Social Finance participates in White House Impact Economy Forum
Aug 05, 2011
John Buley, head of Principal Investments for the firm’s Social Finance group, recently spoke at the White House Impact Economy Forum, an event that explored the role of impact investing in the U.S.
“The event provides recognition from the U.S. government that impact investments are a tool to strengthen our nation’s overall growth and competiveness, while providing financial returns to investors and demonstrating measureable non-financial impacts,” said Buley.
Impact investments are an asset class intended to create a positive social or environmental impact beyond financial return. J.P. Morgan estimates the asset class offers an investment opportunity of between $400 billion and $1 trillion over the next decade in five sectors—housing, water, health, education and financial services—serving global populations earning less than $3,000 annually.
After introductory remarks by Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation Sonal Shah, Buley spoke on a panel on the current state of impact investing led by Newsweek reporter Joanne Lipman.
“Investment capital follows a well-defined investment thesis of which goals can be measured against achievements,” Buley said. “It is hard to conceptualize ‘doing good,’ and it is hard to measure that goal. Investors will respond to investment opportunities that are defined, narrow, clear and specific.”
Buley said a growing number of investors reject the binary notion of investments either doing good or making the most amount of money. There is room for different investors and different vehicles within this space, he said, from the quasi-philanthropic to the very market-driven.
Also at the event, Gene Sperling, National Economic Council director, said that companies should think beyond writing a check to a model that is more sustainable, draws more on internal resources and leads to shared prosperity and a long-term sense of a company’s interests.
Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council, said on the White House blog, “creating an impact economy will help fuel job growth, promote innovation, and advance grassroots social change across America.” Barnes and other officials started the blog to understand how to remove barriers, streamline regulations and target existing government resources to reshape the economic landscape in the U.S. with better jobs and improved societal impact.