A world where we not only measure profit but impact: Highlights from the Tortoise digital think-in

Broader Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing currently stands at $30 trillion; the impact investing market is worth nearly $1 trillion alone. The appetite for new financing mechanisms is gaining momentum as the drive for innovation increase in response to the pandemic. In a recent Tortoise Media think-in, Dr. Amel Karboul, EOF CEO, Sir Ronald Cohen, chair of EOF and author of a new book, Impact, and Safeena Husain, the Founder and Executive Director at Educate Girls, explored how the growing prominence of impact investment and outcomes funding could help shape the “new normal” and rise to the challenges posed by COVID-19. James Harding, Tortoise co-founder and editor, chaired the discussion with more than 200 participants on the line. Sir Ronald explained the impetus for the growing impact movement: “We are at a point now that we are asking ourselves the question if we want to invest in companies by measuring their profit alone and ignoring all the harm they do which governments then have to tax the population on to try to remedy the harm.” Currently, companies can be weighed for their environmental impact. Consumers are already pushing this idea further and voting with their wallets. As Sir Ronald said: “Young people are refusing to buy products of companies that pollute, create social problems, or refuse working for them.” Accountability can be extended to companies and governments themselves with the introduction of impact-weighted financial accounts. Sir Ronald highlighted that financial accounts can: “reflect the impact the companies deliver through their product, employment and operations on the people and the planet.” Shifting to a culture of accountability and transparency could make a huge difference across many sectors. In an already-stretched education sector, for example, impact investing could drive forward tangible change and draw new investors focused on results. Dr. Karboul said: “The OECD countries alone spend ten trillion dollars on education and health and yet they are not achieving the numbers and outcomes they want to achieve – by 2030 half of the world’s children will be failing to learn.” Funding has been allocated for education programs, but systems are still failing our children. An agile, results-based funding mechanism could create much-needed space to innovate, especially under constantly-evolving circumstances. With no end to COVID-19 in sight, Safeena Husain sounded the alarm for girls and other vulnerable populations, saying that the pandemic could compound existing inequality issues in the education system. She cited lessons learned from Ebola, when out-of-school girls tripled from 8 to 21%, and called for action to avoid making the same mistakes during the coronavirus pandemic. As we look to the future, only one thing is certain: coronavirus has accelerated the pace of change and the principles of an impact economy will play an even greater role. Watch the full think-in here.