A nationwide, non-profit resource center that has created in-depth training programs to educate local investors and business owners in the nuts and bolts of creating local investing networks in their regions. In addition to the free training guides, LIRC hosts forums for local investors and entrepreneurs, and a nationwide directory of local investing groups (already featuring over 30 groups from coast to coast). Visit their website.
The US SIF Foundation publishes a biennial report on the current scope of sustainable, responsible and impact investing in the U.S. See latest report.
The Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS, pronounced “gears”) is a system used to assess the social and environmental impact of companies and funds in developed and emerging markets. It uses a ratings and analytics approach similar to Morningstar’s investment ratings and Capital IQ’s financial analytics. Run by B Lab, GIIRS provides a series of tools that impact investors can use to aid them in making intelligent impact investing decisions. B Analytics, a tool launched in late 2014, is a customizable platform used to measure, benchmark and report on impact. Visit website.
A growing number of funds, brokers, and clearinghouses are directing investor capital into socially- and environmentally-oriented projects around the world. At this time, most of the investments are shares of funds, open just to accredited investors. However, some of these projects have opportunities for other investors, including limited crowdfunding, and Direct Public Offerings open to all. This is a very partial list of these sorts of opportunities.
About impact offerings
This chart from Cutting Edge Capital is a good introduction to four different types of offerings (DPO, donation-based crowdfunding, current accredited-only 506c offerings, and soon-to-be-available non-accredited crowdfunded investing opportunities under new SEC rules).
Clearinghouse of mostly-established consumer product companies looking for additional investment. At present, accredited investors only, but once SEC rulemaking is complete, plans to open crowdfunding opportunities for smaller investors.
CuttingEdgeX is a clearinghouse that lists a variety of Direct Public Offerings, in which investors purchase shares of a fund that pays annual dividends, with the principle being redeemed after a specified period. Open to non-accredited investors.
By pooling investors’ capital, Greenbacker acquires a diversified portfolio of income-producing renewable energy power plants, energy efficiency projects, and other sustainable development investments. Their net-worth and income thresholds are significantly lower than typical accredited investor limits (about 25% of the norm).
Mission Markets is a broker/dealer for impact investments of many kinds (funds, project finance, structured debt products and later stage private and public companies). Accredited and institutional investors only.
Oakland-based Mosaic uses crowdfunding campaigns and larger investments by accredited investors to fund clean energy projects. A new platform on Mosaic’s site focuses on growing renewable energy by giving people an opportunity to finance solar arrays on other people’s homes. NOTE: unless you live in California, Colorado, Oregon, Nevada, or New York, you may only invest on the Mosaic platform if you are an accredited investor.
US SIF is the SRI industry’s trade organization; here you’ll find both recent performance history and portfolio screens for over 150 US mutual funds offered by US SIF member firms. See chart.
Cutting Edge Capital is a collaboration among several leading evolutionary economy visionaries providing pioneering financing strategies for socially oriented businesses. that create possibilities of raising funds from both wealthy and retail investors. They also develop strategies to help businesses and organizations create and use capital market tools such as investment funds, secondary markets and market-based regulatory strategies. Visit their website.
This recent and relatively in-depth article (January 2015) offers a great look at the promise and excitement of impact investing: “Bannick says that if you picture a graph of the capital invested every year in the United States, it would look like a lopsided barbell: on one end, tens of trillions of dollars seeking the highest return possible; on the other, nearly $45 billion of philanthropic money seeking no return whatsoever. In the middle, very little. ‘We need to fill in that capital curve,’”he says. One potentially viable pool: high net-worth individuals. The 127 people to date who have signed the Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge, promising half of their money to philanthropic causes, have a net worth of around $600 billion. The Forbes listing of the richest 400 Americans alone totaled just over $2 trillion in 2013. ‘The pools of capital are absolutely massive,” says Bannick. “And while some may still be looking to maximize their investments, a lot of these folks would be willing to invest and get a more modest return, perhaps, while having a fabulous social impact.” Read the article.
Several new crowdfunding lending platforms have made it possible for non-accredited investors to help fund clean energy projects; the loans can often be relatively small, and are repaid with interest. This article profiles several of the early entrants into this exciting new field; be sure to do a fresh web search to find new options as well. Some raise most of their money from accredited investors, or do crowdfunding only in some states, though most are eager for the new SEC rules that will open up crowdfunding opportunities more widely. Read article.
Peter Diamandis is the driving force behind the innovation-fueling X-Prize and Singularity University, and a leading writer and speaker on the potential for exponential and unexpected technological and socially/environmentally-beneficial breakthroughs in the years to come. We could easily have included him alongside his oft-colleague Ray Kurzweil as a Driver, but the breadth of his vision, especially in the book Abundance, tips him toward Dreamer-hood.
Book: Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think
Abundance is a whirlwind tour through several interacting forces that Diamandis sees as driving widespread and largely unexpected innovations in the coming years.
Video: Abundance is Our Future
Video: Nine-minute montage of Diamandis media interviews; a good introduction to his primary themes.
Two recent Diamandis initiatives are designed for entrepreneurs and impact investors looking to make positive change in the world:
Book: Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World
Book review of Bold: The review’s opening sentences capture the gist of Diamandis’ breakthrough dreams: “Just as an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs that ruled the Earth and made way for small furry mammals, a new wave of planetary disruptions is about to occur. The new asteroid is called ‘exponential technology.’ It is going to wipe out industries in a similar manner to the rock which fell on Earth during the Cretaceous Period.”
This paper by Kirk Helbing, published in Nature in 2013, gives a good overview of the concept of systemic risk, the ways it could provoke unexpected disruption, and some first thoughts about how we might develop a worldview and new kinds of data analysis that could address some of these risks.
And here’s an hour-long video lecture by Helbing on the same themes.
This report, “Demystifying Responsible Investment Performance,” is a joint effort between the Asset Management Working Group of the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative, and Mercer. It reviews key academic and broker research on ESG factors. It includes a review of 20 peer-reviewed academic research papers examining the link between ESG factors and investment performance. The report also reviews broker studies, and then looks at links between academic and broker studies. See report (pdf).
The Responsible Endowments Coalition is a resource to support responsible investment among colleges and universities.
Its goal is to support environmental and social change by making responsible investment common practice in these settings by offering new tools and resources for the next generation of activists. Visit website.