Investments intended to create positive impact beyond financial return
Impact investments are investments intended to create positive impact beyond financial return. This definition captures the key themes characterizing impact investments as illustrated in Figure 1: impact investments provide capital, expecting financial returns, to businesses (fund managers or companies) designed with the intent to generate positive social and/or environmental impact.
Investors and investments range broadly, across sectors and objectives
A variety of investor types participate, including development finance institutions, foundations, private wealth managers, commercial banks, pension fund managers, boutique investment funds, companies and community development finance institutions. These investors operate across multiple business sectors, including agriculture, water, housing, education, health, energy and financial services (Figure 2). Their impact objectives can range from mitigating climate change to increasing incomes and assets for poor and vulnerable people. Investments take the form of traditional financial structures, such as debt or equity, or more innovative structures, such as the Social Impact Bond issued in the UK, where returns are linked to metrics of social performance such as reduction in prisoner reoffending rates.
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