UBS - SSEE Annual Essay Competition

Between 2014 to 21016 UBS sponsored the UBS - Smith School Annual Essay Competition which aimed to encourage and stimulate new ideas, approaches and discussions, to tackle some of the most pressing environmental issues and champion intellectual leadership on sustainable enterprise.

The competition was open to all University of Oxford students keen to explore some of the major environmental issues and challenges facing the world's economies and people.

Students were required to select one of three proposed themes on Enterprise and the Environment revealed on the day of the challenge. Essays were hand-written and completed exam style.

2016 Essay Competition Winner

On Monday 9th of May 2016 the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment and UBS hosted the third Annual UBS - Smith School Essay Competition at the University of Oxford.

1st place and the Winner of The Annual UBS - Smith School 2016 Essay Competition 1000 prize was Aven Satre-Meloy, a MPhil Candidate at the School of Geography and the Environment.

The UBS - Smith School Annual Essay Competition aims to encourage and stimulate new ideas, approaches and discussions, to tackle some of the most pressing environmental issues and champion intellectual leadership on sustainable enterprise. It is gratifying to acknowledge the innovative thinking and contribution by Oxford students. The 1,000 reward prize intends to support their studies and motivate further creativity.

On 9th May 2016, Oxford University students were asked to write a closed-book essay answering one of three questions revealed only at the time of the challenge. No material or electronic prompts were permitted. The only entry criteria was confirmation that participants are currently enrolled as students at the University of Oxford.

The question chosen by the winner this year was:

"Investors have taken an increasing interest in assets that yield a sustainability, as well as a financial, dividend. Can such 'impact investing' provide an adequate supplement to the financing of public goods such as renewable energy, infrastructure and habitat conservation?"

Read his winning essay here: Impact investing can adequately supplement financing renewable energy, infrastructure, and habitat conservation by being a vehicle for growth in these industries, which is necessary to solve vastly difficult challenges facing people and climate.

"The UBS - Smith School essay competition is an excellent opportunity for Oxford University students to think critically about big challenges in environment and enterprise that require innovative and creative solutions. I answered the question on impact investing because I have some background in the area and think that sustainable and socially responsible investing will play an increasingly important role in the global transition to a clean energy economy. We're currently seeing a shift in impact investing, especially in energy and environment, from a niche to a mass market vehicle, so it's important to think through the resulting implications. It was fun and interesting to write about these in my essay, and it was also very good prep for my exams!"
Aven Satre-Meloy

Aven enrolled in the MPhil programme at the School of Geography and the Environment in 2015. His research examines ways to motivate responsible energy consumption in California households and how energy utilities can use behavioural science to manage peak demand. Aven is part of a team at Oxford that works to reduce the university's carbon footprint through innovative energy efficiency projects. Aven has also conducted research on African urban energy markets in Tanzania, and received a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Turkey.

Prior to graduate school, he worked for Mosaic, a clean energy start-up in the California Bay Area, and interned at the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change. Aven received a BS in Political Science and Environmental Studies from Santa Clara University.

UBS
Our deepest appreciation to UBS for their kind sponsorship.

"UBS is proud to sponsor the Smith School's annual essay competition for University of Oxford graduate students. Impact Investing is a very significant component of our UBS and Society programme - the route by which UBS seeks to be a leader in sustainable banking - so we could not be more delighted that the winning essay is on this subject. We believe that engagement between academia and enterprise will be key in addressing the major environmental and social issues and challenges facing the world's economies and people, and the calibre of entries to this competition again powerfully demonstrates the wealth of talent and quality of ideas that can be deployed to help meet those challenges."
Nick Wright, Managing Director, Corporate Responsibility and Community Affairs, UBS

2015 Essay Competition Winner

On Friday 8th of May 2015 the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment and UBS hosted the Second Annual UBS - Smith School Essay Competition at the University of Oxford.

1st place and the Winner of The Annual UBS - Smith School 2015 Essay Competition 1000 prize was Molly Johnson-Jones.

Molly won the top prize after choosing to answer the question: Sustainable or responsible investing has been criticised as a 'neoliberal', and second-best, response to the perceived failure of governments to address environmental and social problems. To what extent can sustainable or responsible investing substitute effectively for government policy or regulation?

"I chose to answer the question on sustainable and responsible investing as I have developed an interest in understanding alternatives to traditional investment and finance throughout my undergraduate degree. I think it's an exceptionally important area to pay attention to - there are so many obstacles to overcome, and discourses to think through - yet it holds a great deal of transformational potential, both to the way we think about finance, and to the global effects of investment. Sustainable and responsible investing is certainly not a magic bullet, but the way we see money and finance at the moment can be concerning; it needs to be applied to the real world, not kept as a separate entity."
Molly Johnson-Jones

Read her winning essay here

Acknowledgment also goes out to Elizabeth Harnett, Mphil Candidate at the School of Geography and the Environment, who was chosen as the runner up with her essay entitled The Corporate Stress-Nexus: Using a Resource Scarcity Lens to Understand Environmental Challenges.

"This essay competition is a fantastic opportunity for Oxford students to apply some of the diverse subjects that we study to the problems threatening our common futures. I chose to answer the question on corporate growth and environmental issues as I believe that in the face of uncertain political negotiations, corporations have both the organizational capacity and operational incentives to try and help society both mitigate and adapt to some of the worst effects of climate change and resource scarcity."
Elizabeth Harnett

Read her winning essay here

"UBS are proud to sponsor the Smith School's annual essay competition for University of Oxford students. The number and quality of the entries in this second year of the competition is testament to the importance of engagement between academia and business in addressing major environmental issues and challenges. Congratulations to both winner Molly Johnson-Jones and runner up Elizabeth Hartnett on their outstanding essays." Nick Wright, Global and EMEA Community Affairs, UBS.

Congratulations to the winner and runner up and thank you to all who participated.

2014 Essay Competition Winner

1st place: Dane Rook, DPhil candidate at the School of Geography and the Environment.

Essay Title: "Melting Innovation Policy Gridlock with F.I.R.E.s" - Read his essay here

Runner up: Ryan Hogarth, DPhil candidate at the School of Geography and the Environment.

Essay Title: "Public Support for Sustainable Technological Innovation" - Read his essay here