Vanina Farber

elea Professor of Social Innovation and Dean of the IMD EMBA program

Vanina Farber is elea Professor of Social Innovation and Dean of the IMD EMBA program. She is an award-winning economist and political scientist who specializes in social innovation and the mobilization of private capital for impact investing. Her research focuses on innovative, practical, sustainable, and inclusive market-oriented approaches that have the potential to change the world by eliminating the root causes of social ills. She is particularly interested in social innovation, social entrepreneurship, impact investing, sustainable finance and ESG, and applies a gender lens in all her research projects.

A key element of her work is to explore how the private sector can embed the idea of impact in the investment decision making process, particularly in relation to risk-adjusted return calculations and resource allocation. She seeks to understand the social innovation landscape through a holistic approach that examines both the supply of, and demand for, social innovation initiatives.

At IMD, she leads the elea Center for Social Innovation which is carrying out important research in this area. Among other topics, the Center is looking at how the private sector can deploy capital at scale for investments in projects with real social impact, and how private, public sector and philanthropic investors can collaborate effectively.

The Center was created by a donation from the family of Peter Wuffli with the aim of inspiring leaders in business, government, and civil society to create social innovation in their respective areas of responsibility.

Aligning economic incentives with social innovation is increasingly the fastest path to accelerate the impact economy.

In 2020, Farber co-authored the book The elea Way: A Learning Journey towards Sustainable Impact, with Peter Wuffli, the Founder and Chairman of the elea Foundation for Ethics and Globalization. The book summarizes insights from the foundation’s 15-year journey and is aimed at entrepreneurs, investors, executives, philanthropists, policymakers, and anyone curious about entrepreneurship and inclusive capitalism. Using real-life examples, it includes suggestions on how to lead impact enterprises in such areas as developing strategies, plans and models, building effective teams and organizations, managing resources, and handling crises.

Farber’s work involves collaboration with a range of financial institutions and corporate clients, and in 2022 she will launch IMD’s Driving Innovative Finance for Impact open program in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross, Lombard Odier, and the World Economic Forum. She also plays an active part in the Swiss Lab for Sustainable Finance and Gender Lens Initiative for Switzerland research networks and is an advisory board member at the Impact Finance Forum and an international academic advisory board member at the Católica Porto Business School in Portugal.

She also teaches courses on impact investing in IMD’s MBA and Executive MBA programs and leads the pioneering Discovery Expedition to Peru for EMBA participants, where they perform due diligence on Peruvian social enterprises for Swiss and local impact investors.

Farber was named Outstanding Case Writer in the 2022 Case Centre Awards for her study on pay-as-you-go technology company Angaza. She has also been recognized as winner of the EFMD Case Writing Competition 2022 in two categories: African Business for Angaza, and Responsible Leadership for Nia Impact Capital. She also won the responsible leadership category in the 2019 EFMD Case Writing Competition for her case on Philip Morris International’s vision of a smoke-free future.

Prior to joining IMD in 2018, Farber was Professor and Chair of Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Social Inclusion at Universidad del PacĂ­fico, Peru. In January 2022 she was appointed as the fifth Dean of the IMD EMBA program.

Selected publications
Article
Defining and conceptualizing impact investing: Attractive nuisance or catalyst?
This introduction to the special issue on impact investing applies the attractive nuisance notion to impact investing. Social sector actors ‘trespassing’ on the playing field of conventional invest...
Published 1 September 2022
Article
Gender and entrepreneurial propensity: Risk-taking and prosocial preferences in labour market entry decisions
This study examines gender differences in risk-taking and prosociality through a hypothetical labour market entry choice experiment. To explore differences between male and female subjects by risk ...
Published 12 February 2021
The elea Way: A learning journey toward sustainable impact
Book
The elea Way: A learning journey toward sustainable impact
Social entrepreneurship and impact investing contribute to a more inclusive capitalism and bring innovative solutions to global challenges, such as fighting poverty and protecting planet earth. Thi...
Published 18 November 2020
Report
Will Covid-19 pave the way for more business responsibility? Evidence from Switzerland
Will the Covid-19 pandemic change peoples’ opinions about business responsibility? The future is by no means clear. On the one hand, the pandemic seems to be accelerating the transition towards a s...
Published 1 July 2020
Article
In Alain Gibb's footsteps: Evaluating alternative approaches to sustainable enterprise education
This study examines the impact of contrasting pedagogies of sustainable enterprise education, focussing on the intention to create a social enterprise, as well as related entrepreneurial behaviours...
Published 1 November 2016
Academic publications
The elea Way: A learning journey toward sustainable impact
Book
The elea Way: A learning journey toward sustainable impact
Social entrepreneurship and impact investing contribute to a more inclusive capitalism and bring innovative solutions to global challenges, such as fighting poverty and protecting planet earth. Thi...
Published 18 November 2020
Article
Defining and conceptualizing impact investing: Attractive nuisance or catalyst?
This introduction to the special issue on impact investing applies the attractive nuisance notion to impact investing. Social sector actors ‘trespassing’ on the playing field of conventional invest...
Published 1 September 2022
Article
Gender and entrepreneurial propensity: Risk-taking and prosocial preferences in labour market entry decisions
This study examines gender differences in risk-taking and prosociality through a hypothetical labour market entry choice experiment. To explore differences between male and female subjects by risk ...
Published 12 February 2021
Article
An entrepreneurial learning exercise as a pedagogical tool for teaching CSR: A Peruvian study
This paper reports on an exploratory cross-sectional study of the value of an entrepreneurial learning exercise as a tool for examining the entrepreneurship dimension of corporate social responsibi...
Published 1 October 2015
Article
Into the abyss: Occupational segregation of immigrant workers and the Spanish crisis 2006-2012
Spain became one of the world’s top immigration destinations in the 21st century, with the share of migrants in employment climbing to a peak of 17% just as the crisis hit the country. How did thes...
Published 1 January 2016
Article
Occupational segregation in Spain: Differential treatment of immigrants
Spain today faces simultaneously one of the world's largest immigrant populations and one of the highest unemployment rates. This difficult dilemma makes it a test case for how rich countries shoul...
Published 16 December 2011
Article
Social Enterprises in Lima: Notions and Operating Models
The social enterprise movement in Lima is gathering momentum. An increasing number of people are taking an interest in this field of activity, in events that help spread the word about its signific...
Published 1 January 2015
Article
In Alain Gibb's footsteps: Evaluating alternative approaches to sustainable enterprise education
This study examines the impact of contrasting pedagogies of sustainable enterprise education, focussing on the intention to create a social enterprise, as well as related entrepreneurial behaviours...
Published 1 November 2016
Article
Barriers and public policies affecting the international expansion of Latin American SMEs: Evidence from Brazil, Colombia, and Peru
The paper aims to improve the understanding of the determinants of the international expansion of Latin American SMEs. To do this, it adopts an institution theory perspective to study the interacti...
Published 1 June 2016
Article
Is the perception of CSR country bound?: A CSR based reputation study of Spanish companies in Latin America
Spanish companies play a vital and omnipresent role in Latin American economies. The main objective of the paper is to find if there is any perceptional variation among Latin Americans in concern w...
Published 1 May 2013
Article
Interest rate adjustment mechanisms as a response to external shocks: Evidence from Argentina's convertibility plan (1991-2002)
From 1991 to 2002, Argentina engaged in an economic stabilization strategy, the “Convertibility Plan,” that fixed the national currency to the U.S. dollar. This article analyzes how the counter-cyc...
Published 11 April 2011
Insight for Executives
Article
Intentional money: Strategies for sustainable finance
The logic of sustainable finance is simple; tell me where you put your money, and I will know what matters to you. But how do sustainable investors actually make their investment decisions and what...
Published 9 August 2022
Article
Bessere Daten fĂŒhren zu mehr Nachhaltigkeit
The volume of sustainable funds rose to 694.5 billion Swiss francs and now accounts for 52 percent of the total Swiss fund market - this figure surpasses conventional investment funds for the first...
Published 13 June 2022
Report
Impact management: A market analysis of impact objectives and firm policies
Sustainable financial products are rapidly growing. According to the 2021 Swiss Sustainable Investment Market Study, sustainable investing assets increased 31% from 2019 to 2020, reaching a total o...
Published 1 June 2022
In the field with Angaza
Article
In the field with Angaza
How can a social enterprise stay true to its purpose while making money for itself and its investors, both traditional and impact?
Published 28 February 2022
Taking aim: how shareholder activism is making the workplace more diverse and inclusive  
Article
Taking aim: how shareholder activism is making the workplace more diverse and inclusive  
In a monumental milestone of what’s come to be called “stakeholder capitalism”, activist hedge fund Engine No 1 successfully claimed three seats on Exxon’s board of directors in 2021 with the...
Published 9 February 2022
Three trends to track as impact investing eyes the mainstream
Article
Three trends to track as impact investing eyes the mainstream
2021 has been another year that has thrown global imbalances and inequalities into sharp relief. For many of us, this has triggered a re-evaluation of how we live, including where we put our money....
Published 6 January 2022
Article
Quand l'activisme des actionnaires rend la culture d'entreprise plus inclusive
By using their voting rights at general meetings, more and more shareholder activists are influencing HR policies and the working climate in these large firms. The investment fund Nia Capital, for ...
Published 10 December 2021
How investors can balance risk, return and impact to spark positive change
Article
How investors can balance risk, return and impact to spark positive change
Investing in social entrepreneurs and communities that seek to deliver positive and sustainable change poses a significant dilemma for investors: How can we identify sustainable business models tha...
Published 10 December 2021
Three lessons in impact investment to absorb from Peruvian moss
Article
Three lessons in impact investment to absorb from Peruvian moss
Driving sustainable economic development through impact investing requires careful due diligence, strong partnerships and patient capital. The elea Foundation’s experience with Peruvian startup Ink...
Published 3 December 2021
An aspiration for COP26: Accelerating the transition to net zero
Article
An aspiration for COP26: Accelerating the transition to net zero
The global push for net-zero emissions is a massive undertaking, but the existential threat of climate change means that companies must act now.
Published 27 October 2021
Accelerating transitions to sustainable business models after COVID-19
Video
Accelerating transitions to sustainable business models after COVID-19
There is a growing need to provide executives with the tools to take a more integrated approach to impact and business – and to change mindsets when it comes to financial decision-making.
Published 21 June 2021
Accelerating the sustainability transition
Article
Accelerating the sustainability transition
Where to start and how to maintain the transition to sustainable business models. Companies and asset managers are making substantial progress in the transition to sustainable business models. Most...
Published 1 June 2021
Article
Nachhaltigkeit: schneller, höher, stÀrker!
The Olympic motto also applies to sustainability in business: Those who want to be first to the finish line or jump further than the competition have to be faster, go further and aim higher than th...
Published 28 May 2021
Challenging mindsets to inspire impact
Article
Challenging mindsets to inspire impact
With discovery expeditions on hold due to COVID-19, elea Professor of Social Innovation Vanina Farber offered EMBA participants an inspiring – and eye-opening – virtual trek into the world of impac...
Published 11 May 2021
Social innovation: Mobilizing private capital for impact
Report
Social innovation: Mobilizing private capital for impact
The elea Center for Social Innovation was launched at IMD Business School in 2018. We develop and share research, pedagogical content, and educational programs that help leaders in business, govern...
Published 8 April 2021
Report
Social innovation: Mobilizing private capital for impact
By applying novel market solutions to global social and environmental problems, social innovators can play a key role in mobilizing capital for impact. By sharing the value created with society as ...
Published 7 April 2021
Landmark financial sustainability regulation is finally here. Now what?
Article
Landmark financial sustainability regulation is finally here. Now what?
Landmark financial sustainability regulation is finally here. Now what?
Published 10 March 2021
Silver lining? COVID-19 and the entrepreneurial gender gap
Article
Silver lining? COVID-19 and the entrepreneurial gender gap
The pandemic has encouraged more women to be entrepreneurs. How can we adapt the ecosystem to suit them more?
Published 8 March 2021
Article
Free market capitalism can allow for the end of poverty
Covid-19 will push hundreds of million people back into poverty. This means a massive setback to all the progress achieved in recent years regarding the first of the 17 UN Sustainable Development G...
Published 4 January 2021
The elea Way: a learning journey toward sustainable impact
Video
The elea Way: a learning journey toward sustainable impact
elea Webinar series
Published 17 December 2020
The S in ESG
Video
The S in ESG
elea Webinar series
Published 11 November 2020
Collaborative financing for renewable energy in emerging markets
Video
Collaborative financing for renewable energy in emerging markets
elea Webinar Series
Published 30 September 2020
Channel the diversity of ideas to navigate uncertainty
Article
Channel the diversity of ideas to navigate uncertainty
This week’s CEEMAN Annual Conference offers us a reminder that companies must be open to a diversity of ideas from all fields to foster social innovation to find sustainable market solutions for to...
Published 23 September 2020
The economics of mutuality
Video
The economics of mutuality
elea Webinar Series
Published 16 September 2020
How institutional investors can leverage blended finance
Video
How institutional investors can leverage blended finance
elea Webinar Series
Published 3 September 2020
Diversity matters: the power of female leadership in impact investment
Article
Diversity matters: the power of female leadership in impact investment
Vanina Farber, IMD elea Professor of Social Innovation, offers key insights into the potential for, and challenges facing, female leadership in impact investment.
Published 18 August 2020
Report
Will Covid-19 pave the way for more business responsibility? Evidence from Switzerland
Will the Covid-19 pandemic change peoples’ opinions about business responsibility? The future is by no means clear. On the one hand, the pandemic seems to be accelerating the transition towards a s...
Published 1 July 2020
Article
Greta Thunberg at Davos: why Gen Z has real power to influence business on climate change
Armed with social media and growing economic clout, Gen Z is best positioned to influence business practices, rather than global climate agreements, where political gridlock appears to be the statu...
Published 24 January 2019
Article
While politicians get protectionist, more businesses are pushing moral agendas
Donald Trump’s delayed reaction to the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi shows how the US president’s “America First” campaign is shifting the government’s role towards a more pragm...
Published 2 November 2018
Article
Online privacy must improve after the Facebook data uproar
I, like millions of others, have willingly given up some of my privacy to Facebook to achieve a sense of connection across cultures, time zones and generations. But revelations of the alleged sale ...
Published 5 April 2018
Article
De la crisis económica a la iniciativa emprendedora: El autoempleo entre las mujeres jóvenes de España
From economic crisis to entrepreneurship: Young women self employment in Spain
Published 1 October 2016
Report
Mås allå de la crisis: El empleo juvenil en España, 2006 a 2012
El desempleo juvenil ha escalado en España durante la crisis financiera a uno de los niveles mås altos del mundo. Este trabajo explora las características del empleo juvenil en España entre 2006 y ...
Published 1 January 2014
Report
ValoraciĂłn de la responsabilidad social de las empresas españolas enAmĂ©rica Latina: Argentina, Brasil, Chile, MĂ©xico y PerĂș
A Comparative Study about the valuation of the civil society of the social responsibility of Spanish Companies in Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Brazil, Mexico and Peru)
Published 1 March 2010
A Learning Journey Toward Sustainable Impact