Kogod School of Business

Info For

Our Approach to Learning


The Sustainable Power of Private Equity

Kogod School of Business MBA alumnus Sergio Pombo is helping create solutions to climate change worldwide through green energy investments.


Kogod MBA alumnus Sergio Pombo


Solar energy is an increasingly critical source of renewable power—yet solar panels have proven a sorely unsustainable solution to our world’s growing climate crisis. By 2050, solar energy is projected to generate six million metric tons of e-waste annually, an issue only exasperated by barriers to recycling.

One solar panel currently costs $20-$30 to recycle and requires specialized labor to remove, partly due to its toxic composition (panels are typically comprised of hazardous materials like lead). These limitations shouldn’t raise doubts about pursuing more sustainable forms of energy—but they do highlight the urgent need for innovation.

This notion drives Berkana, a DC-based advisory and investment platform for green energy solutions. Cofounded by MBA alumnus Sergio Pombo in 2015, Berkana channels private equity investments into global projects that pose innovative, sustainable solutions to pervasive environmental problems.


A key solution to climate change is innovation. This is where we need to invest,”


Sergio Pombo

Kogod MBA Alumnus

A Game-Changing Solution

Berkana’s target investment areas include green innovations, built infrastructure and green housing solutions, and renewable energy, primarily in Latin America's industrial and commercial sectors. The firm is especially focused on emerging markets—countries like Colombia and Peru that are still developing economically—as a way to enable social and economic change.

OPP film, an environmentally conscious alternative to solar panels, is just one example of the green innovation projects Berkana supports. Produced by Austin, Texas-based tech company IFE, the prototype uses organic photovoltaic film—a product packed with cells that generate electricity from the sun—as the primary material. The film also converts energy from LED lighting, a feature especially useful on cloudy days.

IFE’s organic film prototype in action.

People can place the film behind windows or sliding doors to generate the same energy as solar panels.

Compared to solar panels, OPP film is cheaper, more environmentally-friendly, and more flexible—sustainable solutions to some of solar energy’s biggest challenges. More accessible than panels, the prototype also offers emerging market countries a nimble solution to grow economically.   

We at Berkana would like to be part of this. We are dreamers,"


Sergio Pombo

Kogod MBA Alumnus

A Decades-Long Passion

Pombo’s passion for private equity and emerging markets is rooted in his decades-long tenure at the World Bank. As an investment officer for the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the bank’s private sector arm, Pombo helped mobilize capital for companies in more than 100 countries, investing in businesses poised for growth but still in need of financing.

A notable part of his role was travel: visiting nations with green energy projects to evaluate candidacy for funding. He’d then analyze different countries’ needs and which might benefit most from private equity investments.

“It was amazing to see how this money was invested in biodiversity and improving each country’s infrastructure,” says Pombo. “Not only did the investments perform well, but they clearly helped the environment.”

Pombo takes this same critical eye to projects today, such as the Chilean seawater project he’s interested in funding. The project utilizes 100 percent clean energy. During the day, a solar pump moves seawater more than 600 meters high into the Andes; at night, water flows back to the sea through generators, producing electricity during prime use time. Chile’s seawater remains unscathed, protecting the country’s biodiversity and seaside residents’ health.

The catch is the project is $1.4 billion—an amount which likely surpasses many investors’ capacities given needs and interests in other countries. Pombo notes this as a common challenge but one he is ready to meet.

“If we can syndicate investors’ money, we may be able to pull it off,” says Pombo. “If it’s beyond our means or we can’t add value, we try to give it to bigger groups. Or even join forces.”

The Key to Transformation

For Pombo, global private equity is the undebatable key to transformation. He emphasizes the solution to climate change worldwide must be through the private sector, an area with the resources and autonomy to fund the green innovations we need.

 “In my view, it must be pegged to private investors,” Pombo says. “We need to invest—not simply gift funds—to other countries so they can create change within their own economic infrastructures.”

 Current trends show the business world agrees. In 2020 alone, private equity invested more than $11 billion into renewable energy projects—a drastic increase from the $1.6 billion a decade earlier.

 Pombo endeavors to continue advancing this trend with Berkana. Through the power of private equity and values-driven partnerships, he hopes to drive innovation in countries worldwide and create sustainable solutions to climate change.

Using business as a force for change is my life’s model. I believe private equity and venture capital are game changers,"


Sergio Pombo

Kogod MBA Alumnus