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Instead of just using the stock market, more and more foundations putting their endowments into projects that help the world–including hitting the Sustainable Development Goals.
In 2015, the United Nations laid out its Sustainable Development Goals to track global progress against massive social and environmental challenges like extreme poverty, inequality, and climate change. But hitting those goals will take more than creative public and private partnerships: it will cost money. All told, the estimate is in the trillions, which neither governments nor traditional philanthropists can cover outright.
The emerging industry, which is less than a decade old, has at least $114 billion in assets under management".
The good news is that, in just a year and a half since the call came out, the impact investing industry is picking up the slack. In 2016, investors looking for financial returns that demonstrate good social improvement committed $22.1 billion to 8,000 investments. All told, the emerging industry, which is less than a decade old, has at least $114 billion in assets under management, according to a recent report by the Global Impact Investing Network, a nonprofit organization to increase the scale and effectiveness of impact investing.
That’s not trillions exactly, but as startups grow up into global powerhouses that generate their own revenue and bigger impact, it may not need to be. The results show that more than half of the impact investing industry is intent on tracking returns directly against SDG-related targets. (Per the fine print: 26% do that now, with 30% posed to do so.) “We feel that the SDGs will act as a global framework that more and more impact investors will align with going forward,” says GIIN’s Research Director Abhilash Mudaliar, who notes that the U.N. guidelines have acted as a “clarion call” for the burgeoning industry.
The overwhelming majority of respondents reported that their investments have either met or exceeded their expectations for both impact (98%) and financial performance (91%),” notes the report. Plus, the annual cash flow is expected to jump another 17%, to around $26 billion next year.
For philanthropists who might have traditionally given out non-refilling grants and donations, that’s actually still an enticing proposition.
“It’s offering foundations and others . . . new tools,” says Mudaliar. “And this is a tool that allows them to potentially scale the approaches in which they seek to address social and environmental challenges in a way that’s also more sustainable because the capital is returned and then can be recycled into other projects or other investments that further their impact.”