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What do enterprises think about impact investors’ demand for data?

We recently learned that patient-capital investor Acumen asks the enterprises it invests in, “What data can we help you collect?” Now comes a deeper look at the impact management practices of impact investor-backed enterprises. The researchers, from German consulting firm Roots of Impact (the report was commissioned by the Donor Committee on Enterprise Development), interviewed 24 agriculture and energy enterprises of varying sizes in Latin America, Southeast Asia and East Africa. Some key findings:

  • Impact businesses rarely draw on commonly used databases or standards when developing their metrics. Instead, most develop their own indicators as they build their business.
  • Digital and mobile tech methods of generating data are now prevalent(used by 14 of the 24 enterprises). For example, Farm from a Box, with headquarters in San Francisco, has equipped its “farm in a shipping container” with Wi-Fi and an Internet of Things system of sensors to collect data helpful in optimizing water and energy use.
  • Enterprises say they collect impact data mainly to satisfy investors.But they are finding internal benefits as well. “Our first responsibility is to create income to pay the salaries,” said one interviewee. “But when this is achieved, impact is a strong focus. And it also helps us to raise additional funds and to grow.”

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