Impact Quarterly

Impact Forum is coming to Singapore

IIX and Shujog are hosting our biggest Impact Forum to date on June 25 and 26 in Singapore as a culmination of our pioneering achievements thus far, including the upcoming launch of Impact Exchange – Asia’s first social stock exchange.

Impact Forum is a global conference focusing on examining the latest developments in Impact Investing and Social Enterprise in Asia Pacific. The Forum is bringing together over 500 participants-bankers, lawyers, social entrepreneurs, academics, and high government officials from across the globe. Utilizing IIX and Shujog’s on-the-ground experience and our extensive network of movers and shakers of the Asian Impact Investing and Social Enterprise spaces, the Impact Forum 2012 will provide a unique opportunity to learn, engage, and deepen experiences and relationships in these spaces. Register now!

THE MEANING BEHIND THE BRAND

CORUM PRIORITIZES CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Luxury brands are under more scrutiny than ever before. Increasingly, customers are demanding to know not just what a global niche luxury watch brand like Corum values, but also how it stands behind these values. “Today’s consumer likes to go beyond the marketing tag line to see what values the brand truly stands for,” says Corum’s Regional Managing Director Deepa Chatrath. What does this trend mean for corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives?

Luxury brands are adopting corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a method for both growing their businesses and supporting the environments in which they operate. Corum, a niche luxury watch brand, is one such company that actively contributes to community causes ranging from muscular dystrophy to environmental protection.

“Today’s consumer likes to go behind the brand, beyond the marketing tag line to see what values the brand truly stands for,” says Deepa Chatrath, Regional Managing Director for Corum Singapore Pte Ltd. “It is not possible to fake it.”

Corum has established over 450 leading retail outlets around the globe, and while the company values heritage and artisan skills in its products, it is also firmly dedicated to CSR initiatives and empowerment of women.

“Look at the contribution migrant women make to their national GDP, look at the care-givers in Singapore,” says Chatrath. “Micro-finance growth happened because giving small loans to women unleashed an entrepreneurial streak inherent in women, they stepped forward to find solutions for first their family, then their communities.” Chatrath also notes the Self-Employed Women’s Association of India’s (SEWA) founder Ela Bhatt as a strong example of a woman leader in social enterprise.

Chatrath says there are passionate individuals brimming with workable ideas in sectors from rural lighting to eco-tourism, but they are cash-strapped. “I feel social enterprises and economic empowerment are going to fundamentally change the lives of women across Asia and Africa.”

Looking forward, we will see more brands and organizations getting on board with CSR initiatives like Diageo, Coca Cola and WaterHealth International’s innovative water partnership in Africa and Citibank’s commitment to the microfinance industry.

SHUJOG IN BANGLADESH

In April 2011, Shujog sent its research team, Magnus Young and Shlesha Thapaliya, to Dhaka, Bangladesh as part of its impact assessment mission. The team was continuously reminded of the importance of leveraging local knowledge to empower people in a broad-based sustainable way – a primary principle underpinning all of Shujog’s impact assessment work. What did local entrepreneurs have to say?


By Magnus Young, Shujog Research Associate
From April 3 to 6 2011 the Shujog research team was in Dhaka, where we had the opportunity to conduct Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS) assessments of subsidiaries of ASA International – our host during the trip. ASAI coordinates the activities of its subsidiaries based on the experience of ASA – Bangladesh’s third largest microfinance organization.

During the trip, we visited rural branches and interviewed individual entrepreneurs who have made use of ASA’s microloans. The social entrepreneurs we met with welcome scrutiny and impact reporting, as it highlights the difference they are making every day. From the entrepreneur perspective, understanding the impact of their efforts enables them to engage the right kind of investors while promoting social leadership and best practices across sectors and national borders.

Through our work we saw the power mission-driven replication of successful social enterprises like ASA can have on individual beneficiaries. We believe Shujog impact assessment work and contextualization of social entrepreneurship across Asia will be a catalyst for sustainable growth in the coming years.

NEW SPACE FOR BANKERS

NOMURA BANKER SPEAKS OUT FOR IMPACT INVESTING

Bankers are getting on board with impact investing, finding innovative ways to use their skills and experiences for social good. Inés Noé is one such banker championing the impact investing movement within Nomura International Hong Kong. “I am ready to use my skills in a new and rewarding manner,” says Noé. What is drawing her in?

Although the idea of social investing in Hong Kong and China is still in its nascent stages, bankers are getting on board with the idea of rechanneling their skills and experience towards initiatives of social good. Inés Noé is one such banker looking to take part in the movement.

“After many years working both in banking and in law, I am ready to use my skills in a new and rewarding manner,” says Noé.

Noé, Managing Director of Debt Origination at Nomura International in Hong Kong, is striving to get involved in the impact investing sphere on both corporate and personal levels. She believes that bankers have a lot to offer this up-and-coming space.

“Bankers can bring their execution experience and know-how to SEs to prepare them for the impact investment market,” she says.

As an intrapreneur championing a movement towards impact investing within Nomura, Noé is spreading the word among the banking community.

“The economics are there – it’s just a matter of time. I am trying to make sure that people at Nomura are aware of the growth and development of the impact investment market so we can match these investment opportunities with SEs, whether for-profit or not-for-profit.”

ACTIVE SOLUTIONS

HONG KONG ADOPTS IMPACT INVESTING TO CURB SOCIAL PROBLEMS

Hong Kong is home to diverse parties willing to invest financial, intellectual and human capital in innovative ways to achieve social impact. “No one will deny that Hong Kong has crowds of enthusiastic businessmen, corporations and people who want to give a helping hand to society,” says Francis Ngai, founder and CEO of Social Ventures Hong Kong. Why does social enterprise play a critical role in Hong Kong and China?

Hong Kong is becoming a hot spot for impact investing and venture philanthropy, with networks like Social Ventures Hong Kong (SVHK) leading the way.

“No one will deny that Hong Kong has crowds of enthusiastic businessmen, corporations and people coming from different backgrounds who want to give a helping hand to society,” says SVHK founder and CEO Francis Ngai.

SVHK, a subsidiary of the 30S Group, was established in 2007 and aims to support social purpose organizations or SEs in Hong Kong. According to SVHK, Hong Kong is home to diverse parties willing to invest financial, intellectual and human capital in new approaches to achieving social impact. The expert knowledge and business networks in Hong Kong can help social enterprises (SEs) develop top-quality business proposals and extensive networks.

Social enterprise has the potential to play a critical role in Hong Kong and China. SVHK cites four main areas in which SE can make a difference: 1. Services for the elderly in response to the one-child policy, 2. Services for the poor in response to severe income disparity in major Chinese cities, 3. Social inclusiveness of disabled and minority populations, and 4. Innovative solutions for environmental pollution.

“China is choking with all types of pollution: air, water, sound, light, and our landfills are full.” Ngai says China is longing for innovative ideas to implement sustainable solutions.

Hong Kong has traditionally relied on government welfare and philanthropic funds to support those “within the safety net.” But as urban social problems complicate further, impact investing must step up build a bridge between mainstream investment money and social good.

INVESTING IN ASIA

VENTURE PHILANTHROPY NETWORK TO LAUNCH IN SINGAPORE

The Asia Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) plans to help the venture philanthropy (VP) space across Asia grow with its new Singapore-based platform set to launch in 2012. According to AVPN, experience, capital and knowledge exchange between its members can multiply social impact. Why does AVPN believe Asia is more than ready for VP and impact investing?

The Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) has established itself in Singapore to bolster the ecosystem of venture philanthropy, which adopts techniques from venture capital to achieve philanthropic goals. The network aims to bring together practitioners, private equity firms, the broader financial investment community, foundations, private banks, family offices and businesses in Asia.

“It’s very important that private investors, donors and the private sector play an active role in developing the social sector,” says AVPN Advisor and CEO Simon Chadwick. “The cross-fertilization of experiences, sector knowledge and capital along with hands-on engagement can multiply social impact.”

The AVPN model is based on its sister organization, the European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA). EVPA is a membership association comprised of organizations interested in or practicing venture philanthropy in Europe and was established in 2004. AVPN ramped up its operations in Singapore this year and is set to launch officially in 2012, with country offices in Japan and India.

“There is a rapid growth in social enterprise and philanthropy taking place,” says Chadwick of the Asia market. AVPN has been pleased with the level of interest in VP in the region, and predicts that new funds will form in the future both in Singapore and the wider ASEAN region.

With the support of networks like AVPN, the social enterprise investment market has strong potential to grow and be effective in the Asia Pacific region. AVPN plans to have direct representation in China and other countries over the next several years as its membership continues to grow.