In just one year, the estimated value of the impact-investing sector has roughly doubled. There are now $228 billion in assets under management, according to a recent survey from the Global Impact Investing Network, which is up an estimated $114 billion since mid-2017. Placing bets that provide both a financial and social or environmental return is booming.
Because GIIN is a nonprofit organization that works to increase the scale and effectiveness of impact investing, it asks major players in the field to volunteer their financials (so the numbers may be a little soft). But the number is skyrocketing. “We are certainly seeing more people than ever before expressing an interest in impact investing,” says GIIN’s CEO and cofounder Amit Bouri in an email to Fast Company. “Individuals are huge drivers of the rise of impact investing because they increasingly want to be a part of the solution to problems surrounding their communities and the environment.”
According to the report, investors pumped $35.5 billion into over 11,000 deals last year, and expect to boost their amount of investment another 8% over the course of 2018. “Whether they want to address challenges such as gender inequality, access to education, climate change, etc. – we’re seeing more individuals and organizations around the world beginning to recognize that they can harness the power of their investment capital to drive changes in investment decisions to address many of these pressing global challenges,” he adds.
The individuals and organizations involved run the gamut from private philanthropists to foundations, banks, and insurance funds. In fact, 60% of those sharing info were fund managers. In the case of groups working on behalf of some stated company or nonprofit mission, the investments appear to be driven by an increasing awareness of the practice itself. Bouri says that over 86% of investors are doing this because their clients demand it.
Compared to data that GIIN collected a half-decade ago, the returns appear fairly enticing over time. Overall, an analysis of over 80 repeat respondents shows an annual financial return rate of 13%, which is perhaps part of why that same group upped the amount it typically invests by an average of 27% this year. As Bouri puts it, “This is particularly noteworthy because it demonstrates that investors remain optimistic in the future of the market and are committed to creating impact, as they continue seeking new investment opportunities around the world.”
Per the data, 72% of those surveyed are now targeting climate change initiatives, either via emissions reduction or backing ways for affected communities to adapt. Among the top mechanisms for making change, initiatives geared toward improved financial services, energy, and microfinance ranked highest, followed by food and agricultural initiatives, and then infrastructure and healthcare programs.
Bouri notes that the boom has been inspired by many factors, including better ways for people to get involved, including through low minimum or crowdfunded investing plans or opportunities. The biggest return, of course, is supposed to happen with meaningful change. To that end, about three-quarters of respondents currently benchmark for those efforts, too, and then track them through a variety of either proprietary or industry-recognized accounting metrics. The rise of the United Nation’s data-driven Sustainable Development Goals offers everyone a major ledger to work against to work against, and a 2030 deadline to hit.