Initiative invites investors to declare specific goals towards a higher level of sustainable investment
Friday September 28, 2012 — Camille Jensen
During Social Venture Institute’s (SVI) Marketplace of Ideas, an open forum where participants share new initiatives, Patrick Gleeson announced a pledge he hopes will inspire a greater shift to impact investing.
Called the Investing Pledge, the initiative invites investors – individuals, families, foundations, endowments, pensions or treasuries – to declare their specific goals towards a higher level of sustainable investing.
Patrick, the CEO of Meyer Family Enterprises (MFE), told participants that MFE is committing to have 100 per cent of its investments — more than $50 million — in impact investing by 2020. It also set the goal to have at least 75 per cent of its investment portfolio seeking positive social impact by 2015.
“We’re not going to get the attention of people if we’re just nibbling at their heels,” says Patrick on why MFE made the substantial commitment to shift its investments.
“I know that (impact investing) is happening. For me, it’s just not happening quickly enough.”
The Investing Pledge was conceived by SVI event organizer and Renewal Partners president and CEO Joel Solomon more than a year ago.
It’s a take on the Giving Pledge championed by Warren Buffett, which asks the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving away the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.
Joel kick-started the Investing Pledge, making the commitment to investing 95 per cent of his personal portfolio for positive impact by the year 2013. Joel’s portfolio is already investing 75 per cent in positive impact.
“My money is my vote for the world I believe in, for my values, and for future generations,” writes Joel in his Investing Pledge.
“I consider it the responsibility of current generations, who have benefited from exuberant capitalism, to ensure that the wealth we own must continually cause less damage and be directed towards positive solutions.”
Patrick says he was inspired by Joel’s commitment, and hopes his pledge sets an example and challenges other investors to get serious about changing their investments.
While Patrick says he’s found amazing like-minded organizations to help with MFE’s transition, including SureHarvest, GoodCapital, Renewal2 and HIP Investor, the impact investing industry is largely siloed. Patrick says there is still much work to do be done, as traditional financial advisors don’t take impact investing seriously.
Patrick would like to shift the expectations for impact investing, adding it shouldn’t be assumed that returns will be below market rate.
“We haven’t had the same amount of success in impact investing as traditional investing but we’re getting there,” he says, citing renewable energy and green real-estate development as bright spots.
In an effort to inspire more investors and foundations to challenge their beliefs, and financial advisors, Patrick is speaking about MFE’s pledge and experience at conferences. He says his story has been heard by hundreds of organizations, and 10 to 20 large investors and foundations have been moved into action.
“We need to tell our story, what worked, what didn’t work, and empower other impact investors to say that you can do more than 5 per cent, 10 per cent, 15 per cent of your portfolio, you can do 100 per cent,” says Patrick.
“Because at the end of the day, we view impact investing as smart investing. And those smart investments are going to be the ones that are successful because those that aren’t treating the environment correctly, that aren’t treating employees well, that don’t have the gender diversity on their teams, they are not going to survive.”
Social Venture Institute took place Sept. 12-16.
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