Impact Investors Think Different

Impact investing may be on the verge of going mainstream, but it hasn’t quite happened yet. So some of today’s leaders in the field are maverick thinkers and social change-makers. I recently attended “Opportunities in Impact” – an interactive panel discussion with of few of these big ideas people, hosted by Mission Markets at The Yale Club. Below are some of the highlights of what they said.

Peter Fusaro, who brings 40 years of thought leadership in investing in clean and sustainable energy, kicked off the panel with his enormous optimism about the future of life on earth, because of developments like hydrogen fuel cell technology and the incredible passion of the next generation to solve major problems, like global climate change, and food and water shortages.

Jigar Shah, founder of SunEdison, Generate Capital, and the Carbon War Room, questioned why Americans buy cars, a quickly depreciating asset that we use 3% of the time, but we are slow to invest in renewable energy solutions for our homes, even when they would pay for themselves pretty quickly. Jigar believes that as extractive projects to replace old infrastructure (those that extract resources like coal, oil, and natural gas) become more expensive and harder to execute, consumer behaviors and mindsets around clean energy will change.

Ben Bingham, Founder & CEO of Scarab Family of Funds, shared their unique approach of building a highly diversified set of five impact funds that are intentionally off the beaten path. Ben’s provocative question was: if financial and social returns come from broad asset allocation, why would you want the same asset allocation as everyone else?

Joan Trant described how TriLinc Global has built a $1.5 billion set of impact funds that now cater to retail investors (individual consumers) as well as institutional investors and high net worth individuals. Socially conscious consumers often express their values by shopping at Whole Foods or the local farmer’s market, but they don’t usually consider investing their savings in impact funds or sustainable public equities.

When the day comes that sharing hydrogen fuel cell cars, lighting our homes with renewable energy, and investing in diversified portfolios of impact funds and sustainable public equities are as mainstream as shopping at Whole Foods and Patagonia, the conferences will be more mundane, but the world will be much better off.

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