Impact Investing in the News: Summer Roundup of the Best Research and Articles
The past few months have been good ones for the burgeoning impact investing movement. This summer brought us a study that offers quantitative evidence in support of the central hypothesis that investors can earn market-rate or better financial returns from investments that also advance important social goals.
Since most of you don't have time to troll the interwebs looking for the latest research paper or thoughtful article on the important topics related to impact investing, we bring you this roundup.
1. Perhaps the most important publication of the summer: The first Impact Investing Benchmark study was performed by Cambridge Associates and the Global Impact Investing Network. Read it here.
Excerpt: "Impact investment funds that raised under $100 million returned a net IRR of 9.5% to investors. These funds handily outperformed similar-sized funds in the comparative universe (4.5%), impact investment funds over $100 million (6.2%), and funds over $100 million in the comparative universe (8.3%). Emerging markets impact investment funds have returned 9.1% to investors versus 4.8% for developed markets impact investment funds. Those focused on Africa have performed particularly well, returning 9.7%.
2. Doing Less, Better. This author argues that the real power of social enterprises lies not in their combination of revenue-generation with charitable purpose, but in their ability to focus on doing fewer activities. This is in stark contrast to typical nonprofits where more programming is a sign of more impact.
3. Impact Investing Goes Mainstream? This Forbes article by Devin Thorpe goes point by point through reasons why impact investing is finally being accepted broadly. Thorpe even goes so far as to suggest a financial advisor has an obligation to consider it for his client's portfolios.
4. Impact investing opportunities needed for smaller investors. Nesta, a major U.K. based innovation charity is urging the government to make available 'individual savings accounts' to provide smaller investors with a tax-efficient way of investing in enterprises that combine financial returns with social or environmental benefits. Read about it here.
5. Growing demand for socially-responsible investment options. "As of 2014, there were 456 mutual funds with $1.9 trillion in assets (and 20 ETFs with $3.5 billion) incorporating ESG criteria, up from 333 mutual funds with $641 billion in assets in 2012, according to the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment." This article explains how asset managers and mutual funds are responding to demand from millennials and women to create socially-responsible investment options.
Pete Ochs" business Seat King exemplifies the best of "Redemptive Business" as a means of creating jobs and transforming lives.
Expanding on traditional Evangelism/Discipleship, the idea of Redemptive Business borrows heavily from Praxis Labs’ concept of a “redemptive entrepreneur”, or one who seeks to embody the gospel in creating and building a venture that leaves a meaningful impact on the world.
In the first 18 months of Impact Foundation, we have place $30 Million in 53 Impact Companies, spanning the globe from Silicon Valley to Laos. The impact of those investments encompasses most of the main categories of transformation sought by traditional charity plus a few areas that charity cannot reach. Read about the causes and places that our investments seeks to transform.
Some of our more devoted followers may have noticed that some months ago Impact Foundation and Olive Tree Investments joined forces. If you haven't noticed, or are confused by the combination, this blog is for you.
It’s a natural fit as both groups put charitable capital to work in enterprises that seek measurable social and kingdom transformation while earning money. Impact Foundation offers donors a flexible tool for charitable investment, while Olive Tree searches the globe for the best transformative businesses in emerging markets.
We are excited to welcome Steve Doerr to the team. He recently retired as an executive at ExxonMobil after more than 27 years. As Chief Operating Officer, Steve will help us shore up Impact Foundation's infrastructure and position us for the next phases of growth.
Steve has extensive experience managing diverse global portfolios and has lived and worked in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa as well as the US.
In the spring of 1984 my wife and I were standing in a field in Guatemala on an insight trip led by Opportunity International. I understood for the first time the power of business to accelerate the Great Commandment. I knew empirically and from experience that charity alone cannot eliminate extreme poverty; it's a critical piece of the puzzle, but insufficient on its own. That moment in Guatemala crystallized for me the desire to devote my life to serving the poor with sustainable, finance-driven solutions: not just to make the poor a little less poor but to partner with God in His work of redeeming the world and spreading the hope of the gospel.
I was 17 when my dad died. It was sudden and deeply disorienting. Those days and weeks immediately afterward were a dense fog of grief and cleanup. He died without a will or estate plan (mainly because he had nothing to plan).
As the youngest of 5 kids and the only one still living at home without an adult job, I received the largest "inheritance".
Part 2 in our "Defining and Measuring Series"
"I own a company and I'm a Christian. Does that mean you can invest in my company?" - We get a version of this question at least once a week at Impact Foundation. Consequently, we've spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to say deploy capital for social and spiritual impact alongside financial gain. Is it enough to have "christian" management? Must the organization sell "spiritual" goods or services?
Part 1 in our "Defining and Measuring Series"
To reach broader adoption, kingdom impact investing needs a unified definition and a basic set of metrics to help determine if it works. Over the next few blogs, we'll explore these issues but first can't we find a better phrase?
"Kingdom" in our usage refers to the kingdom of God, as Jesus described it in His teachings. Not every follower of Jesus is comfortable with this phrase. For us at Impact Foundation, the hope of this Kingdom drives everything we do. Thus, it seems a suitable adjective to differentiate our version of "impact investing" and the least bad option.
part 3 of 3 in our "Defining and Measuring Series"
Tracking performance of investments to determine if we're meeting our goals for spiritual transformation feels like the holy grail of Kingdom Impact Investing. It’s time to put forth a working version that can be implemented now and improved over time because we have seen the power of Kingdom Impact Investing and want to unleash it for more good.
Sitting between Thailand and Vietnam, the country of Laos is marked by rugged mountains and one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world. This poverty fuels the two largest industries in the Golden Triangle (Laos, Burma, Thailand, and Myanmar): opium trade and human trafficking.
Jobs and the hope of the Gospel - they're needed here perhaps more than anywhere else. Fortunately, the Lao government has been implementing reforms meriting attention from US investors. For those interested in alleviating poverty through sustainable business, it's an attractive place. That it why Laos Agriventure got its start.