Impact investments, by their definition, aim to solve social and environmental challenges while generating financial profit.  This approach is often confused with socially responsible investing (SRI). Where it differs is it actively places capital in businesses that have direct social and/or environmental outcomes rather than avoiding those that do not (as is the case with a “negative screening” SRI approach).

To give you a feel for what impact investments are, here is an array of examples:

  • Building affordable housing units using LEED (or “green”) specifications and alternative energy options
  • Developing a financial vehicle (i.e. bond) that raises capital to purchase and administer vaccinations across the developing world
  • Loans for co-ops and rural farmers that serve low-income populations
  • Financing a business that employs marginalized workers

The market for impact investing has been developing globally over the last several years in response to fiscal and demographic pressures.  Government funding and philanthropy alone have been inadequate for solving social and environmental challenges and there is recognition that a growing number of entrepreneurial solutions eagerly need capital to make a lasting difference.

The marketplace for impact investments is building and there are a growing number of organizations that are becoming actively involved, placing capital for purposes beyond profit.  See our latest report on Social Impact Metrics for information about the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS)

This is relevant to MaRS clients like many other clients in the blended value universe – they are looking for ways to demonstrate their social impact or triple bottom line but don’t know what approach to use or where to start.  Is IRIS the answer?

Tomorrow, Antony Bugg-Levine joins us at MaRS for the Global Leadership series event, Impact Investing: A global perspective on an emerging market. While his name may not be familiar (unless you follow impact investing globally), he is leading the development of what has been described as a $500b opportunity in the next decade, something certainly worth learning about.

Antony is the Managing Director of the Rockefeller Foundation based in New York.  Rockefeller, one of the 25 largest Foundations, prides itself on the impact of their dollars. With impact firmly implanted in the mandate of this financial and social powerhouse, it is not surprising that Rockefeller is blazing the trail in this space.

Antony has a finger on the pulse of the global trends in this space, leading the strategic direction of both the GIIN and IRIS initiatives.  I welcome you to join us at the Global Leadership event on April 6, or engage in an online discussion on the topic.


Impact Investing: A global perspective on an emerging capital market from MaRS Discovery District on Vimeo.

Adam Jagelewski

Adam Jagelewski is the Director of the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing. He leads the Social Impact Bond practice area as well as talent and policy. See more…