New York Stock Exchange.
When Dorrit Lowsen '97 first came to Haverford, she anticipated becoming a humanities major and had law school in the back of her mind. Enthralled by a computer science class for non-majors taught by Senior Lecturer of Mathematics and Statistics Jeff Tecosky-Feldman, however, she discovered a passion for the field in her first year of college. "I loved the disciplined way that a computer scientist breaks a problem down into smaller and smaller pieces until arriving at something simple and already soluble, then gradually builds those pieces back up into a working whole," said Lowsen. "That structured thinking approach works for so many kinds of problems in so many areas."
Lowsen became a computer science major, later earning both her M.S. in computer science and an MBA. Following a diverse professional path from a Fortune 500 technology company to an IT start-up to working for the federal government, she is now the president and Chief Operating Officer of Change Finance, a majority woman-owned and -managed financial company committed to transforming the financial landscape by providing impact investing products such as exchange traded funds (ETFs) that are good for people, planet, and investors.
An ETF is a mixture of investment types—stocks, bonds, commodities—that tracks an index or sector, but is bought and sold on an exchange. Instead of investing in one company, for example, investors can spread their investment across multiple companies in a singular portfolio, packaged together and branded as a fund, or ETF. "Since ETFs are sold in shares, they are an affordable, cost-effective way for most investors to diversify their investments," said Lowsen. There are many fund issuers, but Lowsen’s Change Finance is different. Starting in 2021, Change Finance has the first carbon-neutral certified ETF traded on the New York Stock Exchange. "The world needs to move aggressively toward net zero carbon emissions,” she said. “We can contribute to that by ensuring that our investment portfolio is net zero starting now."
Change Finance incentivises the companies that they invest in to go carbon-neutral. "By going carbon neutral, we effectively price the formerly externalized cost of carbon emission into the investment cost.,” she said.“ That, in turn, incentivises investors to push the companies in which they invest to reduce their carbon footprint, because a lower carbon footprint means a lower cost to offset carbon, which means a lower cost for investors."
Change Finance pays for 100 percent of the carbon in its portfolio with its own proceeds. This ensures that the company did not change their ETF fees to offset the cost of carbon neutrality. Change Finance also works with third-party partners to ensure that they get independent verification of the carbon they offset, as well as verification that they are offsetting the necessary amount. "The partner provides the certification at our request and now makes it available to other fund issuers, so Change Finance was the driving force in the development of a carbon neutral certification for investment funds," said Lowsen.
This new way to use financial products to move the needle on global climate change reflects Lowsen’s willingness to try new things—like a computer science class—that she practiced at Haverford. Her time at the College taught her to both have an open mind and contemplate broad questions that help drive Change Finance and the future of investments. "At Change Finance we acknowledge that there are no perfect companies,” she said. “We make choices every day about how good is good enough—in an imperfect world, with imperfect options, how can we choose those that are least harmful and then drive them to set the bar higher?"