The point of view of an impact investor – redefining the concepts of risk and retour

The notion of a trade-off between financial, social and environmental returns has dominated the impact investing debateuptonow. Bamboo Finance views these components in terms of a total return that needs to be maxi- mized and it does not believe that profits have to be sacrificed in return for a greater social and environmental impact. It claims that it is possible both to maximize profits and achieve social and environmental benefits by investing in the equity of businesses that provide essential products and services to low and lower-middle income consu- mers in emerging economies.

Low-income households in emerging markets are already consumers of essential goods and services (healthcare, energy, financial services, agriculture for example), but they often pay dearly for very poor quality. Access to new and / or improved products and services can have an immediate positive impact on their quality of life. The social, environmental and economic impact can be intrinsically linked to the products and services, and profit and impact objectives can be achieved simultaneously. A trade-off is not necessary.

It is important to note that impact investing is still in its infancy. Certain sectors are ripe for investment but others are still testing the viability of business models. Microfinance was among the first sectors selected for impact investment. New financial services models have emerged to serve the unbanked more effectively and financial services for low-income consumer remains a high growth, high value and high impact sector. Bamboo Finance’s investment in the Mongolian TenGer Financial Group is a case in point (BOX) and there are also enormous social and environmental impact investment opportunities in clean energy, agriculture and healthcare.

Read more on the blog Private Sector & Development realized by Proparco


A few lessons from the DFID impact fund exper ...

While poor people in developing countries are more than willing to pay for basic goods and services, the existing private sector solutions in place so far do not allow them to meet such needs effectively. They often have to pay higher prices for similar goods and services, or settle for inferior quality.

We believe that development finance institutions have an important role to play in boosting private initiatives as social and profitable businesses. DFID decided to enter the impact investment market to tackle some of the significant challenges it faces (including market fragmentation, information mismatch and limited fund manager ability to measure the social and environmental performance of impact investments). It is in this way that the DFID Impact Programme was created in 2012. As a key part of this Programme, the USD75m DFID Impact fund was established to invest in businesses that generate benefits for the poor while also achieving profitability. This facility, which is managed by CDC, the UK’s development finance institution, uses a ‘fund-of-fund’ approach – CDC selects and partners fund managers. The USD40m DFID Impact Accelerator Facility, also managed by CDC, invests directly in transformative enterprises. In the short term, these funds will use the capital raised to boost co-investor confidence through robust due diligence of investees’ financial returns and development impact, and by offering limited potential subordination to private investors where necessary to catalyse their participation. In the longer term, they aim to raise additional capital by demonstrating the financial viability and positive impact of pro-poor business models.

Read more on the blog of Private Sector & Development realized by Proparco