At 20 years old, I became an impact investor, even though I didn’t know what “impact investing” was.1
I turned up at an investment firm with a crumped piece of paper in my hand; it was a single paragraph that I’d ripped it out of The Economist about an investment fund that was supporting local enterprise in developing countries in South East Asia.
Seven years earlier, my family and I had been living in Indonesia, it was 1997 and the Asian economy was crumbling around us. As the political situation became increasingly violent, we decided to leave.
Now, I wanted to use my money (the little that I had, as a debt-laden university student) to help the societies of the people I had met growing up. I didn’t want to go the charity route—the ol’ “give a man a fish or teach a man to fish” had proven itself to me again and again. When I read about the investment fund in The Economist, I saw an opportunity to save money, make money (to me, it seemed the Asian economy could only go up) and to support a cause I believed in—helping others to help themselves.
When I explained my plan to my new financial advisor, he flat out refused to assist me. Eventually he admitted that his investment firm carried a similar product to the one described in The Economist, but he strongly advised me against it. We went back and forth for 20 minutes, arguing, until he finally relented, begrudgingly. A year later, I returned to discover that the fund had increased by 30%. My financial advisor apologized.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was participating in Impact Investment, “an investment…with the explicit intention to create a positive impact and generate a financial return,”2 or, as my 20-year old self would have described it: “a cool way to make money and a difference at the same time.”
Sir Ronald Cohen, Chairman of the Social Impact Investment Taskforce, explains much more eloquently, that “impact investment is a response to the urgent need to achieve innovation and scale in the way we tackle today’s complex societal challenges. It seeks to channel capital to drive measurable social and financial returns. It aims to harness investment and entrepreneurial skills to drive social innovation in the same manner investment and enterprise drives business and technical innovation.” 3
Now, I’ve added ZooShare to my impact investment portfolio. I’m proud to be a member of such a forward-thinking group of investors. Together, we are supporting a local project that will make a lasting positive impact on our environment, long after our principals are returned. As the impact investing industry continues to grow, I look forward to discovering and researching other impact investment opportunities to diversity my portfolio and amplify my personal impact, so I can leave this world better than I found it.
What’s your impact investing story? Email me to be interviewed, and possibly have your story shared on the ZooShare blog.
1 Indeed, the term “Impact Investing” wasn’t coined until a few years later, in 2007. Financing Social Good: A Primer on Impact Investing in Canada. Toronto: Purpose Capital, RBC, Mars Centre for Impacting Investing. Pg. 5. Retrieved from: http://www.rbc.com/community-sustainability/_assets-custom/pdf/Financing-Social-Good.pdf
2,3 Harji, Karim. Reynolds, Joanna. Best, Hilary. Jeyaloganathan, Mathu. (2014) State of the Nation Impact Investing in Canada. Toronto: Purpose Capital, The MaRS Centre for Impact Investing. Pg. 90. Retrieved from: http://impactinvesting.marsdd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Impact-Investing-in-Canada-State-of-the-Nation.pdf