“Impact investing is not philanthropy,
it is about creating opportunities for self-sufficiency.”
– Matt Patsky, CEO, Remarks at the Second Vatican Conference on Impact Investing
On Monday, June 26, I arrived in Rome for the Second Vatican Conference on Impact Investing. The Vatican Conference on Impact Investing builds on the call made in the May 2015 Papal Encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. The timing of the Conference was especially moving for me, following the recent apology made by Pope Francis for the treatment of marginalized populations by the Catholic Church. Pope Francis’s comments reminded me of Trillium’s 34-year history of advocacy for social justice issues including gender and racial equality, our push for diversity in board rooms and senior management ranks, our work on human rights in the supply chain, our many years of work to achieve LGBT equality, and our decades of work to protect the environment.
It was an honor to be invited to participate on the “Investing to Create a Sustainable Future” panel, which explored and addressed the various types of capital being deployed around the world to positively impact the lives of the poor. As an organization committed to engaging in sustainable investments, Trillium has always approached investing differently from traditional institutions. We aim to maximize positive and environmental outcomes while providing for the financial needs of clients.
I began my presentation by elaborating on Trillium’s historic position in the impact investing space and pointing out that, after our founding in 1982, our first institutional clients were Catholic Religious Communities. I explained that impact investing does not require a sacrifice in financial returns. In fact impact investing in publicly traded equity and fixed income securities, which often represent some of the largest allocations in a well-diversified portfolio, have a long history of demonstrated competitive returns. I was inspired by a fellow conference presenter Clara Miller, President of the F.B. Heron Foundation, an early adopter of impact investing. She explained that the fiduciary obligation of philanthropic institutions is to further their mission, not maximize financial return. Therefore, one can’t be meeting one’s fiduciary duty at a philanthropic institution if the institution is not mission-aligned with its investment portfolio!
During the conference, I met with and listened to fellow conference panelists who are working to democratize impact investing. The Calvert Foundation, for example, offers a note that allows non-accredited investors the opportunity to engage for as little as $20.
Often times Impact Investors are finding ways to serve the needs of marginalized communities and bringing success where government and capital markets have failed. Examples include d.light, which has grown to serving over 50 million people in rural Africa with electricity and lighting by installing solar panels. It is essential to share powerful stories such as this to catalyze further participation in impact investing.
I was honored to participate in this second historic meeting at the Vatican of impact investing leaders who are utilizing private capital and new partnerships to help solve some the world’s most pressing problems. The potential for growth and change is substantial. By investing to create positive social and environmental impact, faith-based institutions and charities can continue to build models for a more sustainable future.
Matt Patsky, CFA, CEO
Trillium Asset Management