Who Impacts Whom?
Impact can (should) behave like a nuclear reaction
by Jacques Caussignac, Director of Client Experience and Strategy
Clear Skies is an Impact investment manager. That is a broad statement, but it begs the question: who is aiming to have an impact and towards which goal?
After a little more than a year of managing assets impactfully, we are starting to draw the silhouette of the impact nebula. Let’s start with the most obvious trajectory. An impact asset manager is aiming to make investments that have a positive impact on the planet and on people. This is, in itself, an ambitious and broad goal, but to attain it takes a multi-directional approach.
The most direct interaction is between the corporations (our investees), their market and their field of influence. Upstream from these activities is the relationship between the Impact manager and its investees. In this vein, we do a lot of engagement activities in order to encourage investees to strive for more transparency, clearer intentionality and better identifying impact goals aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.
This is but one chapter in a wider story. At Clear Skies, we believe we should welcome impactful interactions from our stakeholders, first of which being our clients, and that we should return the favor by impacting our clients as well.
This inspiration came from a field that might seem far removed from capitalistic investing – but clearly is not: philanthropy. In her fascinating book ‘From Charity to Change – Inside the World of Canadian Foundations’, Hilary M. Pearson explains how Canadian foundations have evolved symbiotically with Canadian society and have been impactful actors for change. The most ambitious activity tackled by some foundations is without a doubt field-building – creating a whole new field such as early years children’s health cannot be done in a vacuum. As she explains:
‘(…) a commitment to field-building takes a willingness to listen to the actors and patience to allow the most effective ideas and initiatives to emerge through knowledge-building, connections, and time’.
The parallels to impact investing are numerous. Impact investing is definitely a budding field in constant flux – and it most certainly can benefit from multiple actors’ inputs and knowledge-building.
This is why, as an Impact asset manager, we are looking to our clients for feedback on our processes, for transparency on their values and for patience towards evolving ideas. In the other direction, we strive for impact on our clients in multiple ways. First and foremost, we want to educate and bring more value than just financial returns and periodic reporting. Secondly, accompanying our clients in their own impact journey is key to making impact investing a true mature field. In other words, as a community, we can maximise the impact of asset investing by making each actor in the ecosystem part of the problem-solving endeavor that we are all on. We will not over-complicate this article by adding a multiplicity of other actors, but our dear readers can understand that many more stakeholders play material roles in this impact web: consultants, universities, board members, governments, etc.
So let’s come back to the original question: Who impacts whom? In a perfectly impactful world, the answer is everyone impacts everyone. Just as neutrons flying in a nuclear reactor, every bit of energy impacts a close-by nucleus which in turn continues the expanding wave of energy release. And just like a nuclear reaction, we need to accept that impact investing, while being a little chaotic, is a huge generator of energy.
We are eager to see impact investing gain focus and grow and welcome our partners’ participation with humility and constructiveness.