Impact Investing in Australia

‘The fact that I paint an aspiration, doesn’t mean I don’t see the 27 fire dragons and pits between us and it’

Having recently finished a series on Impact Investment in Australia for ABC Radio National, this comment from local change maker Rosemary Addis is a neat summary of where we’re at. Energy and enthusiasm abound with plenty of obstacles still to master.

Addis is calling for more ‘crunchy’ conversations in the industry which appears entirely achievable given the willingness of players to share information, skills, energy and time.

This willingness stems from a belief, that at its heart, Impact Investing is a ‘redistribution of wealth’ tool: a popular Australian ideal. In ‘fair-go’ Australia the Impact Investing idea has landed on fertile soil and the rate of take up will be rapid.

Proof is in the energetic Impact Investment culture emerging. NSW has positioned itself as a leader, by hosting the first two Social Benefit Bonds and one of the largest impact investments in the country, the GoodStart childcare initiative with a core principle to improve outcomes for the most disadvantaged of Australian children 0-5.

At a recent national conference hosted by the Centre for Social Impact, regular players were surprised by both the number and diversity of new entrants, but these old hands eagerly laid open their minds and experience for scrutiny. The emerging enterprises included “Buffed” a shoe shine franchise retraining long term unemployed, “LooLoo Paper” using the profits from selling bulk toilet paper to fund toilet building in developing communities and StartSomeGood a crowd sourcing platform raising money for other social enterprises.

What’s interesting from an Asian perspective – is that more than 30% of enterprises pitching at the conference are already working into Asia or planning to do so.

Debate here centres on scale. Plenty of small social enterprises are making incremental change, but how can the industry harness the big money, Australia’s superannuation pool?

Not enough ‘investment ready’ large scale enterprises currently exist here and there is skepticism that the non profit sector lacks the business discipline and skills to speed up growth. However if the sector employs its trademark openness and collaboration, like fire to the dragon, Impact Investing can become a tool of spectacular power.

Listen on demand to the 5 part Impact Investment Series ABC Radio National Saturday Extra.


Rebecca Gorman,
Australian Social Policy Journalist.