Day 1 of the festival of impact is behind us, but we’re just getting started.

It brought together a diverse representation of investors, entrepreneurs and change-makers, all united by the drive to shift our economy to a more equal and sustainable model.

After a two-year hiatus it was both exciting and surreal to have so many people together and engaged. The connection of an in-person event can’t be matched, and the opportunity to meet new people is a powerful convening force that enriches the community.

The event is growing, and the industries represented are expanding. There were more social enterprises, inquisitive not-for-profits, investors from a wider spectrum of financial services, and lots of consultants and intermediaries in-between.

The event began with a welcome to country by Uncle Ray Minniecon, Kabikabi and Gurang-Gurang man.

‘My responsibility is to care for the land of which I live so that our children’s children can live a happy, healthy, and prosperous life on the land of the Gadigal People. Today, let’s affirm our connection to this land.’

It set the tone for an exploration of wisdom, courage and action. Climate change is ravishing the world, and in Australia we’re going to need the wisdom of indigenous elders to help correct course.

Amit Bouri with Mary Delahunty

Via satellite from New York, Amit Bouri beamed in to share his deep experience, and insights. He’s the founding CEO of the Global Impact Investment Network, and his team have this month delivered their Impact Performance Benchmark.

In conversation with Mary Delahuntey, he explained that Net-zero is bringing impact to the whole portfolio.

“It can start with a small allocation, a carve out of the portfolio. But we need to move the lens of impact to the total portfolio level.

It creates a model to view their entire portfolio through a lens of impact on the climate crisis. And it’s not theoretical, it’s happening as we speak.” Amit says.

The Critical Decade, and the Role of Government

Christine Clarke is Ambassador for Women and Girls at DFAT. She took the stage and she took everyone’s attention as spoke with passion about the urgent need to view investing through a gender lens.

“Now is the time to pull out all stops on gender lens investing. It reduces risk, and unleashes opportunity!” Christine Clark said,

“I’m not a finance professional, and many of you may not see themselves as gender experts. So let’s work together.”

The Axis of Equity and Inclusion – with Rosemary Addis

The Australian impact investment community is fortunate to be anchored by someone as compassionate and competent as Rosemary Addis, her resume is long, and her impact on the eco-system is harder to measure than a regional education program.

On day one she brought us two powerful conversations.

First, she spoke to Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation.

Darren’s insight’s were profound and articulate. He’s experienced discrimination and exclusion first-hand, and he’s now turning the resources of the Ford Foundation to breaking the cycle.

“Equity and inclusion, is among the most important issues facing the world. Certainly for a democracy like Australia or the US. Both of our counties are extradentary places, with strong histories and traditions and charity.”

“But… indigenous peoples have been marginalised, discriminated against. They’ve consistently been excluded from the bounty of prosperity that’s been enjoyed by many.

“We simply cannot sustain the current level of inequality.”

“Have can we level the playing field, to bring those up who have been left behind? We need business leaders to play a role. It’s not just NGOs and civil society. We need the private sector, we need you all, it’s hard work, but it’s vital.”

“For those of us who have been winners in the economy, we like to think that we earned it. But even for those of us who began with humble origins, there are still advantages that we had, that others were excluded from. And we need to work to change the system, to benefit more people.”

Rosemary then also brought us a very different conversation with Nigel Kershaw.

Nigel is the founder of The big Issue, in some ways, it’s the original social enterprise. And Nigel eschews the familiar impact investment jargon for a layman’s focus on genuine impact, for beneficiaries right in front of him.

“I have the advantage of not coming from a financial background, so anything is possible.” He says.

“For me, there’s never been a contradiction between my business and my social impact. We had no strategy, it just felt like the right thing to do.”

“The most important thing is not trying to be the mainstream. We are the mainstream! And we want to bring others to join us.”

“We shouldn’t try to imitate the mainstream. We need to be ourselves.”

A New Era: How Impact Investing Scales with Integrity

Louise Walsh led a conversation between Andy Kuper, founder of Leapfrog, and Australia’s most well-networked person, David Gonski.

It’s hard to describe Andy’s firm, Leapfrog Investments, it stands alone in Australia and indeeed globally. It defies comparison, but continues to grow its influence.

As David Gonski said, “I originally thought you needed to keep your philanthropy separate from your business. But then I met this guy, and he changed my whole thinking.

What he said is, there’s this huge pool of money going into profit making, why shouldn’t it go into impact.”

Leapfrog describes its beneficiaries as ‘emerging consumers’, they support fast growth mid-size businesses in Africa, and Asia.

“I realised the most scalable thing in this world is business. If they scale well, they can serve millions or billions of people. And the money needs to come from capital markets.’ Andy says.

It’s all about long-term thinking:

“But if you take an emerging market focus, then it must be a long term view, about the growth of a region. When I first met the head of Temasek, he asked me are you looking for a ten year relationship or a 100 year relationship.” Andy said.

“When I started, long term was next Thursday.” David added.

As the reach of impact investing grows, we must focus on scaling with integrity.

“The risk is that investors can’t tell the difference between impact-deep and impact-light. And then you throw in the complication of impact-washing.” Andy said.

“The early arguments that impact investing is not consistent with fiduciary duty, has been completely thrown out.” Andy said.

“There are global funds that are putting hundreds of millions of dollars into this, it’s happening. Now.”

Endowments to Impact

“A huge group of trusts and foundations don’t even have any screening of their portfolios, let alone an impact strategy. Which is staggering, when you think they’re driven by their mission.”

Simon Lewis explained, as he led a panel that explored the very pertinent issue of unlocking the billions of capital held by trusts and foundations in their corpus.

  • Moderator: Simon Lewis (Goodwolf)
  • Cathy Scalzo (Grace & Emilio Foundation)
  • Liz Gillies (CEO, Menzies Foundation)
  • Rajiv Viswanathan (Trustee, Consultant)
  • Tim Macready (Brightlight)

As Tim Macready from Brightlight explained, “We did a broad research projects across trusts and foundations, and we found 7 areas of resistance.”

  • Persistent dualism
  • Prevailing myths
  • Fiduciary issues
  • Trust governance
  • Market maturity
  • Investment advisors
  • Impactreporting

Rajiv Viswanathan consults with foundations and he observed that, “The bulk of advisors are not in this room, and not clued in to impact.”

“Foundations have a strong sense of purpose, and they focus on ESG, but they haven’t really immersed themselves in the world of impact. Most NFPs are aligned with one of the major financial groups, but aren’t really empowered to see the opportunity.”

Liz Gillies offered deep insights into her and her team’s journey to setup an investment vehicle to support science entrepreneurs, but it wasn’t easy. They issued a grant to do the initial scoping work, and to plan a potential vehicle. And eventually they were able to build a pipeline of science entrepreneurs, and begin to invest inline with their core mission.

Gender Lens Roadmap

The GLI Roadmap is a momentous effort from both Impact Investing Australia and Capital Human.

This session explored the need the drove its production, and the huge opportunity that exists to augment an investment strategy towards a gender-based approach.

  • Sabina Curatolo (Partner & Head of Impact, Bridges Australia)
  • Manita Ray (Capital Human and SDG Finance and Gender Equality Specialist, UNDP)
  • Matt Patsky (CEO, Trillium Asset Management)
  • Kim Farrant (HESTA)
  • Alison Pyott (Veris Wealth Partners)

Manita Ray from Capital Human delivered an overview that highlighted the staggering depth of this report. It offers 280 investment models. It’s intersectional, covering key asset classes, and investment types. There’s an approach for everyone.

Sabina Curatolo from Bridges Australia outlined the ‘Three I’s approach’. A model that helps investors to integrate GLI into their strategy and decision making processes:

Internal Operations

Investment Processes

Influence on System.

Post COP26 where the rubber meets the road

Investing in renewables and clean tech

This next session was moderated by yours truly!

I was joined by an all-star panel to discuss a Post COP26 world, exploring how climate-tech and renewables can help us accelerate the energy transition.

  • Moderator: John Treadgold
  • Ian Learmonth, CEO, Clean Energy Finance Corporation
  • Amanda Cahill, CEO, The Next Economy
  • Tom Kline, Co-Head, Climate Tech, Investible
  • Lane Crockett, Executive Director, Sentient

There was rapid consensus that no, we’re not moving fast enough, and then the panel discussed their unique levers for influence, and where they see the greatest opportunities.

Ian from CEFC discussed the firm’s achievement of $10 billion in allocations towards climate tech and renewables since their founding.

Amanda, explained the issues on the ground, in regional areas and in industries that have the potential to be displaced. Her team aims to engage with communities and industry and governments, to ensure no-one is left behind in the transition.

Tom from Investible laid out some of the most exciting new clean-tech opportunities, and the power of supporting startups in their early stages, focussing on both impact and financial risk.

And Lane Crockett from newly founded Sentient added that we also need regulators to come to the party. The private sector is doing the heavy lifting in an atmosphere where the polluters are getting of scot-free.

Radical Transformation of the Housing market in Australia, with Evan Thornley

This was a fast-paced analysis of the problems with the Australian hosuing market, and a radical investment approach to try and change it.

At the end, Mel Greblo echoed the sentiments of many of us when she said, “Wow, I’ve got A LOT of questions.”

Evan’s provocation is that home ownership is broken, and that the status quo is bad for both rental tenants and landlords a like.

“Renting in Australia is a terrible experience. And it’s not because of landlords, most of them are great. But what’s clear is that owning your own home is a far better experience.”

Read here for a deep-dive on the strategy.

Stay tuned

Phew! That was just the first day.

Stay tuned for the wrap on day 2 coming soon.  

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