The following content is sponsored by BlackRock.
Typically, an investor’s main objective revolves around building wealth and then turning that wealth into an income generator. As a result, financial returns are accepted as the default performance metric.
But what if investing could also address the world’s most pressing social and environmental problems?
More Than Investing
This infographic from BlackRock introduces the concept of impact investing and explains why it can be a force for good.
What Does Positive Impact Look Like?
Impact investing is a sustainable investing approach that combines the intention to generate positive returns with positive, measurable social and environmental outcomes.
To understand what these outcomes actually look like, here are some highlights from the companies that the BlackRock Impact Team invests in.
- 102,000 GWh of renewable energy generated
- 11 million metric tons of food waste mitigated
- 114 million individuals empowered with access to financial services
- 99 million people given access to clean drinking water
- 600,000 families given access to affordable housing
- 1.8 billion patients given access to affordable healthcare
These outcomes were generated in 2020, and help to make our world a better place.
The Three Pillars of Additionality
For impact investing to be an effective strategy, investors must be able to accurately measure the positive outcomes their capital is helping to create. A company may claim to be aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but its actions may not be making a real world difference.
“Alignment to the SDGs is not enough to qualify as impact; we require that companies advance the SDGs by providing a solution that is additional, thereby creating genuine impact.”
-Quyen Tran, Director of Impact Investing at BlackRock
Below is an overview of the three pillars of additionality that BlackRock uses to measure impact. In this context, additionality means an outcome would not have occurred without the company’s contribution.
1. Additionality From the Investee (the company)
A company provides additionality if its products and services address a need that is unlikely to be fulfilled by others. The primary sources of company additionality are:
- The application of leading technologies
- The deployment of innovative business models
- The delivery of products and services to underserved populations
Helping underserved populations is a powerful way to create impact. In 2017, for example, it was estimated that 1.7 billion adults did not have a bank account.
2. Additionality From the Investor
Investors can also provide additionality by empowering businesses to create positive impact. This can be done through five mechanisms:
- Invest with a long-term ownership mindset
- Engage with companies to help enhance their impact outcomes
- Invest capital when an impact company needs to raise more capital
- Bring much-needed visibility to undervalued impact companies
- Create a better marketplace for impact companies looking to go public
The effects of these mechanisms are already being seen worldwide, especially as awareness of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors rises. According to a 2020 report by KPMG, 80% of companies now publish sustainability reports.
3. Additionality From the Asset Class
Even with the help of private investments, the world faces a multi-trillion-dollar shortfall in its quest to meet the UN SDGs by 2030. Public equities have the ability to shrink this gap by moving capital towards enterprises that are solving the world’s greatest challenges.
|Private market impact investing||$0.5T|
Source: McKinsey & Co (2019), BlackRock (2020)
At $93 trillion in total value, public equities are roughly 20 times larger than private markets.
Building a Better World
Solving today’s greatest challenges often requires innovative solutions. Consider the fact that many regions suffer from a lack of doctors.
|Region||Density of Physicians|
|Europe||1 for every 293 people|
|Americas||1 for every 417 people|
|Southeast Asia||1 for every 1,239 people|
|Africa||1 for every 3,324 people|
Source: World Health Organization (2021)
An impact investing strategy will seek out companies whose products or services can help to alleviate this shortage. For example, the BlackRock Impact Team has identified a medical software company whose platform lowers administrative costs and increases productivity.
Cybersecurity is another area where investors can help create positive change—according to McAfee, cybercrime has become a $1 trillion drag on the global economy.
This risk disproportionately affects small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) because they have limited resources to protect themselves. Cybersecurity companies that specialize in servicing SMEs can help protect this important part of the economy.
The Time is Now
Impact investing is not limited to a single theme. Around the world, various social and environmental issues are capturing the attention of governments and society. Ultimately, what’s needed are innovative solutions.
“If your savings can earn a strong return invested in companies that are doing good for the world, why would you invest any other way?”
—Eric Rice, Head of Active Equities Impact Investing at BlackRock
By directing capital to the right companies, investors have the potential to generate financial return while building a better world.