Role & Organisation
Senior Lecturer in Social Impact at the Centre for Social Impact, Swinburne University of Technology
Co-founder and Principal Research Associate at ImpactAbility Solutions
Founding Member at Values 20
What was your first job?
My first job was developing a locksmith business with my father just after I started high school. It was time when the economy in Poland (where I was born) was transitioning to free market after the fall of communism opening the opportunities for entrepreneurship.
My first job after graduating from university was to manage the entire administration of an industrial services company in Spain. I got the offer after working as an assistant to the CEO when I was studying at the university. It was a big challenge that put me on a steep learning curve, but it worked very well, and allowed me to develop very quickly. By the age of 25 I was in charge of a country subsidiary of a chemical company.
When did you know you wanted to work in finance/business?
Living through an entire country’s (and region) economic system transition, I found early on that business was my passion. By the time I started high school, I knew I wanted to study and work in business. What I liked about it was the diversity, I could pursue so many different avenues, work with very different people in so many industries, contexts, and countries.
When did you first discover the concept of Impact Investing?
My first contact with impact investing was about a decade ago, not long after I finished my PhD. I was employed by the University of Melbourne as a Research Fellow in Impact Investing. I worked in the team led by Associate Professor Brad Potter from accounting and Professor Prakash Singh from Management. We explored different aspects of impact including impact measurement, reporting, and how companies use business models to create impact.
During my time at the University of Melbourne I reaffirmed that impact was the area where I wanted to work and that I wanted to develop further. There is so much to do in impact and the need and urgency to do it is only growing. Hence, when the centre at the University of Melbourne was closed, I moved to CSI Swinburne where I work now.
What’s one exciting development you and your team have in the pipeline?
My team and I have dedicated a lot of time to exploring how business models create impact. We have discovered that business models use a series of different mechanisms to create impact. This mechanism perspective can be used to both assess existing and design new business models for impact. We have just finished a pilot testing of this approach with BLab exploring two Impact Business Models that are used for assessing BCorps.
Few people know how useful examining the business model mechanisms is for estimating the potential of a company for creating impact and the risks involved. We have seen some truly great examples of how these impact creating mechanisms can be combined into powerful business model structures able to change entire systems.
Developing this work, we are also looking at how impact can be converted into value for different stakeholders. Understanding how to translate impact into value is key for developing an impactful venture and can help a lot in deciding where and how to invest. We are now looking for partners to explore this approach in different problem areas like plastic pollution, unsustainable agriculture, and more.
What was the most interesting impact deal (from any team across Asia/Pacific) in the past 12 months?
I think the most interesting was the launch of Regen10 by the United Nations. This is not a particular deal, but an initiative opening new opportunities for deals. Regen10 aims to produce 50% of the world’s food in regenerative ways that create positive impact for people and the planet. Regeneration is exactly what we must focus on if we want to keep the life on the planet as we know it, and it is not limited to agriculture. Regeneration is becoming a global movement and includes a new stream of investment – regenerative investment. In Australia we have seen Innovate to Regenerate Challenge, that I see as one of the first regenerative funds, launched by WWF.
Name one high impact company (globally) that investors should keep their eye on?
There is so much happening that it is difficult to name one company. But if I have to choose, I would say it is really worth keeping your eye on the Climate Foundation. They are developing very innovative business models to regenerate life in the oceans and restore seaweed production. We have already lost up to about 90% of seaweed in some places. Climate Foundation have shown in the Philippines that it is possible to have typhoon-proof and climate resilient production of seaweed that helps restore livelihoods of coastal communities while at the same time removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They have been recently recognised for their innovations and received XPrize for Carbon Removal Milestone Award from Elon Musk. Climate Foundation is working across the world and has recently arrived in Australia.
What’s your vision for impact investing in 5 years time?
I envision that in 5 years impact investing becomes the key driver of regeneration. Regeneration opens a new space for impact investing and can take its potential for creating change to a different level. We need to build companies that restore social and natural systems to address the accelerating climate crises, and we need to shift entire systems in which businesses work. This requires innovative business models, new approaches to finance, and opens new opportunities for impact investing as finance is a powerful catalyst of change. Organisations like Climate Foundation show how much is possible.
I am actively working toward this vision not only by advancing new knowledge but also applying it directly on the ground helping organisations and investors move towards regeneration.
Finally, moving policy is another important aspect for this vision. To this end, I co-founded Values20, an engagement group to the G20 placing values in the centre of global policy addressing the world most pressing problems. This year we have made a great progress to becoming an official G20 engagement group.