Navigating Impact Investing: The Opportunity in Impact Classes

July 2016

The growth in interest in impact investing has been steady over recent years, with a newly released study by U.S Trust showing that 93% of millennials interviewed saying social impact is key to their investing decisions. Despite this, multiple barriers still exist that inhibit many investment managers from entering the field.

These barriers can have a profound impact on the field. While more people are interested in investments that make a social impact, issues such as market gaps and inappropriate impact expectations can make it difficult for individuals to invest. For example, only 9% of Barclays clients interested in impact investing actually invest due to this confusion.

In their report, Navigating Impact Investing, released this week, Tideline and CASE’s Cathy Clark take a look at these barriers and propose the creation of “impact classes” to address many of them. Like asset classes, these impact classes would allow for clustering similar impact investments together and help investors identify products that match their own impact and financial objectives.

Keeping these impact classes simple and objective would help investors better understand the impact investment products they are considering investing in and help more investors enter the field. The report suggests categorizing the impact classes by 1) the role of impact investing capital 2) the type of impact evidence and 3) market and beneficiary characteristics.

Want to learn more? Cathy Clark and Ben Thornley have outlined their proposed impact classes in the latest Stanford Social Innovation Review here. For a deeper dive, you can read the full report on the Tidelines website.

Want to share your thoughts? You can join the discussion on the Navigating Impact Investing message board here.