It all starts off like a fairy tale in which a number of noble, brave people have chosen to invest their money and lives for the betterment of humanity. For a moment, you are tempted to believe that you have embarked on yet another preaching of the end of capitalism. But the wake-up call is just around the corner. What follows is a razor-sharp analysis of the impact investing space, its origins and objectives, and its current and future challenges. Unlike many other works that focus on the trade-off between financial return and social impact, Jed Emerson and Antony Bugg-Levine illustrate, in a very compelling way, how blended value can generate wealth beyond the ill-designed concept of an impervious dividing line between financial return and social impact.
The authors focus on the question of what it takes for impact investing to succeed, defining impact investing as part of a systemic change – which itself requires systemic change. It shows that impact defenders need to accept the legitimacy of financial profit in impact investing in order to maximize social impact. Impact achieved through philanthropy may be perceived as more ‘noble’ but it falls short of the impact that for-profit investing can achieve through scale. To the for-profit investor, impact may appear as constraining the pursuit of maximum financial return. However, the authors provide delightful evidence for areas in which social impact can become a catalyst for financial return rather than an obstacle.