TBLI has worked for the last 20 years to educate asset owners and managers about ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) and Impact Investing. Through our conferences, seminars, salons, private dinners, lectures, MBA programs, we have been able to build capacity and get “buy in” around sustainable investment. This capacity building is essential but thankless. There is no great ribbon cutting ceremony. It is about digging holes and not cutting ribbons. The process is farming not hunting. It takes time.
Throughout the 20 years of capacity building, I have always been asked for more research about ESG and Impact by the financial industry. I often wonder will more research unlock more money flows towards ESG and Impact. I am not that convinced that that is the main bottleneck. The financial sector is quite predictable. If they see self interest, opportunity and money flows, they will invest. Does more research achieve that? On its own, I don’t believe so. It helps, but many investors use this as excuse for not investing.
Take a look at the financial crisis of 2007-2008. There were many reasons for the collapse. One particular product that triggered the melt down; namely, subprime collateralized debt obligations backed by financially unsound mortgages. How much research was done on that product as a risk? I couldn’t find very much. That didn’t stop the massive tsunami of money that went into it.
Research is important and it needs to be continued. However, we need to strengthen its impact by aligning with the drivers of the financial sector; self interests, opportunities and money flows. This can be achieved through continued efforts on research, seminars, editorials, investor salons, conferences, retreats, learning journeys, inspirational talks, private dinners, and other forms of capacity building. TBLI will continue these capacity building efforts on ESG and Impact Investing.
Nearly all phone calls I receive from mega banks or institutional investors is not about the latest research, but “what is my competitor doing”. To paraphrase Rod from Jerry Maguire “SHOW ME THE MONEY”.