In a world where the dual scourges of immense poverty and global warming often overwhelm even the most optimistic people, investors of a new breed are stepping into the breach and staking hundreds of billions of dollars on solving the massive problems facing humankind.

But this path to positive impacts isn’t just about doing good. It’s also about making money.

“Global challenges like entrenched inequality and climate change require large-scale, urgent action,”Amit Bouri, CEO of the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), told Al Jazeera. “And impact investors are stepping up to help fuel positive progress.”

Impact investors are institutions and individuals deliberately aiming to make a measurable, positive impact socially and/or environmentally, as well as a healthy financial return. According to the GIIN’s latest annual survey, this investment strategy is winning more converts – and crucially, it’s gaining capital, too.

“They are accounting for considerations that have long been ignored in the financial sector: the impact of investments and businesses on people and the planet,” Bouri said, adding that client demand “demonstrates the powerful potential for people to influence positive change in the financial system”.

In its annual survey released on Wednesday, the GIIN highlighted the sizable business accomplishments – and staggering challenges ahead – for a growing niche in the finance world.

Half-trillion-dollar sector

The 2019 report is billed as the most comprehensive source of data on the market for impact investing.

The 266 respondents interviewed said they manage $239bn in assets across different geographies and sectors, with half of that amount allocated to developed markets and half to emerging markets.

The GIIN estimates the size of the impact investing industry to be $502bn globally, meaning that the survey covered almost half of the total assets under management that are considered “impact investments”.

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