The first article in our series highlighted that impact investing is more than a fad. In fact, impact investing has a rich history that dates back to Biblical times, with institutions becoming meaningful players in the US in the 18th century. During the last decade, however, we’ve witnessed more broad-based adoption of impact investing by individual investors of many types. Millennials can select it as a digital solution option on their smart phones, and Impact investing was one of the most widely attended sessions at OPAL’s Family Office and Private Wealth Forum in Newport, Rhode Island in July. A Google search reveals nearly 11 million impact investing entries.

Impact Investing is not only in the institutional and high-net-worth mainstream—it’s undergoing exponential growth. From 1995 (when research within this space began) to 2014, socially responsible investing (SRI) assets under management exhibited a 929% increase—a 13.1% compounded annual growth rate—according to the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment Foundation (US SIF). In 1995, there were but 55 mutual funds with a SRI mandate—exploding to close to 500 by the end of 2015. For recent years, the growth rate is even higher: 18% compounded annually from 2013 to 2015, says The Global Impact Investing Network (GINN). By 2016, SRI assets had mushroomed to $8.72 Trillion—a 33% increase over 2014, noted in the US SIF’s biennial report, US Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing Trends 2016. Shareholder support is also growing, the report points out, with 30% of proposals being supported by 30% or more of shares voted.

On a global basis, the figures are even more staggering: $22.89 Trillion in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) assets are being professionally managed worldwide. Global growth is up more than 60%, outpacing the rate for total professionally managed assets, according to the Global Sustainable Investment Review.

But assets tell only a part of the story. Investment vehicles are more widespread. For example, “green” bonds—debt-based instruments aligned with the Climate Bonds Initiative, which help to finance projects in renewal energy, energy efficiency, and wastewater treatment—were $81 Billion in 2016, nearly double the $42.2 Billion for 2015, and expected to reach $150 billion by the end of the year. And the GINN report calculates robust growth in global areas. Emerging markets’ assets were 67% of total impact investments in 2015, $23.0 Billion, up from $15.1 Billion in 2013. And private capital, both debt and equity, now represents nearly 70% of impact assets under management (AUM).

The GINN report also shows that the leading sectors attracting impact-related investment dollars are: finance, including microfinance, with a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11% in AUM, followed by energy, housing, and food, each of which experienced close to 30% CAGR in AUM. Climate change and environmental issues are of paramount importance, as well as community investing in areas dealing with poverty, sustainable agriculture, and obesity, as the above-quoted CNBC article explains. 

Pension funds are exhibiting strong interest in the impact space, and insurance companies, with their risk-modeling expertise, are expected to play an active role. Private partnerships are facilitating opportunities, such as a water-financing facility in Kenya. Project locales have expanded, including India, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa.

What’s driving the growth? Money managers cite client demand being at the forefront of their decision to offer impact investments, followed by attractive risk and return attributes, and fiduciary duty. Because clients are generally better informed, their shareholder influence drives the decisions companies make about allocating long-term capital. And now that impact investing has a more respectable track record, investors can readily find and monitor investments that rank high in ESG standards, such as climate change, avoiding terrorism, gender focus, civilian firearms, and corporate governance.

Finally, Millennials have stepped up to lead the charge. Although making money is a common goal, they are most concerned about making a positive impact on the world. And with the $59 Trillion they are projected to inherit, they will have the assets to do it.

James Lumberg is the co-founder and executive vice president of Envestnet. The information, analysis, and opinions expressed herein are for general and educational purposes only. Nothing contained in this piece is intended to constitute legal, tax, accounting, securities, or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment, nor a solicitation of any type. All opinions and views constitute our judgments as of the date of writing and are subject to change at any time without notice.


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