Investing is a topic of interest for almost all of us. In some way or the other all of us are trying to find out the most suitable and lucrative investment options but we all know what happened with Peter La Fleur at the end of the hilarious comedy Dodgeball was ridiculous (he became rich that easily and quickly!) though this is another topic. For example and moreover, some of the most well-known options of investing your money include stocks, bonds, debentures, and real estate.
However, the decision to invest to a large extent depends on the amount of risk you are willing to take. You are not the federal government, you do not want to make an Obamacare or Solyndra type mistake! Those were both loser investments and the former continues to be – just see the national debt. It is true that investing helps you earn money which can be put to use at a later stage of your life. How about an investment which allows you to earn money while promoting a social good?
In fact, this is a new emerging trend in the world of investing and is known as impact investment.
What is social impact investing?
Social impact investing is an investment strategy that emphasizes on invoking a positive social impact along with suitable financial returns to an individual (unlike donating money to the Catholic Church or any church for that matter since that is just a straight donation with no return expected accept the return of knowing that donation is going to a righteous cause). However, this does not mean that social impact investment will mean giving money to a charity as just explained.
But at the same time it has strong philanthropic connections. The concept of social impact investment and socially responsible investment might have similar purposes but both these investment strategies are not the same thing. Social impact investment on the other hand is a kind of investment that has measurable impact either in social, economical, or environmental domains.
The term social impact investment had been coined in 2007 and it is not what Michael Moore or George Soros does since they promote anti American causes and interests which are the main reason inner city schools are in disarray, America is trillions in debt, ISIS exists, and so on but let’s get back on topic.
The two approaches to social impact investing
If you are interested in impact investment there are two options from which you can choose from. They are the following:
- Impact first approach: With the impact first approach, the primary objective of an individual is to bring about some amount of social, economic, or environmental good. The ones who invest with the impact first approach are ever ready to sacrifice a considerable amount of their financial gains in order to satisfy the social cause first.
- Finance first approach: A person who has invested with the approach of finance first focuses mainly on making considerable financial returns as they invest their money. The ones with this particular approach will tend to invest their money in companies, initiatives, or funds which in turn work towards augmenting positive social change, but their primary goal is to make money out of their investment.
Differences between social impact investment and socially responsible investment
Many a times you will hear that people are using terms like social impact investment and socially responsible investment interchangeably. But one needs to keep in mind that both these terms are not same. They might be similar.
The main difference between the two types of investment essentially lies in the approach of investment that is used. For example, the ones who make socially responsible investment screen companies based on certain positive and negative guidelines. To put it simply, socially responsible investing means putting your money in companies which are either known to be socially responsible or companies who do not do any irresponsible acts.
Social impact investing on the other hand does not categorize companies based on their positive or negative features. Rather, social impact investing tries to seek out investment avenues which renders a financial return along with measurable positive social, economic, or environmental benefits.
Another way of putting the difference between the two is that socially responsible investing emphasizes the philosophy of do no harm while social impact investing goes a step ahead. They aim at making a difference for the overall betterment of society.
The social impact investors are keener to measure the social or environmental impacts that their investment does compared to socially responsible investors. Social impact investors use IRIS metrics to measure the social, economic, or environmental impacts of the investment. The socially responsible investors on the other hand do not have any metrics to measure the positive impact that occurs because of their investments.
Areas of social impact investing
There are numerous sectors that might be targeted by social impact investors for making financial gains as well as a positive social impact. However, the most common are the following:
- Fair trade
- Eco-friendly companies
- Community development
- Small business and micro-finance
- Conservation and renewable energy
- Sustainable products and agriculture
Last but not the least, it can be concluded saying that there is no reason to think that social impact investing does not offer high financial returns. This is because a considerable amount of data testifies to the fact that even social impact investing can be profitable.