Investing for a positive impact
As responsible investing has evolved, impact investing as a strategy has moved from a niche area, open only to a select group of sophisticated investors, into the mainstream.
The Global Impact Investment Network estimates that, at the end of 2019, there were approximately 1,720 organizations investing $715 billion in impact strategies.45 This marks an increase of almost $700 billion between 2015 and 2019.46
Impact investing describes an approach that targets specific non-financial goals as well as a financial return. For example, an investment fund may aim to increase the supply of renewable energy through new wind or solar power sources, while also seeking to grow investors’ capital.
The sustainable development goals
Many impact investing strategies are intrinsically linked to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are 17 global aims, with specific targets and indicators underneath them, aimed at improving society and the environment.
The SDGs were launched in 2015 and built on previous work by the UN on sustainable development dating back to the early 1990s.47 Several asset managers have aligned their funds with the goals, either through explicitly targeting themes linked to the goals, or by mapping their investments to them.
In a 2020 report, the OECD estimated that approximately $3.1 trillion worth of global private finance was “targeting ESG opportunities [or] impact” such as the SDGs, equivalent to 10% of all ESG-aligned assets. The same report noted that dedicated impact investing strategies had $444 billion in total assets globally.48
In the institutional arena, some of the world’s biggest investors have taken innovative action to align portions of their portfolios with the SDGs.
Dutch pension funds APG and PGGM collaborated in 2020 to produce the Sustainable Development Investment Asset Owner Platform in collaboration with Canada’s British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI), and AustralianSuper.49 Several other institutional investors and asset managers have started using the platform’s dataset to align their investments with the SDGs.