‘Your impact investing journey’ is sponsored by Tiedemann Advisors. This series will explore the role of a financial advisor in helping clients navigate the many steps involved in building and maintaining an impact investing portfolio. The primer focuses on the essential topics and questions that are top of mind for high net worth individuals, family offices, foundations and other investors when starting out on their impact investing journeys.
A common debate in impact investing circles is over the best way to quantify, and/or qualify, the non-financial impact of an investment. Indeed, there are now a myriad of approaches and metrics, each with its strengths and weaknesses. Our approach is guided by the belief that by providing investors with a holistic picture of the impact of their investments, we can better guide them along their impact investing journey and make tactical changes over time.
The impact outcomes for an investment can vary widely. Consider that for many investments, the impact component may not be realized for several months if not years after the initial investment is made. This is especially true of investments in sectors like education or healthcare where the biggest outcomes may not be easily visible for a decade or more. For example, an investment in a company that provides affordable contraceptive devices for rural villagers in sub-Saharan Africa may have a transformative impact on those individuals and the communities in which they live. But measuring this social impact is challenging without deep, on-the-ground research comparing health and economic outcomes in a village that receives contraceptive devices versus a village that doesn’t. Such a study would likely need to last for many years to generate reliable data.
Many investors may understandably not want to wait a decade to see the net impact of their investments. Fortunately, there is a growing array of tools and tactics that makes it possible for investors to understand how and why their investments are making a positive impact.
The impact investing industry has made immense strides in standardizing the measurement and reporting of impact data through initiatives like the Impact Management Project (IMP), SASB, and the GIIN’s new IRIS+ framework. These efforts have also helped inform our own approach to impact reporting.
Every financial advisor is used to quarterly reporting on financial performance. But at Tiedemann we take it one step further by also providing a detailed impact report highlighting key environmental and social outcomes for each client. This systematic, quantitative environmental and social impact report provides clients with details on the impact of specific holdings as well as portfolio-wide impact – and it is all fully integrated in one technology solution.
Every impact report is customized for the client’s needs and typically includes information such as:
- A “snapshot” of an investor’s total impact exposure at the portfolio level, which is organized by impact investment philosophy and thematic focus
- A review of the data being measured, such as environmental metrics like carbon intensity or social metrics like gender and minority representation
- Alignment with impact industry frameworks, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
- Brief case studies, including qualitative insights, on how an investor’s capital has translated to on-the-ground impact.
Another way that we help make impact more tangible for our investors is through support with shareholder engagement. We know how much of a headache proxy voting can be for investors, so we try to make it as easy as possible by sharing with each client an easy-to-use list of votes for them to consider, and a list of helpful resources should they choose to engage.
Specifically, we participate in shareholder engagement resolutions in partnership with As You Sow, a leading shareholder engagement and ESG proxy voting organization. This organization can help an investor understand the advantages or disadvantages of, for example, divesting from ExxonMobil versus engaging via shareholder resolutions to influence corporate behaviors. These shareholder resolutions are becoming an increasingly important part of the impact investing conversation. While some companies tend to be more receptive to shareholder pressure than others, every investor still gets to have a voice. The more voices that demand action on things like climate change and gender diversity, the more companies that will take decisive action.
For impact investing to continue to scale and achieve the industry’s ambitious goals, investors must understand exactly how their investments are making an impact. An experienced financial advisor with expertise in impact investing will know how to communicate with investors in a way that allows them to continue pushing forward on their impact investing journey.
Brad Harrison is a managing director at Tiedemann Advisors.
Tiedemann Advisors is an investment advisor. This information is intended only as an illustration of the services offered by Tiedemann, and is intended to serve as the basis of a discussion with a Tiedemann professional. This information is not designed for any particular client or type of client, and Tiedemann’s services may not be suitable for all clients. You should consult with your tax and legal advisors prior to entering into any wealth planning or trust arrangements.