Investors have a lot on their plates: inspecting quarterly reports, following market trends, meeting with management teams, sourcing deals, courting potential co-investors, and much more. It stands to reason that investing becomes even more burdensome when it includes dedication to positive impact. Think of all the time and effort that must be spent on understanding social and environmental problems, anticipating potential conflicts between business growth and mission fidelity, and analyzing impact data reported by investees.

Many have recognized this issue of difficulty as a central challenge for impact investing. In a seminal 2009 white paper, the Monitor Institute noted that “the long and difficult work of ensuring investment impact” could stand at odds with “existing financial markets and incentives.” More recently, three London School of Economics academics have highlighted the same tension, citing Confucius’s saying that “he who chases two rabbits catches neither.” “Impact investing is often associated with more expensive, complicated, time-consuming, or incomplete due diligence,” as Francois Botha wrote in Forbes, resulting in the perception of impact investments as “riskier propositions.”

Until now, however, there has been no systematic evidence to determine whether impact investing actually is more difficult than traditional investing. This is an important gap in our understanding of impact investing, including the tradeoffs it might pose and what makes the field distinct. As shown in the excerpts above, there is a presumption that impact investors are shouldering unique burdens to achieve impact, but is this true?

To answer this question, Katherine Klein and I, in collaboration with other members of the Impact Finance Research Consortium, administered a rich, multifaceted survey to over 200 impact fund managers across the globe (particularly in private equity and venture capital). We asked about investor relations, impact measurement, relations with portfolio companies, and, among other issues, the difficulty of impact investing, aiming to dig deeper into more substantive questions of how impact investors carry out their work.

Read the full article about impact investing by Maoz (Michael) Brown at Stanford Social Innovation Review.