HARNESSING THE POWER OF IMPACT INVESTING: A PANEL DISCUSSION MODERATED BY DR. RODIN

On September 29, 2011, Impact Investment Exchange Asia (IIX) partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation and INSEAD to host a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Judith Rodin, the President of the Rockefeller Foundation. The discussion focused on the increasingly important role of impact investing in creating sustainable growth.

The panel discussed the importance of harnessing the power of impact investing to create sustainable social, environmental, and financial development throughout Asia. In light of the Formula One race in Singapore the following week, in her opening remarks, Dr. Rodin compared “the epic triathlon of globalization, urbanization, and climate change” to F1 racing, saying that the triathlon faced a “dangerous race with a treacherous course that will define the 21st century.”  Dr. Rodin underscored the importance of innovation in tackling the world’s current economic challenges. Such innovations include impact investing and platforms like Impact Partners™ of Impact Investment Exchange Asia, which come in to connect mission aligned investors with social enterprises seeking investment capital.

The panel featured Bart Edes, Director, Poverty Reduction, Gender, and Social Development, Asia Development Bank (ADB); Matthew Gamser, Head, Access to Finance Advisory, International Finance Corporation; Sumita Ghose, CEO, Rangsutra; and Kishore Moorjani, Founder and Managing Partner, Credit Asia Capital.

The discussion saw an emphasis on the importance of Asia in determining world economic outcomes –as Dr. Rodin stated, “Asia accounts for almost a third of the world’s economic output, and will be home to one half of the world’s middle class population by 2020, if not before.”  Asia is also home to many health-related challenges such as malnutrition and HIV/AIDS, and bears much of the burden of climate change. In discussing the potential hurdles to impact investing, Edes commented that knowledge about impact investing is still thin on the ground, but that the ADB is playing a role by “providing some analysis such as mapping of the SEs of the countries, the sphere of impact investors and what they are looking for.” Moorjani pointed out that “it took 20 years for venture capital to mobilize as a field”; however, in an age where social media prevails, one can hope that it will not take as long for impact investing to become an established field. Furthermore, Gamser stated that “We don’t do enough in south-south exchange, we’re still too dominated by north-south thinking,” suggesting that Asia should now increasingly be the source of investors as well as the destination of the investments.

Ghose provided insights into the advantages of having private capital investors, and she stated that a main benefit was “quicker results.”  There is also an element of discipline that comes from having private investors – one of the main sources of appeal in impact investing is the application of a private sector business model to these social enterprises.

The panel discussion was attended by an audience of over 250 people from varied backgrounds, including banking, finance, government, and social entrepreneurship. During the Q&A, members of the audience addressed important questions; in one such notable question, an audience member drew attention to the issue of ratings systems for these businesses, a base that Impact Investment Shujog covers in its impact assessment reports. In the triathlon to tackle globalization, urbanization and climate change, impact investing—which Dr. Rodin likens as “the new groundbreaking product of the market”— offers an option that appeals to both individuals and corporations.

The full speech can be found at (http://www.asiaiix.com/2011/10/iix-highlighted-in-rockefeller-trip-to-singapore/), and for more information on Asia IIX please log on to (http://www.asiaiix.com/).