Impact investing represents a shift in thinking among many sectors: foundations and family offices, venture capital firms, fund managers in public and private markets, social enterprises, corporations, policymakers, and researchers, to name just a few. It is also a relatively new field, with all of the fits and starts associated with building and creating.
As impact investing grows, so does the need for investment networks to connect these often disparate groups driving the field’s progress. Impact investing networks serve three key purposes for the individuals and organizations that they bring together.
1. Sharing Data
Sharing data is the bedrock of most impact investment networks. As new approaches and ideas emerge among practitioners, the lessons learned and the data collected can be invaluable tools for identifying best practices, especially within a particular sector.
Mission Investors Exchange, a network of foundations and family offices committed to impact investing, shares case studies from its more than 200 member organizations via conferences, webinars, newsletters, and other tools. The Intentional Endowments Network, which connects 160 leaders and managers of universities and other endowments, offers similar resources to its network. The SASB Alliance of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board takes the data-sharing among the asset managers, asset owners, and companies in its network a step further, collectively examining the financial impact of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues and how organizations are responding.
2. Building Credibility
Impact investment networks also help build credibility within and beyond the field. This can include establishing a baseline that network members must meet, or empowering the network to advocate for global changes with a consistent message.
Investors wishing to join the UN Principles for Responsible Investment network, which has grown to 2,300 members since its 2006 founding, must sign on to its six “voluntary and aspirational” principles. In contrast, the investors that comprise the Global Impact Investing Network‘s (GIIN) membership range from those just beginning to transition their portfolio to impact to pioneers in the field. The GIIN’s data collection on the field’s growth has become ubiquitous and definitive in the narrative of impact investing. As You Sow is even more intentional about engagement with the world: it works with corporate shareholders to help them advocate for sustainability and other positive changes businesses can make for people and the planet.
3. Fostering Opportunities
Lastly, impact investing networks facilitate connections among its members to drive dealflow and other opportunities. GrowInclusive—a project of the World Bank, IDFC, and the World Economic Forum—offers an investment network matchmaking platform for its members to find ways to scale their impact through partnership-building. Ceres connects business leaders with researchers and policymakers as part of the network’s mission to make the business case for sustainability.
Working in concert, these three pillars stand to support impact investing as it trends toward the mainstream.