Why? Exploring the raison d’être of Impact Investing

By Charles Selestine, Qatar Director 

It was the only time I heard a panellist swear at an event.

I took it as a mark of his passion combined with frustration, and in part, it led me to order a hard copy of his book, even as it was freely available online.

Ferreting out and thinking deeply about the fundamental purpose of a venture is quite common advice, though more followed in letter than in spirit. Especially as a sector grows, it is easy to get bogged down on strategies, tactics or methodologies and lose sight of basic purpose.

As TSIC begins to expand its services in the field of impact investing, building on its strengths in income diversification, impact measurement and gender lens investing, I thought it would be appropriate to mull on whether impact investing is on the right side of good, and if so, what should be its reason for existence.

I propose to do so through sharing my thoughts on three recently published books related to Impact Investing. It will not be a review of these books, but rather, my reflections on what I deem to be the key messages and ideas in these books.

The event I referred to at the start of this blogpost was the GIIN Investor Forum in Paris last October; the panellist – Jed Emerson; the book – The Purpose of Capital.

On that same panel sat Morgan Simon, whose book Real Impact presents core issues that all stakeholders in impact investing should heed, if the sector is to grow with integrity.

‘Doing well by doing good’ can be regarded as a de facto mantra in Impact Investment, and it is one of the many concepts routinely skewered by Anand Giridharadas when he discusses his book, Winners Take All.

The bylines to the books’ titles perhaps give an indication of the authors’ focus. Emerson’s, ‘Elements of Impact, Financial Flows and Natural Being’ points to his holistic and philosophical approach. Simon’s ‘The New Economics of Social Change’ highlights essential characteristics of the change that do-gooders aspire to bring about. ‘The Elite Charade of Changing the World’ reflects Giridharadas’ cutting analysis which challenges some core assumptions of those involved in Impact Investing and related areas.

In forthcoming blogposts, I look forward to sharing my two cents worth on these three books, drawing on my experience and aspirations to contribute to capital and investing as a force for social good.

Why indeed, should impact investing exist at all?

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