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Keeping you in-the-know on environmental, social and governance developments

Interesting perspectives on impact were brought out at last week’s Infrastructure Investor Network Global Summit in Berlin. According to a write up on the meeting from New Private Markets, there is plenty of disagreement on the nature of impact – and the word itself. For instance, Alexandra von Bernstorff, managing partner at Luxcara (a European asset manager focused on renewables) said that impact is

“not a common ground. I don’t think that anyone in the audience has a concept now of what impact means for any of us, and I think that is a problem. We need to define what is impact and it needs to be simple and clearly comparable because otherwise everyone has his own definition and this doesn’t help investors, it doesn’t help society in general.”

The article explains that the term means different things in different places, too:

“Despite impact investing attracting more attention from mainstream investors, the term is still not used consistently across the market. In the US the word itself can carry connotations of below-market-rate returns, causing some managers have become ‘impact whisperers’ as they downplay the impact element of their strategies in a bid to avoid getting pulled into the debate.”

Scott Jacobs, CEO and co-founder of Generate Capital, agreed saying “in the US, impact connotes concession. It connotes that you’re trading financial returns for some form of social or environmental impact.”

This is an interesting debate and notable that it comes from the energy industry, where there is a general implication that investments in energy transition inherently create “impact.”

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile