24 Jun Impact Investing Case Studies & e-guide: February 2015 Happy Hour with Alison Fort, Current Managing Director Europe of Toniic
Finance Matters was pleased to welcome Alison Fort, current Managing Director Europe of Toniic for the February happy hour, held at the Borough Barista. The discussion was a stimulating and interactive session, structured around Toniic’s e-guide as well as impact investing case studies, which allowed attendees to reflect on their own values around impact.
As a way of background, Alison is the Managing Director Europe at Toniic. Toniic is a global community of active impact investors; individuals, institutions, both newcomers and industry leaders – all committed to investing in impact in all asset classes. She has over a decade of experience in corporate and social finance, and joined Toniic after having led business development at the Social Stock Exchange, where she developed the SSE community of investors and social businesses. Prior to this, she was involved in the field through the co-founding of Four Elements Capital, a corporate finance advisory business working with entrepreneurs in environmental and social impact sectors.
Alison started the discussion by briefly presenting Toniic’s early stage e-guide to impact investing, and explained the seven main stages in the process. She underlined specific stages, on of which being the importance of sourcing the pipeline from incubator projects, business school competitions as well as hubs in the UK. She then developed the important stage of assessing the impact of the project, establishing that the best method was to use the available frameworks, all the while keeping the process simple. For example, Shell Foundation established 3 impact measurements, one of the multiple tools available to complete this stage. As a final development of the guide, she explained that cultivating the lessons learnt through collaboration and sharing was of utmost importance within the field, and a strong contributor to the development of the impact investing space.
Following this, the attendees were divided into groups of four and given a list of diverse impact values, from high social impact to innovation and job creation. As a first task, the attendees were asked to individually choose three values that were most important to them if they were to invest in a sustainable project. Once completed, Alison then asked groups to agree on three common values, and to openly discuss the reasoning behind this. It was evident that this was a difficult task for all groups, as each attendee had contradicting views on the impact values that best corresponded to their investment principles.
As a final task, the groups were given three case studies to briefly analyse and discuss: a media and entertainment company in Africa, a global fashion brand and a provider of portable & affordable electricity. The attendees then discussed their views on which projects would have higher chances of suceeding in their respective markets, based on the product and/or service in itself and their respective target markets, among other criteria. Several members expressed their opinions of the actual social impact that these projects could have on local communities, using as an example the real impact a local fashion brand could have on the economic as well as social development of the community.
Some attendees also explained their diverging viewpoints on specific definitions pertaining to the impact values, from one attendee explaining why the value empowerment of women should not be considered as a means to an end, and another individual underlining his viewpoint on the importance of sustainability in any type of project. It was concluded that some impact values such as innovation, could lead to other impact values on a grander scale, such as job creation. The groups also debated whether investments could commit to core objectives throughout the lifecycle of the projects, or if some flexibility would be required as the values could develop throughout the timeline.
The discussion underlined the importance of values when sourcing and developing projects. Alison then explained that it is a difficult task in agreeing on impact values and maintaining them throughout the lifecycle of the investment, mentioning that these may also shift over time depending on external factors. The happy hour proved to be an interesting evening for the attendees, as they directly placed themselves in the shoes of an impact investor. Having to question their own impact values, the participants were actively engaging with the organisation’s moto of “less talk, more Toniic”.