What is Impact Investing?

“Impact investments aim to solve social or environmental challenges while generating financial profit. Impact investing includes investment that range from producing a return of principal capital to offering market-rate or even above-market financial returns. Although impact investing could be categorized as a type of “social responsible investing” (SRI) it contrasts with negative screening which focuses primarily on avoiding investments in “bad” or “harmful” companies -impact investors actively seek to place capital in businesses and funds that can harness the positive power of enterprise.” (source:based on GIIN)
I first heard this expression in spring 2008 at the Skoll Forum in Oxford described by Antony Bugg-Levine of the Rockefeller Foundation. (I thought I finally found the proper word to describe what I do, I am an impact investment advisor) A year later at the 2009 Skoll Forum, the Monitor Institute presented an excellent report titled Investing for Social and Environmental IMPACT and also A. Bugg-Levine announced that the Global Impact Investment Network (GIIN) was being formed. In Sept at the SOCAP 2009 in San Francisco one could confirm that “impact investing” had become the widely accepted expression by the rapidly growing social capital investment industry. On Sept 25th 2009, GIIN was officially launched and announced its 25 founding members of the GIIN Investor’s Council at the Clinton Global Initiative. A recent article in the Economist also profiles impact investing.
Over the past few years many new expressions have been created to describe investing for social and environmental impact and financial return. These include double or triple bottom line investing, blended value investing and BOP investing. Needless to say microfinance investments is one of the leading and successful examples of this type of investment. All these expressions are valid in their own right; however, it confuses the investors and makes it difficult to build the market mechanisms for this nascent industry to efficiently grow. It is great that we now have a clear terminology and definition and an institution such as GIIN which is dedicated to increasing the effectiveness of impact investing. Other great initiatives in this area include The Global Social Investment Exchange (GSIX) and Nexii, the electronic transactions and communication platform for the social and environmental markets.

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