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Impact Economy Research Roundup

Reports from the GIIN, USIIA, and WEF

Three recently published reports offer rich insight into different segments of the rapidly emerging Impact Economy: the Global Impact Investing Network’s (GIIN) comparative analysis of impact performance across different agricultural sub-sectors, the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance’s extensive study of corporate impact investing strategies, and the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) analysis of the most pressing risks and challenges facing the world in the next decade.​

Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) — Understanding Impact Performance: Agriculture Investing

The GIIN’s report, “Understanding Impact Performance: Agriculture Investing,” sheds light on the potential of impact investments in agriculture. These investments, deployed through a range of financial instruments such as debt, equity, and grants, are strategically designed to generate financial returns alongside significant social or environmental benefits. By channeling funds into the agricultural sector, these investments can catalyze monumental change, improving lives and transforming communities.

The GIIN’s findings translate these abstract numbers into a tangible impact on the ground. Each investment supports an average of 257 jobs annually at the financed enterprises. Although these figures might seem small in the context of global employment, their effect is profoundly felt in the specific countries where these investments are made. This is particularly the case in sub-Saharan Africa, where the impact is disproportionately large. Despite making up only half of the study’s geographic scope, this region saw 68% of the job creation.

Agricultural landscape meets the sea at sunset

Further illustrating the impact of these investments, the GIIN report presents case studies showing their role in enhancing food security and the environment. One investee organization in Kenya was able to increase agricultural productivity by 25% among smallholder farmers, leading to a 15% rise in crop yields and a 10% increment in household income. In another case, an impact investment in Ethiopia successfully reduced soil erosion by 50%, improving agricultural yield by 20%.

Despite these promising results, the report acknowledges challenges inherent in measuring the impact of such investments. It calls for the development of standardized metrics, the use of robust impact measurement tools, and fostering collaboration among investors, investees, and other stakeholders to address these challenges.

U.S. Impact Investing Alliance — Impact at Work: Corporate Impact Investing Strategies

Shifting focus from agricultural investments to corporate strategies, the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance’s report, titled “Impact at Work: Corporate Impact Investing Strategies,” explores the rapidly growing field of corporate impact investing. According to the report, corporate impact investing has grown significantly in recent years, reaching an estimated $2.4 billion in 2019. Companies engage in impact investing for three primary reasons: to advance their core business objectives, enhance their corporate citizenship, and catalyze systems-level change. The report identifies various ways that corporations can engage in impact investing, including direct investments, impact investing funds, and corporate social responsibility programs.

For a corporate impact investing strategy to be durable, the report identifies several key factors, including a clear and well-defined strategy, strong leadership and commitment from senior management, adequate resources and expertise, and a focus on impact measurement and evaluation.

People in abstract environment

The report provides a series of recommendations for corporations looking to establish or enhance durable impact investing strategies. These include building champions early, leveraging existing structures, prioritizing investment expertise, tying impact to strategy or financial return, and developing an accountability strategy. With these strategies in place, corporations can effectively drive positive change through impact investing.

World Economic Forum (WEF): The Global Risks Report 2023

Expanding from corporate strategies to global challenges, the WEF’s report “The Global Risks Report 2023” provides an analysis of the most pressing risks and challenges facing the world in the next decade. The report is based on a survey of over 1,000 experts and decision-makers from various sectors and regions, who assessed the likelihood and impact of 30 global risks across five categories: economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal, and technological.

The report identifies five key areas of concern for the future:

  • The pandemic paradox: The report warns that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated deep-rooted inequalities and vulnerabilities in the world, while also creating new opportunities for cooperation and innovation. The report urges leaders to seize this moment to build a more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable future or risk facing more severe and frequent crises in the future.
  • The climate crossroads: The report highlights that the world is at a critical juncture in its response to the climate crisis as the window of opportunity to limit global warming to 1.5°C is rapidly closing. The report calls for urgent and ambitious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance adaptation and resilience, and foster a green and circular economy.
  • The digital dependency: The report emphasizes that the digital transformation of the world has accelerated during the pandemic, bringing both benefits and risks. The report warns that the growing reliance on digital technologies and data poses challenges for cybersecurity, privacy, human rights, social cohesion, and governance. The report also stresses the need to bridge the digital divide and ensure equitable access to digital opportunities.
  • The social fragmentation: The report notes that the pandemic has intensified social polarization and fragmentation across the world, as people have experienced different levels of hardship, isolation, and misinformation. The report cautions that these trends could undermine trust, cooperation, and democracy, and fuel violence and extremism. The report also advocates for fostering social dialogue and solidarity, and addressing the root causes of social discontent.
  • The geopolitical gridlock: The report observes that the pandemic has exacerbated geopolitical tensions and rivalries among major powers, as well as regional conflicts and instability. The report warns that these dynamics could hamper global cooperation and collective action on critical issues such as health, climate, trade, and security. The report also urges leaders to strengthen multilateralism and diplomacy, and to pursue constructive engagement and dialogue.

The report concludes that the world is facing a pivotal moment in its history where the decisions taken today will shape the future for generations to come. The report also emphasizes that no one can tackle these global risks alone and that collective action and collaboration are essential for building a more resilient inclusive and sustainable world.

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