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The $500 million Blue Haven Initiative, unplugged (podcast)

The Blue Haven Initiative was one of the earliest family offices to commit itself to 100% mission-aligned investing. At more than $500 million, it’s one of the biggest to make that commitment. And it’s one of the first to share its challenges publicly.

In this edition of the Returns on Investment podcast, the principals, Liesel Pritzker Simmons and Ian Simmons, share their investment philosophies, their favorite investments, and the myths about impact investing that they’d list to bust.

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The couple established Blue Haven as their family office in the belief that every investment has impact: positive, negative, or neutral. Through Blue Haven’s commercial investment portfolio, Ian and Liesel seek “to minimize the harm their investments create in the world, achieve values alignment, ESG-outperformance, and actively seek opportunities for impact creation.”

Liesel and Ian also contribute to the impact investing field via their donor advised fund, their philanthropic dollars, and their public leadership and influence. Ian recently joined the board of the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance, and the couple are active members of Toniic’s 100% Impact Network and The ImPact, a network of families seeking to make more, and better, impact investments. (The ImPact partnered with ImpactAlpha on a series of podcast interviews, including with Fernando Scodro in Brazil and Kyungsun Chung in Korea).

In the podcast, Liesel takes on critics of ‘market-rate returns’ in impact investing. “To broad brush all market-rate investing as having no impact is a bit heavy handed,” she told me. “I’m kind of a big-tent person in the impact investing space. I think there’s room for all of these investments.”

Ian pushed back against the notion of an inherent “tradeoff” between financial returns and social impact. “In many cases, you can achieve an outsized impact with an outsized return,” he says. “The idea of this tradeoff is one of the primary myths we’d like to bust.” While he acknowledged that such tradeoffs exist in certain sectors, “Tradeoff is not inherent to impact investing.”

Ian and Liesel are in the process of formally sharing their story through a case study written by The ImPact that pulls back the curtain on the motivations, challenges, and strategies behind Blue Haven Initiative. This document will provide actionable insight for other families at different stages in the process of creating an impact investing strategy and making impact investments.

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