Over the years, there has been a dramatic growth in the impact investing market. Currently, the global impact investing market is worth about £550 billion and it offers endless possibilities.
As the world around us suffers with pollution, climate change, poverty and other issues, people now want to use their money to drive change – but without compromising on their financial returns. This is why the impact investing market is constantly growing.
Table of Contents
- Origin of Impact Investing
- Definition of Impact Investing
- How Impact Investing Market Works?
- Why Choose Impact Investing?
- Impact Investing & Economy
- Impact Investment & Angel Investment
- Impact Investment & Sustainable Development Goals
- Impact Investing & Women Empowerment
- Challenging Misconceptions
- Becoming an Impact Investor
This guide is intended to help high net individuals and businesses understand the concept of impact investing and how it can drive a positive social change in the world.
Section 1: Origin of Impact Investing
To understand impact investment better, first we will understand the history behind it.
Mankind has long invested in accordance with its moral and ethical values, however, the concept was reformed in the 19th century as religious organisations like the Methodist Church and Quakers, realised that wealth should be placed consistently with their cause.
As a result, certain investments were separated from the normal profit base investments and they were considered as “ethical investing”.
A little while later, social investors started identifying “good” investments to avoid “bad” ones and analysed business practices to recognise and determine which is which.
The “good” investments were those that were based on an ethical and moral principle. While the “bad” investments included investments in sin stocks or businesses promoting stigmatised activities like gambling, alcohol, drugs etc.
This distinction led to the development of Environmental, Social & Governance ratings (ESG) - factors measuring sustainability and societal impact - progressing towards the era of “Responsible investing” (SRI).
Thus, the ideology of investors evolved over the years and they realised that focusing solely on business practices was insufficient, and they started analysing the sustainability of the businesses they wanted to invest in. This created a new concept of “Sustainable investing.”
Now, “Impact investing” is the most recent step in this direction. The objective is to identify, measure, understand and analyse both the sustainability and the practices of a business along with the true impact it would have on society and the environment. The business with the biggest positive impact is considered better to invest in.
Section 2: Definition of Impact Investment
Here we will define what is meant by impact investing and what constitutes impact investment.
What is Impact Investing?
Impact investments are financial investments made to support or create a positive social and environmental impact along with a financial return.
According to the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), Impact investments can take the form of numerous asset classes belonging to both emerging and developed markets.
The goal of impact investing is to use the money for positive social results by addressing the world’s most pressing challenges like renewable energy, microfinance, sustainable agriculture, conservation, education, and other basic services including housing and healthcare.
Impact investing is broadly based on two types of impact:
Environmental – Supports causes like zero waste management, renewable energy, and pollution.
Social – Aims towards improving the social set up through education, healthcare, gender equality, etc.
The rise in scarcity and inequality paired with an increase in concern and urgency has made investors eager to stimulate both social and business returns. Impact investing gives them the avenue to direct capital towards social and environmental benefits while yielding profits. They are led to “do well”.
Thus, impact investing is a financial strategy that not only generates financial results, but also leads to constructive outcomes. In short, it is purpose-driven finance.
Core Characteristics of Impact Investing
Like every concept, impact investing is also based on a few core characteristics. These characteristics provide practical actions and reference points to maintain baseline expectations for such social investing.
The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) has declared these four tenets of impact investing:
Impact investing spectrum positively contributes to a social or environmental cause by setting up clear objectives and strategies to achieve these goals and make an impact.
Hence, impact investing focuses on environmentally and socially oriented investments – This is what differentiates impact investing and other modern practices of mitigating risk and avoiding harm.
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- Evidence-Based Investment Design
The second core characteristic draws attention to high-quality data – both qualitative and quantitative.
Impact investing uses evidence and data to design impact strategies. This evidence can be in the form of empirical data, research, and statistical info from financial and/or other industries.
The purpose of this evidence-based strategy design is to provide a strong basis and support to impact objectives. Moreover, the data is used to set indicators and targets for gauging performance.
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- Impact Management
Impact investing demands commitment to impact management and measurement of the investment intended towards meeting desired objectives and delivering the impact.
This means that impact investing uses feedback loops, wherever possible, to increase the positive impact throughout the life of the initial investment. The purpose is to mitigate unintended negative consequences and investment risks.
Management active investments depend upon robust data, thematic reporting, portfolio management, and such other themes based around core metrics such as financial inclusion, housing, and health. By placing a proper system in place for measuring and reporting impact you keep track of your investment and the intended outcomes.
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- Contribution To Industry Growth
The fourth core element of impact investing necessitates a practice grounded in shared conventions and standards for describing impact goals, performance and strategies.
Impact investors share both positive and negative learning experiences, evidence and data so others can benefit from this knowledge. This will help grow the impact investing industry and attract new investors.
Ultimately, the growth in the impact economy will not only result in financial returns but also create a safer and more sustainable planet.
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Section 3: How Impact Investing Market Works?
Impact investing is a globally rising economy with significant potential for growth. When approaching the impact investment market it is important to understand that impact investing is a broad term incorporating many investing mechanisms and technical terms. To help understand this relatively new and dynamic market let’s take a look at them closely.
Current Economic Status
Mainstream investors typically go down this path leaving the field to mostly new entrants, impact venture capitalists and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) – in technical terms, first institutional investors.
Impact investing is forecasted to grow to more than £230 billion by 2020 (Source: Mckinsey). However, it still remains a tiny fraction of the whopping £2.2 trillion private equity investments.
With that being said, the growing rate of impact investing suggests that as more socially responsible companies and investors become acquainted with this dynamic market they are bound to find investment opportunities aligning their business as well as social aims.
What is the Financial Performance of Impact Investing?
The shortcoming of impact investing has led key industry players like Root Capital, Bridges Impact+, and the World Economic Forum to better understand and implement analytical measurement and management procedures for impact.
They have produced a number of interesting metrics (such as social return on investment (SROI)) to record and analyse the financial performance of impact investments.
This seems like the best of both world but there is a complication: Even though the financial world has several universally accepted methods and tools, for example, internal rate of return, to estimate a potential investment’s financial outcome, there is no analog that accepts to evaluate “hoped-for” environmental and social yields in monetary terms.
Thus, forecasting social gains is many times a matter of guesswork rather than concrete business projections.
How to Measure and Manage Impact Investments?
Knowing how to effectively manage and measure impact is one of the most critical factors to ensure that impact investors achieve the desired impact results.
After much trial and error and in collaboration with industry experts, Bridgespan and Rise formulated a new methodology to calculate and estimate the financial value of social and environmental goods to be expected for each pound invested. This metric is called the impact multiple of money (IMM).
IMM is one of the most effective metrics for the measurement and management of impact investments and includes identifying the positive and negative effects a business can have on the planet and humans themselves.
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It is iterative by nature and depends upon six distinct elements:
- Relevance and Scale – to understand the impact of an investment, it is important to assess its relevance and scale to the cause. For example, an investment in an educational institute supports literacy in the economy. Understanding how your investment will impact this cause will enhance impact management and measurement.
- Goals and expectations – your long term investment course should consider the effects it will have on the people and the planet. By understanding the connection between goals and the purpose of investment, investors can balance their expectations for risk, liquidity, return and impact.
- Strategies – there are many pathways to achieve impact investing goals and investors should consider which one makes the most sense for their expertise, portfolio and clients. Defining strategies that streamline with the business process will improve the performance of the investment.
- Estimation – impact investors need to express the desired outcomes in economic terms and financial forecasts. Estimates based on metrics will better help investors understand the economic impact of their investment and its social outcome.
- Risk adjustment – there are always certain inherent risks to any investment. It is important as an investor to have corrective procedures in place after risk assessment to eradicate and mitigate any chances of failure.
- Calculation – the most significant factor in IMM is the calculation of social return on every pound spent. Investors can simply take the estimated value of the environmental or social benefit and divide it by the total investment. For example, you invest £10 million to launch a stationery collection created from 100% recycled material. Let's say it leads to an estimate of £50 million in social benefits. Divide £50 million by £10 million. Thus, you generate £5 in social value for every £1 invested.
Section 4: Why Choose Impact Investing?
Impact investing shows how capital can be used for the benefit of the society and environment, by contributing to relevant causes and supporting the efforts of existing ‘pro-development’ businesses.
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In many ways, this is the answer to all the criticism which capitalism gets. Successful projects from impact investment show that all good actions do not have to be charity, rather can be profitable.
According to a survey in the UK, 56% of individuals have at least a moderate interest in impact investing. (Source: Growth Funders)
The reason why many investors are interested in impact investment today is that they all want to support ventures that create a path toward a healthier planet.
Many investors like Elon Musk, are shaping the business world and changing the trajectory of the human race while making a fortune doing it!
However, now it is more than just critically accepting responsibility for the implications of our actions as global citizens; it is about saving the planet and eradicating all issues faced by mankind.
Impact investing is the real solution to all major problems in the world today – poverty and hunger, healthcare, education, gender equality, and justice – to name a few.
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Here are a few reasons why impact investing is the future for everyone from venture capitalist and investment banks to individual investors.
- Meeting Global Challenges
Impact investment allows people to combat the world's most pressing issues like climate change, limited access to healthcare, extreme poverty, lack of renewable energy, and more.
These problems cannot be solved through government spending alone. This is where private capital is needed to fill the gap and meet the global challenges as a whole.
- Aligning Values With Investments
The modern business environment is all about sustainability and there is no reason why investors cannot pursue a triple-action line of “People, Planet, Profit”. Financial investors are no longer limited to compete for financial returns alone.
This type of investing allows you to signal your commitment as a responsible citizen of the world without giving up on your financial gains.
- Connecting With Big Thinkers
When you become an impact investor your network grows beyond financiers, bankers, and brokers. You are given opportunities to meet with renowned human rights activists, development experts, leading entrepreneurs, and other ethical investors.
Being a dynamic financial industry, impact investing brings together different people from diverse backgrounds united by a single cause – believing in the financial and social imperative of impact investment.
Section 5: Impact Investing & Economic Growth
This is 2020 and while the world is battling with a global pandemic, COVID-19, the global economy is struggling as well. However, there are a number of key drivers influencing the impact investing market and its contribution to the economy in 2020
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Many investors have been making impact investments for decades and recently there has been an emergence of new collaborative efforts to accelerate the development of a high functioning market that supports impact investing.
While it is still relatively new, new investors are optimistic about the development and expected rise in scale and efficiency of impact investments in the future.
There is no doubt that capitalist financial systems and businesses are a massive player in the global economy. Currently, as many investors jump on the “impact” bandwagon, numerous companies are also driving towards ESG (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance) investing.
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Businesses are now following good ESG practices with goals to mitigate the negative impacts of their businesses and promote a safer environment. This is a positive initiative taken by the business community to make up for the years of damage caused by capitalism.
Impact investing is, hence, a powerful and financially efficient tool in driving global societal change without compromising economic growth. If anything, it only stimulates the economy.
Section 6: Relationship between Impact Investment with Angel Investment
Angel investment allows you to provide capital for a business startup in exchange for ownership equity or convertible debt. It is to support new ethical investing companies and businesses at their initial stage when most investors are not prepared to back them.
With angel investment, you give back to the community around you, grow your money, and create a flexible investment strategy.
Impact investment, as stated before, is an investment that focuses on impact along with financial returns. An angel investor can also be an impact investor if he invests in ventures contributing towards improving the social and environmental well being. Such investors are called angel impact investors who specifically scout for social impact startups to fund.
With the goal of doing “good”, angel impact investing is currently one of the hottest areas of financial investments among the investors community today. However, there are a lot of facets to create an impact than many investors realise.
Angel investment and impact investing is currently the rage with investors – whether big or small – eager to jump on this bandwagon. Last year alone around £26.7 billion went into angel impact deals! (Source: Forbes)
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There is no doubt about the positive sentiment behind impact investments and how they create a meaningful impact on society. But with the rise of the impact investment market, there is a misconception that other types of investing do not create a positive impact, which in the case of angel investment is far from reality.
Thus, Angel investment is inherently impactful, and here are a few reasons why:
- Increasing Productivity
Angel impact investors reallocate underutilised resources – capital – to fund and support new business ideas and startups; primarily in the sectors that drive technological change, environmental safety, and social benefits in the economy.
As a consequence, it stimulates increase in productivity, employment, and results – for investors and the economy both.
- Preventing Abuse Of Market Power
Without investments like impact investing or angel investment markets become noncompetitive and lazy with the lack of real alternatives.
This is specifically true for financial services or utilities, and other industries where there are traditionally high entry barriers.
So, angel impact investments open doors for meaningful business ventures and maintain market equilibrium by supporting cause-based projects.
- Empowerment for Change
Such investments empower change. They focus on solving problems and creating value.
The empowerment of change is the most fundamental point for the success of the modern economic system and the global environment.
Want to know the difference between Angel Investment and Venture Capital? Click Here!
Section 7: Impact Investment and Sustainable Development Goals
In 2015 the United Nations adopted sustainable development goals. These 17 goals were developed by global leaders and policymakers with 169 targets to address global challenges like gender equality, climate change, and poverty.
SDGs recognise that all environmental and social problems are interconnected and affect everyone around the globe. Therefore, the SDG framework goes beyond developed developing and underdeveloped countries and focuses on goals that apply to every single country.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are:
- Eliminate Poverty
- Erase Hunger
- Establish Good Health and Well-Being
- Provide Quality Education
- Enforce Gender Equality
- Improve Clean Water and Sanitation
- Grow Affordable and Clean Energy
- Create Decent Work and Economic Growth
- Increase Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
- Reduce Inequality
- Mobilise Sustainable Cities and Communities
- Influence Responsible Consumption and Production
- Organise Climate Action
- Develop Life Below Water
- Advance Life On Land
- Guarantee Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
- Build Partnerships for the Goals
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) concluded that USD 5-7 trillion is required to achieve the SDGs by 2030. Given this huge figure, it is clear that financial resources will be needed at scale from both the public and private sectors.
While impact investors are looking to invest in enterprises tackling similar social and environmental targets, it is the perfect opportunity to bring the two forces together.
The potential for impact investing to catalyze progress towards the goals can prove to be a real asset. Impact investors can collectively drive results and line their resources to meet SDGs.
A survey conducted by the global Impact investing network shows that more than 60% of the impact investors today are tracking performance to the SDGs (Source: Devex). This shows that the connection between impact economies and SDGs will certainly grow in the years to come.
Section 8: Relationship between Impact Investing and Women Empowerment
Women are exploring and extending their roles in entrepreneurship and business. Women have made considerable progress and will keep on growing in equality, business, and other walks of life. To support women and promote the change, business leaders need to proactively move in the direction of gender equality and women empowerment. Enabling women, enhancing their participation and representation in all areas of life, however especially in the male-dominated field of business and finance is serious to show that women today have the ability to pick and carry themselves.Image source: Image Source: https://hopesforwomen.org/
When women empowerment and impact investing are brought up in the same conversation, it might seem like people are overreaching. This might be a false view of capitalism; that you can do some good while making money, but you cannot do a lot of good. In the case of impact investment, women empowerment may be a by-product of any other social cause people choose to invest in!
It follows sound logic that investment in products and services that improve the lives of women, also leads to them being empowered. What’s more astonishing is the scale to which investments can have an impact.
The investment in female-centric products is also a smart financial decision due to the growing consumer percentage of women, which could be 75% by 2028. (Source: Deloitte). Thus, rising demand is a good basis for investment decisions, and women empowerment is a steadily increasing trend. This makes it more likely for investments aimed at women to be profitable.
1) How Impact Investment Supports Women
Currently, entrepreneurs may feel that discrimination based on gender follows them even into the business world. It is tougher for female entrepreneurs to find investment. On top of that, women dedicated to helping other women do not find the financial support they need. This is where impact investing enters as a game-changer.
Impact investing can be seen as the evolution of corporate social responsibility. Just as each company feels the need to attend to their community and contribute to the wellness of the planet, impact investors look for the people with the innovation and drive to help others. With impact investors, the scale is much bigger and the projects can be versatile!
Not only does impact investment aim to focus on gender issues and help build businesses that promote equality, but investors also believe that the choice of entrepreneurs is where the impact happens. This is known as gender lens centered investment, and it is more popular than one would think.
Even in developing countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan, impact investing has made a significant difference for women through microfinance lending. Women have been able to start, sustain, and grow small scale businesses with the help of Grameen Bank – the largest microfinance institution in the world.
2) Women Leading The Impact Investing Market
As stated earlier, Impact Investing is on the rise and the global impact investment market is growing year over year. Though it is still considered “niche” in the financial world, it is particularly becoming a popular platform among women looking to invest as well as for those looking for financial aid.
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Women use impact investments as financial opportunities to launch their own business; While female investors are keen on building their investment portfolio and making a name for themselves in the investment market – a male-dominated industry.
Learn how to become an investor in a female-run small business.
Here are a few reasons why Impact Investing is increasingly becoming popular among women:
- Women Support Women
Women invest in other women because they strive to build a community where they are treated as equals and not a weaker gender. Whether it is a woman-owned startup or an organization that offers high gender diversity, female investors want to benefit women.
- Positive Global Impact
Impact investing for women will create a ripple effect and stimulate a positive global change. For example, economic growth, gender diversity, and financial independence.
- Women Are Making More Money
Women today are more empowered than at any other time in history. Gone are the days when men ruled the business world. Many women like Kylie Jenner, Cher Wang, and Gina Rinehart are a few of the richest entrepreneurs in the world today. As women grow in wealth so does their desire to invest and empower other women.
3) Impact Investment And Growth Of Women In Financial World
Like we mentioned before, there are versatility and scales to impact investing. Women empowerment through impact investing is also thriving at the corporate level. A profit-making venture by Calvert Foundation is the Women Investing in Women (WIN-WIN) which is supporting female-led businesses in healthcare, education, and microfinance. This is a multi-tier project which is empowering women at every step, while also being financially successful.
Impact investing has, therefore, provided a platform like no other for women empowerment! Impact investing is not only effective but it is also faster acting than actions taken by governments in their countries. Investors who believe in a cause provide opportunities to female entrepreneurs at small and large scales, who can pursue their progressive ventures to help their communities and empower the women that they know need assistance.
Section 9: Challenging Misconceptions
Over the years, Impact investing has evolved and become more sophisticated to attract more investors and meet their dynamic needs – ethical needs as well as risk management and return needs. As this market continues to grow and evolve, the discussion around this increasingly popular investment sector remains afflicted by different misconceptions and myths.
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Here we will dispel a few of the most common misperceptions about Impact investing.
Myth 1 – Impact Investing focuses on doing good in the world in exchange for high risk and zero returns.
Impact investing works like another financial investment keeping the return on investment and other relevant factors in mind. However, the investments are directed towards projects/businesses that support social and environmental causes hoping to bring a real change in the world and have the potential to grow to yield optimal financial results.
Myth 2 – Impact investing excludes “sin stocks” instead of supporting real investment opportunities to bring positive real-world impact.
This could not be any wrong, over the last two decades, impact investment has focused on contributing to real-world problems to improve the environment and the society as a whole. Hence, it is not just a cover-up to make up for the sin stocks.
Myth 3 – Impact investing will always remain a small niche.
The global impact investment market has tremendously grown over the years and it will continue to grow. What started as an alien concept in the field of financial investments, has now become a £380 billion industry with an extensive network of thousands of investors around the globe.
Myth 4 – Impact investing is just ESG investing.
ESG stands for environmental, social, and governance. It is concerned with focusing on the way an organization operates instead of the impact the business has on the world. ESG investments are related to companies that support their employees, do not harm the planet, or support gender diversity. However, impact investing has a much broader scope and depends upon:
- Intentional deployment of funds
- Measurable impact from the investments
- Positive correlation between investment return and impact
- Net positive effect on the environment and society
Thus, impact investment covers a wider range of activities as compared to ESG.
Myth 5 – Impact investing only targets startups and early stage companies
According to stats, many impact investments are made for major infrastructure projects by huge corporations. The house building market, one of the biggest sectors in the UK, produces nearly £30 billion of economic output per annum with impact investing. (Source: Growth Funders)
Myth 6 – Impact investing is a bubble.
Impact investing has been identified for over 20 years now and continues to steadily grow in recognition and reputation. According to the JP Morgan forecast, impact investing will be worth £1 trillion in the next couple of years (Source: Forbes). Moreover, many leading investors, financial analysts, and financiers believe impact investing has a significant role to play in the investment portfolios.
“Impact investing is about to go mainstream.”
All this is evidence to prove that impact investing is real and is here to stay and grow.
Section 10: Become an Impact Investor
Investments for philanthropy is one of the most optimistic approaches to help solve some of the world's most important social and environmental challenges – from mitigating and slowing climate change to eradicating poverty and achieving a high literacy rate – without compromising on financial objectives across the risk-return spectrum. As this market becomes more mainstream, both new-age investors and traditional investment firms are embracing the idea of investing for more than just a financial return.
If you are a start up looking for impact investors then you can check out our quick and simple guide on how to find the right investors.
To become an impact investor one needs to align his financial decisions with his ethical values. Here is how you can do so:
Keys to Becoming an Impact Investor
- Become Conscious
The first thing is to become conscious and analyse what you already have. Divest what does not align with your values and intentions. In technical terms, apply negative screens to your portfolio and identify investments that are causing the problems which you want to solve.
Typically you can ask an advisor for his professional and unbiased opinion on the matter; For example, the real estate investments that purchase commercial properties with the end goal to increase returns by raising rents and making upgrades. Such investments offer effective financial returns, however, they have no place in the portfolio of an impact investor.
- Align Your Investments With Your Values
For this, you can apply positive screens on your portfolio to identify investments that are in line with your ethical values, intentions, and charitable preferences. Charitable funding is often a good proxy for values and can lead to investments that leverage the concept of “giving”.
For example, if you already make donations to NGOs or other groups for carbon reduction for affordable housing, it should be added to your investment portfolio.
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- Adopt ESG Mandates
Adopting an ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) approach will help avoid overweight for any particular sector. Balance out your impact portfolio and reflect the desired outcome priorities depending on carefully considered themes and entry points. ESG includes a wide spectrum of issues that will expand the impact.
While on the flip side a scattershot approach will dilute the impact. By investing across the asset class and the risk spectrum optimise your portfolio for fund managers with different investment styles.
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- Measure Your Impact
Impact management and measurement are important to grow the impact. For this, you should access trusted external resources to study the impact and create effective policies and strategies to mitigate any shortcomings.
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- Stay Motivated
There is no one particular approach to designing an impact portfolio because every investor's journey is different. Risk and return profile change with circumstances and one age along with the priorities and motivations for effective change. Upgrade your portfolio and adapt accordingly so you reflect the real picture of the social and environmental performance and progress of your investments.
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Impact investors should be informed and engaged investors ready to leverage their portfolios for the impact they want to create. With the help of the guidelines above, we hope you will be well on your way to becoming a prominent impact investor.
Become an Impact Investor with Trendscout
The global financial market is changing dramatically along with the investment market. Gone are the days when everyone wanted to buy stocks. People today are working smart and trying to make the most of their skills, efforts, and resources. Be it venture capitals, angel investment, crowdfunding, or impact investing, investors are now expanding their spectrum and trying to profit through more flexible and convenient means.
As businesses respond to the changing trends of technology, struggling economies, and the effects of globalization, they need to address the challenging impacts that come with it. Organizations need to keep up with the rapidly fluctuating consumer preferences, adjust resources according to demand, compete with striving startups, and meet the costs while contributing towards sustainability. One thing that addresses all global issues with staying in line with the financial constraints of investing is impact investing.
Impact investing drives underutilised funds into deserving projects which centre on making a positive impact in the world. And, what’s commendable is that different types of investments can be molded to create an impact and streamline with the tenets of impact investing.
Whether you are a venture capitalist, angel investor, or crowd funder, you can become an impact investor by directing your attention and investments to fund startups/projects to combat global issues like poverty, injustice, inequality, gender discrimination, climate change, etc.
There are many platforms today that give the perfect opportunity to communicate and collaborate with like-minded investors and individuals looking for funds; the best on the list is Trendscout.
- What is Trendscout?
Trendscout is a reliable UK-based platform that connects aspiring entrepreneurs with angel investors. With more than 30 years of experience in investment, risk strategy and market research Trendscout specializes in identifying successful business opportunities by connecting the right investor with the right founder.
- Trendscout connects Impactors with Founders
Trendscout connects impactors and angel investors with the right founders. As the investment market and financial framework continue to evolve, more and more individuals are adopting an “impactful” investment arrangement which allows them to improve the world around them while getting financial returns.