Global Impact Initiative (GII) is set to launch a dedicated impact investment fund aimed at promoting gender equality and empowerment of women and girls, for the Australian market. 

The managed fund will invest in a universe of global listed companies which have high standards of gender equality. It will assess metrics such as board representation, workforce recruitment, remuneration as well as parental leave and pay policies, all aiming to produce a portfolio of companies that are positively impacting women.

There is then an additional layer of impact through the option for investors to contribute their income (dividends) or their capital gains (or both) to a suite of high-profile charities that are dedicated to improving women and girls’ social and economic empowerment, stopping violence against girls, education, vaccinations, health and nutrition. 

GII has partnered with Grameen Australia, Malala Fund, UN Women, UNICEF and World Vision to deliver projects that offer measurable social impact. The focus will be on addressing specific SDG targets, with outcomes mapped to the global goals. 

The CEO and founder of GII, Giles Gunesekera, said of the launch, “This has been many years in the planning, and we’re excited to be launching a Fund that offers investors the opportunity to have a significant impact on the lives and well-being of women and girls here in Australia and globally. The fact they can do so whilst also generating attractive returns from their investments will, we hope, encourage a swathe of investors into impact investing and the area of gender equality especially.”

Beyond the ethical imperative of driving gender equality, there is a very pragmatic economic benefit to empowering women. Credit Suisse analysed more than 3,000 companies and showed that those with more women in senior management outperformed in terms of share price and return on equity. 

According to Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, in relation to the benefits of offering micro-loans to women, “We saw that money going to women brought much more benefit to the family than money going to the men. So we changed our policy and gave a high priority to women. As a result, now 96% of our four million borrowers in Grameen Bank are women.”

Equity Trustees will be the responsible entity for the fund. The Chair, Carol Schwartz, supports the business imperative of having more women in leadership positions,

“Having gender equality around decision-making tables, and integrated throughout an organisation, is absolutely crucial to ensuring it’s a high performing one. A growing cohort of investors are recognising this, and so it’s fantastic we can offer this global fund opportunity via Equity Trustees.

“This theme is reflected in the International Women’s Day focus on ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’, which celebrates the high impact roles played by female political, economic and health leaders, whilst reinforcing the need to grow the critical mass of female leaders globally.”  

Beyond the fund’s emphasis on women and girls, it will also have a primary negative screen that will actively avoid alcohol, gaming, tobacco, weapons, fossil fuels and adult entertainment companies. 

The fund will be managed by Robeco, aiming to outperform the broad MSCI World index.

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