"Seeking Impact" Five Years On

As 2019 gets underway, we’ve been reflecting on progress in the “philo-impact” field since the Forum hosted its “Seeking Impact” Symposium in October 2013. It featured Howard Warren Buffett, representing the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Ron Cordes, Founder of Opportunity Collaboration, and Emmanuel Faber, CEO of Danone (the French food giant).

From any vantage point, the progress has been extraordinary. Informed observers now see philanthropy and investing as merged into one holistic decision-making framework, while impact investing is fast becoming mainstream within the world of finance.

Over the past five years, sustainable and responsible investing in the United States has more than double from roughly $4.5 trillion in 2013 to $11.6 trillion in 2018. And the signals of continued growth abound. A recent Morgan Stanley study found that 86% of millennials and 85% of women report being interested in sustainable and impact investments. In 2017 the Ford Foundation pledged $1 billion to money managers who invest in affordable housing and financial services for people in developing countries. Larry Fink, CEO of Black Rock the world’s largest asset manager, stated in a December 2018 Financial Times interview that “Sustainable investing will be a core component for how everyone invests in the future.”

Moreover, impact investing combined with the important work of nonprofits have made tremendous progress in tackling extreme poverty. As Nicholas Kristof pointed out in his 2018 year-end New York Times Op-Ed column: “Every day, another 305,000 were able to access clean drinking water for the first time. And each day an additional 620,000 people were able to get online for the first time.”

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Meanwhile, Howard W. Buffett culminated years of contemplation and research into a fine book entitled: Social Value Investing, co-authored with William B. Eimicke.  To learn more about this  comprehensive investing framework, click here:  https://cup.columbia.edu/book/social-value-investing/9780231182904

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Ron Cordes continues his good works and field-building endeavors through his family foundation -- with his wife Marty, daughter Stephanie and future son-in-law Eric – and through his leadership/board roles at MicroVest, Impact Assets, Align Impact, and Opportunity Collaboration. OC celebrated its 10th anniversary this past October while hosting 400 plus guests at its annual “unconference” in Mexico. Congratulations to the OC community!https://ocimpact.com/about-us/

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For his part, Emmanuel Faber is steering all Danone’s businesses across the globe to be B-Corp certified by 2030. In April of last year, the company announced that Danone North America and Danone Canada had achieved B Corp Certification, two years ahead of target. The company has a longstanding commitment to delivering financial success with social and environmental progress. When interviewed about the B-Corp certification, Monsieur Faber stated that "People rightly expect large organizations like Danone to use their scale for positive impact.” Danone is ranked among Forbes largest 250 corporations in the world, and more importantly, is considered to be the 3rd company in the world with the greatest impact on public health and nutrition.

Thus, as we begin 2019, there is much for us to applaud and good reason for us to be hopeful. And yet we have blind spots. We need to invite more people and organizations into the growing movement to invest our capital with greater purpose. More on this in next month’s communiqué.

Until then, best wishes from the Wealth & Giving Forum,

Glen, Roxanne, Randy, Joanne, Liz, Steve, Julie, and Bruce