CEO & Co-founder
Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN)
Leading GIIN, Amit Bouri has taken significant strides with generating energy and momentum around impact investing on a global scale, through an array of initiatives designed to accelerate the growth of the impact investing market. He addresses some of the big questions in the industry in this profile with Impact Investing Australia.
As one of the co-founders of GIIN, what were the main driving factors for establishing the organisation back in 2009?
There were a few driving factors. Overall there was a recognition that there’s a tremendous opportunity to channel capital to address social and environmental problems. In 2009, there was already strong activity from pioneering investors, many of whom became founding members of the GIIN. However, there was also an understanding that we were only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of what could ultimately be the impact investing market.
The big question was: what could this fragmented group of pioneering investors around the world achieve organically if we wait for the market to evolve on its own versus what could be achieved (and how much faster could it be achieved) if we had an organization with a team that would wake up every day dedicated to thinking about how to build a global market? So that early community of investors built the GIIN. In part, this was because the answer to that large question was that an organization like the GIIN, one focused on building an efficient market, might be able to help move greater sums of capital more quickly to impactful projects and businesses. Given the magnitude of social and environmental issues our world faces, this kind of accelerated progress is essential. We can’t afford to wait to see if the market develops, we have to engage our global network to ensure that impact investing realizes its potential.
GIIN has a very diverse membership from institutional investors to foundations to international NGOs. What opportunities does such diversity across the network present for collaborating and generating more impact investment opportunities?
At our core we are a Network, which enables a flow of ideas, opportunities, and lessons. Having such a diverse Network allows us to draw upon a much broader set of experiences. Whether we’re hearing from organizations that have more experience structuring large investments or those who have deep experience with having an impact in certain sectors, we benefit from bringing this diverse group all together because the diversity helps to elevate the collective experience and knowledge of the Network. If we had mostly similar actors, there would still be benefits, but conversations might be more limited in terms of what people can learn from one another beyond what they learn directly from their daily interactions with close partners.
GIIN continues to play a pioneering role in deepening and improving how we measure the performance of impact investments including managing the IRIS catalog of performance metrics that provides investors with a common language for describing the social, environmental and financial performance of their investments. What kind of value are you seeing impact investors gain from engaging in more robust impact measurement?
Impact measurement and management is fundamental to being an impact investor. This is an immense area of focus, not just for us, but for the various types of investors in our Network. Ultimately, impact investors are motivated by the desire to have an impact through their investments, and from that flows a natural desire to also increase the sophistication of the kind of impact one can achieve. Impact investors want to have a more robust practice and a means by which they can measure impact, as this enables them to be more effective at achieving their desired impact. A recently published GIIN report ‘The Business Value of Impact Measurement’ also shows that impact measurement leads to the generation of valuable data that can not only help impact investors better understand their impact, but also help inform key strategic and operational decisions. There’s still a lot of work to do in this area, but many of our members are leading the way.
Earlier this year Impact Investing Australia published Australia’s first Investor Survey revealing that most active Australian impact investors expect competitive market rates of return from their impact investments. Is this also the international experience?
This is generally the international experience. Almost three-fifths of the respondents from the GIIN’s most recent Annual Impact Investor Survey reported seeking market rates of return. It’s important though to underscore that there are a number of different business models that will never support market rates of return but that are tremendously sustainable and can provide an incredible amount of impact. So while there’s more capital in the world seeking commercial rates of return, it’s critical to understand and respect those impact investments not designed to generate those types of returns. These investments can still provide tremendous impact and value to the market.
Much of GIIN’s work is focused on building the infrastructure that is needed to catalyse and develop a thriving impact investment market. Why is this enabling infrastructure so important?
When we decided to launch the GIIN, the market was facing a number of barriers to growth. Much of the infrastructure we developed (and continue to improve on today) address these key barriers. For example, there was a challenge of deal flow. So we launched ImpactBase, an online directory of impact investing funds and products. ImpactBase, which now lists over 400 impact products, is a critical investment tool and type of market infrastructure that helps new and established impact investors identify opportunities. Market infrastructure will continue to be necessary if impact investing is to scale and become a truly effective and efficient practice.
You have a growing number of Australian organisations joining GIIN. Are there activities or trends in impact investing you have seen in the Asia-Pacific region that have caught your interest?
The Asia-Pacific region is really exciting to us for a few reasons. It’s a part of the world that serves as both a great source and destination for impact investment capital. And the GIIN has an opportunity to further develop the region’s role in both of those areas. There’s also some really pioneering activity coming out of the region. Given the tremendous potential for the region, I look forward to identifying ways for the GIIN to support local organizations and help realize that potential.