Brandeis recently awarded Sir Ronald Cohen with the 2022 Perlmutter Award for Excellence in Global Business Leadership for his work as a philanthropist, venture capitalist, private equity investor and social innovator. As described in the 2022 Perlmutter Award webpage, Cohen is “recognized as the father of impact investment and European venture capital and is driving forward the global Impact Revolution.”
As one component of the celebration, Cohen reflected on his journey in business and necessary improvements in the field for the future in a question and answer session with the Senior Associate Director of Communications at the International Business School Brian Messenger. Cohen’s experience as a refugee from Egypt who then grew up and studied in the U.K. shaped his belief that “ability is evenly spread, but … opportunity is not.” Additionally, Cohen shared some key points from his book “IMPACT: Reshaping Capitalism to Drive Real Change,” which was a Wall Street Journal bestseller that was published in 2020. He asserts, “Investors and businesses can no longer strive to make profits without worrying about the environmental and social consequences of their actions. We must shift our economies to deliver both profits and solutions to our great challenges.” Additionally, Cohen views venture capital and private equity as a means to disrupt business models contributing to environmental damage or detrimental social impact.
The award ceremony featured congratulatory remarks from President Ron Liebowitz and Dean Kathryn Gaddy, and Professor of Business Aldo Musacchio moderated the ensuing conversation. One of the first questions Cohen addressed was the challenges he had faced trying to perpetuate social impact oriented business models, describing how it is challenging to initiate a new field amongst traditionally held values. Furthermore, Cohen brought up the importance of transparency in the environmental impact and social impact of businesses as well as the importance of having objective metrics by which to assess businesses and corporations by. Cohen explains how investors require detailed information on the impact of a corporation in order to drive social impact oriented business models.
Moreover, Philippe Wells (BUS), Senior Lecturer at the International School of business, discussed the role individuals play in the impact revolution of businesses with Cohen. Cohen advocates for young students and entrepreneurs to “Start young, think big, and stick with it,” and suggests that interested students get into the career of venture capital early to gain more experience.
The Perlmutter Institute was founded by Brandeis trustee Louis Perlmutter ’56 and Barbara Perlmutter and seeks to equip students with the skills necessary for leadership positions in global corporations around the world. According to the website, “The Perlmutter Award is given to a highly select group of individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership worldwide,” and particularly embody the goals of the Perlmutter Institute. The Perlmutter Award ceremony is sponsored by the Office of the President.