In early April, the Cloverleaf team attended the annual Impact Investment Summit in Sydney. The theme this year was ‘Mainstreaming Impact’, and it’s been of great interest to see the debate unfold.
Many Australian impact investing pioneers feel that a conversation about ‘mainstreaming’ is to dilute the quality of investments and impact. Others believe that shifting the conversation, product and capital into the mainstream will scale impact faster and more effectively than if it stays a fringe concept for boutique investors.
At Cloverleaf, we’re biased; we are trying to bring large infrastructure investors, for whom ESG is important, into smaller social-impact projects, which will accumulate into a meaningful investment at scale.
Throughout the two-day conference, keynote speakers entreated impact investors in the room to deploy capital faster. Others pitched for capital, showcasing new start-ups, pilot projects and fast growing businesses which are making a profit as well as an impact. One speaker reminded us that a significant roadblock exists, while Australia’s largest institutional capital (industry and superannuation funds) continue to largely sit on the sidelines. To be fair, they invest significant sums in utility scale solar and wind, especially where long term power purchase agreements are in place. However there is a lot more to be done to achieve impact commensurate with the climate and social challenges we are facing.
Summit sessions ranged from gender lens investing, the relationship between wellbeing and impact, technology and impact, institutions and impact, portfolio building, capital raising and social and affordable housing. The latter being of particular interest to Cloverleaf as we are working to develop and build social and affordable housing in Victoria, NSW and Queensland as we speak.
The panel on affordable housing wasn’t as positive as we’d like. With housing opportunities facing headwinds across the board we continue to see challenges to project feasibility, due to high interest rates and strained State Government budgets.
Which brings us back to collaboration and community. There is much we can do together that we can’t do apart. Cloverleaf invests in projects as part of a consortium, so this mantra fits hand in glove with our culture. We attend the Social Impact Investment Summit and similar conferences to build our network of like-minded investors and organisations we can work with. We are solely focussed on the energy transition and community housing sectors and welcome a conversation if theirs overlap.