Impact Investing and Foundations

We start this blog series with the topics presented at Impact Summit Europe (April 2-3 in the Hague), providing a summary of the discussions together with our thoughts. We start with the session ‘ Impact Investing and Foundations on the role of Mission-Related Investing (MRI)’.


Aligning an investment portfolio with an institution’s values is a growing trend, particularly for foundations. These institutions often have well-defined goals and missions, and as a result they can more easily determine what fits well in the portfolio, what does not fit, and what is positively contributing to the foundation’s mission. Families – particularly when they are more involved in managing the portfolio – also have an easier time defining what they stand for and judge their holdings through this lens, rather than only through the traditional lenses of expected risk and return. But let’s start with some definitions. It is important to highlight regional differences and as well as the different ways in which program- and mission-related investing are used.

In the U.S. program-related investing, or ‘PRI’, is defined under U.S. tax law as an investment whose primary purpose is “to accomplish the foundation's exempt purposes”. In the panel at Impact Summit Europe, Ford Foundation provided examples such as investing in first time managers and strategies (i.e. unproven as a portfolio management team, or new to a strategy) which tend to bear a higher risk. These program-related investments count towards the required 5% spending. Mission-related investing, or ‘MRI’, pertains to the rest of the portfolio – or the other 95% of the endowment – where the Foundation makes market-rate investments (i.e. with returns comparable to those available via traditional instruments), but with the goal to also achieve social impact. In line with their main mission of greater social justice, Ford Foundation invested in social housing in the U.S., aiming at social good and market-rate returns.

The goal of Nesta, a U.K. foundation whose mission is to support innovation for public benefit, is to create an environment for impact investments. Within Nesta it is an operating charity – not the main fund – that took on the endeavour, as stakeholders deemed it too risky to tackle it using the main portfolio, which remains focused on generating returns. The ambition for many is to use what they learned making program-related investments – using the capital available for the foundation’s spending or grants – to also align the portfolio of the endowment. A maturing impact investment market can achieve that – to showcase how market-rate returns can be obtained at the same time as generating a positive social or environmental impact.

Fondazione Social Venture Giordano Dell’Amore presents similarities with Nesta as the Foundation (part of Fondazione Cariplo, one of the largest foundations in Italy) was created to foster the growth of the impact investing ecosystem in Italy. The Foundation’s endowment is put to work to through both direct and indirect equity investments into businesses tackling relevant social and environmental challenges in Italy with sustainable and innovative business models. The Foundation applies a social venture capital approach with an “impact first” focus, leveraging patient capital to support innovation in different economic sectors including welfare, environment, social services & integration, arts & culture, sustainable tourism, and more.

FSG, a mission-driven strategy firm set up as an NGO, helps corporations and foundations to bring impact at scale and developed a framework to explore the continuum of market-rate or commercial investments, sub-commercial investments, and grants. Their idea, which is also the name of their project, is to move “beyond trade-offs”, or give up the notion that to achieve impact one must give up returns, or vice versa, that market rate investments cannot achieve impact goals. At times sub-commercial capital is needed as a bridge or – as we have seen in the case of Nesta and Giordano dell’Amore – to build capacity and create an impact investing ecosystem.

When discussing mission-related investments – or using the portfolio to also generate impact – questions pertaining to fiduciary duty tend to arise: What impact is expected? Are other investments available targeting a higher return? What is the risk? With a mandatory spending rate of 5% U.S. foundations target high returns (typically an expected return of 7%, assuming 2% inflation rate, to ensure the endowment’s perpetuity). Hence, they need to weigh the benefits of mission-related investments against the duty to also generate high returns. Ford Foundation spoke about combining an assessment of risk alongside that on the expected return.

The discussion on the topic of mission-related investing then naturally turned to impact measurement – if the goal of an investment is also impact, then measuring it is necessary. Unfortunately, some investors are discouraged by the lack of standards and tools. Nesta described the process of narrowing down measurements to a few key metrics and only investing where there is a sufficiently high potential to achieve the desired outcomes. Fondazione Giordano dell’Amore spoke about the creation of an “evaluation lab” dedicated to measuring impact but conceded that greater diversification, and in their case in several different ventures, can make it complicated to measure and aggregate results.

To summarise, it is possible to invest in line with an institution’s mission. Doing so requires some degree of soul searching, conversations with stakeholders, and understanding of key risks. Program-related investments, that are funded by spending and founded via the investment portfolio, have been designed to foster an impact ecosystem and have consequently provided the soil upon which to build mission-related programs. The measurement of impact can be tricky, but it should not discourage investors from trying their hand at investing in alignment with their mission.

In the next posts, Phenix Capital will take a more in-depth look at related topics such as impact measurement and outcomes-funds. Stay tuned!

Phenix Capital releases 1st Impact Investing Asset Owner Trend Report

More than 90% of respondents believe that generating a positive societal and environmental impact is an integral part of their fiduciary duty and 33% of institutional asset owners with an impact allocation allocate at least 10% of AUM to impact assets.

Phenix Capital, a leading European impact investing consultant headquartered in Amsterdam, has released findings from a survey of participants at the upcoming 5th annual Impact Summit Europe in its inaugural Impact Asset Owner Trend Report. Click here to download

The survey of 64 asset owners and institutional investors that responded, with a total of €9 trillion in assets under management, found the following:

  • More than 90% of asset owners believe that achieving a positive environmental and societal impact is integral to their fiduciary duty;

  • Almost 80% of respondents expect to increase the target allocation to impact investing over the next three years;

  • Nearly two-thirds of the survey’s respondents report, or expect, the return on the impact mandate to be in line with that of the general portfolio, although 27% reports or expects higher returns;

  • 33% of institutional asset owners with an impact allocation allocate at least 10% of AUM to impact assets;

  • Mandates are diverse by geography, asset classes and themes, but environmental concerns are at the forefront of investors’ mind;

  • Particularly for larger portfolios, the lack of opportunity, liquidity and execution are among the biggest challenges reported by impact investors;

  • Many investors have adopted the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as an impact investing framework: Good health and well-being (SDG 3), Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7), and Climate Action (SDG 13) are favoured themes.

"Our mission is to catalyse and mobilise $800 billion over the next seven years for the SDGs by helping investors map out their impact investing intentions and assisting them in accessing solutions that suit their individual mandates," said Sophie Robé, founder and co-chief executive officer of Phenix Capital.

“Knowing what is required to shift the dial, as highlighted in this report, is one of the key next steps to collaborating to create solutions to solve the problems,” said Dirk Meuleman, co-chief executive officer Phenix Capital.

The survey’s participants will be among some 350 delegates that will gather at The Peace Palace on 2-3 April 2019 for the 5th annual Impact Summit Europe. Of the delegates, the majority are institutional investors that collectively manage €12 trillion in assets under management.

“Imagine the impact if all the institutional investors present this week were to allocate just 5% of their assets to SDG investing alone. That would be €600 billion towards the UN’s sustainable goals,” concluded Phenix Capital’s Robé.

Gearing Up For A Dutch National Advisory Board For Impact Investment

In order to stimulate impact investments, a worldwide movement has been developed under the leadership of the Global Steering Group (GSG): the National Advisory Board (NAB). 21 countries and the EU as a whole have adopted a National Advisory Board. NABs bring all stakeholders within the field together, and as such the knowledge and know-how of local success stories are shared to be utilised worldwide.

Is there a need for an NAB in the Netherlands? Phenix Capital, together with Social Finance NL and other investment consultants C-Change and Enclude Holding, have addressed this question involving a number of key stakeholders3. The conclusion: such need is there!

Click here to read the full report.


Changing Climate: from risk to opportunity

Author: Niki Natarajan, Communications Advisor, Phenix Capital

“Climate change increasingly poses one of the biggest long-term threats to [pension, life insurance and nest egg] investments and the wealth of the global economy” ~ Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

Google climate change and you are likely to get some 350 million articles in 0.38 seconds. The overarching consensus is that current global warming has a greater than 95% probability to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century, according to the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report in 2014.

Hardly a surprise to those involved in sustainability of any kind, but worth noting because if you are researching the topic in any great depth for the first time, it is easy to get lost down the rabbit hole of ‘scientific’ evidence and various ‘ClimateGate’-related conspiracy theories.

For visual impact, NASA’s website, provides striking imagery to evidence the physical phenomena such as shrinking ice caps, rising ocean levels and temperature rises.

Climate change became the cornerstone of a number of political agendas, from the UK’s Tony Blair to America’s Barack Obama under whose administration the US committed to a 26% to 28% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions below its 2005 level by 2025. Based on 2012 data, the US was the second largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, after China.

More recently, France’s President Emmanuel Macron pledged to shut down all coal-fired power stations by 2021 and give €700 million to solar energy projects by 2022. But the key way countries committed to climate action was to become signatories of the Paris Climate Agreement, which sets out a global action plan to coordinate efforts to keep global warming to well below 2°C.

Two years later, at the One Planet Summit in 2017, an event hosted by France’s Macron aimed at mobilising financing for climate-related projects, 237 companies with a combined market capitalisation of more than $6.3 trillion committed to support the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. This includes more than 150 financial firms, responsible for assets of more than $81.7 trillion.

Ironically, in an era of Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, China, whose carbon emissions are among the fastest growing, is aiming to be a leader in the climate change field. China now accounts for 15% of total green bond issuance, making it the second largest green bond market in the world.

Not everyone in the US agrees with Trump’s decision, however. Edmund Brown, Governor of California announced his state’s intention to host the world’s global climate leaders at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco on 12-14 September, 2018.

The Global Climate Action Summit, which marks the first time a US state hosts an international climate change conference with the direct goal of supporting the Paris Agreement, aims to be a launchpad for deeper worldwide commitments and accelerated action to push down global emissions by 2020 to reach zero emissions by mid-century. 

Whether or not global warming—the ‘greenhouse effect’ was first described in 1824 by French physicist Joseph Fourier—is a natural Milankovitch cycle, or man-made thanks post-industrial C02 emissions, is largely irrelevant. The fact is the climate is changing and this will impact investments.

According to the World Economic Forum’s The Global Risks Report 2018, over the 13 years of publication, environmental risks have grown in prominence. According to Munich Re, total losses for natural catastrophes in 2017, including hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, as well as the earthquake in Mexico, will amount to $330 billion, the second highest number after 2011.

In the most recent World Economic Forum survey, all five risks in the environmental category were ranked higher than average for both likelihood and impact over a 10-year horizon.  At Davos this year, climate and the environment were key topics given that the world has seen high-impact hurricanes (which affects insurance premiums), extreme temperatures (2017 was the third hottest year on record) and the first rise in CO2 emissions for four years.

But climate change is not just a political topic. It is also now part of the fiduciary responsibilities of many institutional investors. According to Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, climate change is one of the biggest long-term threats to pension, life insurance and nest egg investments and the wealth of the global economy.

So, what is currently being done to help institutional investors invest with the climate in mind? From a corporate perspective, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, led by Michael Bloomberg and established by the Financial Stability Board, which is chaired by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, will help to bring transparency on corporate climate-related information, thereby giving investors one tool with which to make investment decisions.

Investors such as AustralianSuper, California Public Employees’ Retirement System, HSBC Global Asset Management, Ircantec and Manulife Asset Management have grouped together to form Climate Action 100+, a five-year initiative that aims to push 100 of the highest-emitting companies worldwide to do more to tackle the threat of climate change.

So far, 289 investors from across 29 countries, who together manage more than $30 trillion, have signed the initiative, which targets fossil fuel producers such as ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Coal India as well as other companies such as Toyota, United Technologies and Korea Electric Power. The lobby seems to be working as ExxonMobil, the world’s largest listed oil company, announced plans publish reports on the potential impact of climate policies on its businesses.

The current trend among institutional investors is fossil fuel divestment, a movement that was accelerated in 2015 by both the Paris Climate Agreement, and  Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter Laudato Si, on Global Environmental Risks and the Future of Humanity. The value of assets pledged for divestment totalled more than $5 trillion at the end of 2016, doubling the value pledged 15 months previously, according to Arabella Advisors’ Global Divestment Report.

Some investors, however, are only divesting because of the investment risk to the value of their fossil fuel-related holdings, not any environmental concerns. Most notably, the Norwegian central bank, which manages the $1 trillion oil fund, asked to have oil and gas stocks removed from the Government Pension Fund Global’s benchmark index to make the government’s wealth less vulnerable to a permanent drop in oil and gas values.

But despite some $5.2 billion divested, negative screening and exclusion is only a tiny part of the climate change investment discussion. To make a sustainable impact, investors need to change the way they look at climate change. Speaking in Davos, Anand Mahindra, chairman of the Mahindra Group, a $19 billion conglomerate in Mumbai, said “Climate change is the next century’s biggest financial and business opportunity”.

But some institutional investors still need to be convinced of the return potential of sustainable investing, which is one of the missions of US vice president Al Gore’s business, Generation Investment Management.

In addition to carbon pricing and direct allocations into clean and renewable energy investments, impact investing has emerged as the way to move from exclusions towards positive impact allocations that benefit both the climate and portfolio.

One new framework that has emerged is the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With Climate Action, the 13th SDG, stating “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts by regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy," a positive climate-related investment strategy can be created.

In fact, Dutch pension managers APG and PGGM have already identified investment opportunities linked to 13 of the 17 SDGs, and hope to kick-start the conversation for a market standard for this kind of impact investing.

PGGM’s main client Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn, the Dutch pension fund for the healthcare and well-being sector, has publicly committed to putting €20 billion towards the themes of climate change (SDG 13) and pollution as well as food security (SDG 2), healthcare (SDG 3) and water scarcity (SDG 6), which map to the SDGs highlighted.

Like most institutional investors that want to be responsible investors, PGGM’s intentions have evolved over time, said Piet Klop, senior adviser, responsible investment, at PGGM and Peter Borgdorff, managing director of PFZW, In an interview with IPE Magazine.

PGGM too began by excluding investments that do harm, through negative screening or accounting for ‘ESG externalities’. Today, through PGGM’s proprietary CO2 Index, it also excludes from its portfolio persistent violators of the Global Compact Principles, as well as the least carbon-efficient companies.

In addition, PGGM tries to minimise negative impacts on people and planet through active ownership of its investments, engaging with its investees. To date PGGM has invested about €12 billion towards the €20 billion target set for 2020.

PFZW’s Borgdorff will be sharing the Dutch pension fund’s journey to impact investing as a keynote speaker at Impact Summit America on 11 September in San Francisco, which taking place alongside PRI in Person. As an official affiliate of the Global Climate Action Summit, Impact Summit America is a forum for institutional investors to engage in peer-to-peer dialogue on the challenges and opportunities of integrating climate-related impact investing into an institutional portfolio.

Move beyond fossil fuel divestments and make a greater positive impact

Author: Niki Natarajan, Communications Advisor, Phenix Capital

Pension funds, university endowments, foundations, insurance companies, cities, such as New York State, and faith-based organisations globally are all part of a fossil fuel company divestment movement that began on university campuses in the US in 2011. The value of the 893 institutions divesting is $6.15 trillion and more than 58,000 individuals are divesting some $5.2 billion, according to Go Fossil Free.

Last week, the Republic of Ireland became the world’s first country to agree to sell off its investment in fossil fuel companies as part of its decarbonisation process in line with its climate change commitments under Article 2 of the Paris Agreement. Ireland passed the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill that instructs the National Treasury Management Agency to sell more than €300 million in coal, oil, gas and peat “as soon as is practicable” from the Irish state’s €8 billion Strategic Investment Fund.

Both Ireland and New York City’s $189 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund, which plans to divest $5 billion from fossil fuels, aim to achieve their divestments over a five-year period. Meanwhile, Glasgow University was the first university in Europe to elect to divest from fossil fuel stocks in 2014, kicking off a UK movement that has now seen more than 60 endowments, including Cambridge University most recently, follow suit. The £3 billion Cambridge endowment fund, which has joined the ranks of Oxford, Edinburgh, Sussex and Bristol in their move to tackle climate change, was not originally planning to take this route.

Divestment is not just rife among the UK’s academic institutions. Denmark’s €15 billion MP Pension, the pension fund for public sector university and secondary school staff, also announced earlier this year that it would be excluding all fossil fuel related companies from its portfolio to make sure that its investment policy supported the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

As a country, Denmark has plans to make wind drive its fossil fuel ambitions as a country by 2050, creating new investment opportunities for investors in clean technology. Intentional Endowments Network’s white paper for campuses and endowments on Investing in Clean Energy discusses the investment options for university endowments.

In the US, this universe has more than $528 billion in assets, the ability to make illiquid investments, and long-term investment horizons, putting them in a unique position to finance clean energy investments. In the white paper, the authors include snapshots of a few institutions including American University, George Washington University, Arizona State University, Green Mountain College, Luther College, Northeastern University, The University of California System, The University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill, and Yale University, that are leaders in driving the clean energy economy forward through their investments on and off campus.

The fossil fuel divestment movement accelerated after two key events in 2015: Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter Laudato Si, on Global Environmental Risks and the Future of Humanity in June; and the Paris Climate Agreement in December 2015. The value of assets pledged for divestment totalled more than $5 trillion at the end of 2016, doubling the value pledged 15 months previously, according to Arabella Advisors’ Global Divestment Report.

On 4 October 2017, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the Italian diocese and 40 other catholic institution from 11 countries on five continents announced their plans to make the largest ever faith-based divestment, in a faith-based move that was coordinated by the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

Even institutions, such as John D Rockefeller in the US, which have made their wealth in oil are divesting. But for some investors, however, divestment is more about business and investment risk reduction than environmentalism.

Indeed, in Europe, the Norwegian central bank, which manages the $1 trillion oil fund, wrote a letter to Norway’s finance ministry proposing the removal of oil and gas stocks from the Government Pension Fund Global’s benchmark index to make the government’s wealth less vulnerable to a permanent drop in oil and gas.

“This advice is based exclusively on financial arguments and the analyses of the government’s total oil and gas exposure and does not reflect any particular view of future movements in the oil and gas sector,” said Deputy Governor Egil Matsen, in the letter.

But while divestment is one way towards saving the planet, many socially responsible investors are now focusing on ways to make market rate returns through more positive allocations. AXA, for example, is not only divesting from coal businesses, but will no longer insure any new coal construction projects and will stop insuring the main oil sands and the associated pipeline businesses.

AXA’s strategy includes divesting from companies that derive more than 30% of their revenues from coal, have a coal-based energy mix that exceeds 30%, actively build new coal plants, or produce more than 20 million tonnes of coal per year to reach €2.4 billion. Moreover, in a positive impact investment strategy, AXA is increasing its green investments to reach €12 billion by 2020.

In fact, the desire to understand how to invest to both save the planet and produce market rate or above returns, is becoming increasingly paramount for those institutions whose beneficiaries cannot afford to be solely philanthropic but still want their investments to be aligned to their values.

Sophie Robé, CFA of Phenix Capital believes that impact investing is the solution. “Fossil fuel divestment is a big step in the right direction, but it is a negative action or exclusion. If everyone pulls out of fossil fuel stocks, then the value of those stocks goes down, so some investors might be pulling out of fossil fuel stocks for reasons other than climate concerns”.

The Intentional Endowments Network’s white paper Investing in Clean Energy puts forward a compelling case of the financial and societal benefits of clean energy investments showcasing another way to commit to climate change. “In 2015, renewable energy attracted $329 billion in global investments, the cost of solar photovoltaics has dropped 80% since 2008, and wind is already the cheapest form of power in some parts of the United States…. Despite market volatility, new investment in clean energy across all asset classes has grown from $62 billion in 2004 to a record $349 billion in 2015,” the report stated.  

For many investors, however, the desire to invest with the welfare of the planet is stymied by the ability to find, measure and monitor suitable investments. Focusing on clean energy, the white paper looks at direct ownership, asset leasing, retail power purchase, renewable energy credit purchase, power purchase agreements, green revolving funds, and public or private market investments.

“We truly believe that the next phase in the sustainable investing evolution is impact investing, where by investors can invest in public or private markets to find positive impact stocks and funds that are aligned with their mandate,” says Robé, whose firm also runs impact investing summits globally. Impact Summit America will be held in San Francisco on 11 September 2018.



Making an Impact in the Emerging Markets: Keynote by Dr. Mark Mobius

Mark 1.png

One of the key themes discussed at the 4th annual Impact Summit Europe 2018, held in The Hague in March, was the emerging markets. The second day of the conference saw Dr. Mark Mobius, a 40-year industry veteran, who has recently launched his own asset management firm, making a case for frontier and emerging markets.

Dr. Mobius’ keynote address was followed by a panel session called High Noon: Are the emerging markets the impact investor’s holy grail? Afterwards, Katherine Brown, head of sustainable and impact investing at the World Economic Forum and Dirk Meuleman, managing director at Phenix Capital, moderated two one-hour product workshops on how to create the ‘perfect’ emerging markets product.

The outcome of the discussion between Kay Parlies, senior economist at the European Commission, Steve van Weede, managing director at Enclude Holding, Sylvia Wisniwski, managing director at Finance in Motion and Bosworth Monck, global head of client relations at the IFC Asset Management Company, without attribution has been summarised in Closing the SDG GAP: The need for public/private collaboration.

The big story is the internet. The biggest most populated countries in the world are now consuming more and more online – Mark Mobius

“This chart (below) tells the story of why people invest in emerging markets. Since 1987 when the index was first formulated by the MSCI, you can see emerging markets have generated far, far greater returns than the developed market countries,” said Mark Mobius, founding partner of Mobius Capital Partners.

Source: @FactSet Research System. MSCI. Last Updated: 22/01/2018

Source: @FactSet Research System. MSCI. Last Updated: 22/01/2018

“Of course, there has been a lot of volatility, and in 2007 was an incredible boom market. [After the crash of 2008] you can see the tremendous recovery. So there has been volatility, there is no question about it, but the changes have been incredible. 

“If you look at where we were in 1987 when we started the very first emerging markets fund, we had six markets to invest in. Today, there are 70 countries around world categorised as Frontier or Emerging. It is amazing. Shanghai 25 years ago, farmland in Pudong - if you've been to Shanghai you know the Pudong area now.

“The next exciting destinations are the frontier markets. If you look at the average GDP growth in the world’s 10 fastest growing countries you will see that between 2012 and 2016, they had an average growth that is much higher than the developed countries. Of these countries, all are emerging markets and eight are frontier. A number of them - Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Congo, Tanzania, Rwanda - are African, and growing at an incredible pace. So, this presents a significant opportunity, in our view. 

“Emerging markets are now becoming much more important. Back in 1987, you saw that the percent of the world market capitalisation of emerging markets was about 3%. Today, it is over 25% and likely to continue increasing. If you look at the market cap, it has been incredible the way these markets have grown.

“As I mentioned, it has gone from six to over 70 markets around the world. If you look at exports, imports and GDP, in 1987 it was between 18% to 24%. Now, it is well over 40%, 42% - 47%. In fact, the latest figures are probably about 50%. So, half of the world’s wealth, growth, imports, and exports are in emerging markets. 

“Further good news is that these countries have gotten fiscally stronger. In other words, their government finances have improved dramatically. In 1995, you can see developed markets had more foreign reserves than emerging countries. Today, it is the other way around.

“Now, of course about $3 billon of that $7 billion is China, but the rest is in other emerging countries. If you look a public debt, emerging markets debt as a percentage GDP, is much lower than the developed countries. And if you look at private debt as a percentage GDP, you can see that emerging markets is also lower than developed markets. 

Growth in the developed markets is about 2%, while around 4.3% in the emerging countries and that is reflected in company’s earnings. We also see a so-called demographic dividend for emerging markets. Why? Because there are more people in emerging markets. You have got 1 billion people in India and, 1 billion people in China. Overall, 1.4 billion in developed countries versus 5.9 billion in emerging countries.

It is very important to look at the median age for emerging markets, as it is lower than developed. In Frontier markets median age is even lower still. So, you have a population that is just entering the most productive years of their lives, which is the most exciting thing about these countries. 

Land mass. If you look at the land mass in these countries, it's much greater than the developed countries. That means more mineral and agricultural resources. And of course, if you have a map of Africa and you try to place the United States, China and a number of other countries, you can fit them all into the continent.

Undervalued currencies. A lot of people think of currency risk when considering investing in emerging markets. Since 2016, emerging countries' performance have been much better than the US dollar. And if you look at the changes, you can see that Russian Ruble has actually appreciated from its bottom by over 40%. The same thing is true of the Brazilian Real and the South African Rand.

Commodities. Some people have taken a negative view on commodities recently but the reality is that prices are beginning to recover very strongly. This is good for some emerging countries. Crude oil, from its bottom in February 2016, has gone up by over 90%. Palladium is also one of my favorites, because most of the cars produced in China still are gasoline powered and of course you need palladium as a catalyst for converters to prevent pollution.

The price of other commodities has also come up quite dramatically. One of the misunderstandings that people have is that China, as one example, is reducing its imports of commodities. If you look at iron ore value, you can see that the value seems to be coming down but if you look at the quantity, you can see it is continuously going up. We are now beginning to see India with one billion people, having to build significant amount of infrastructure and more and more of these commodities will have to be imported or produced locally. 

Another thing that people are afraid of is rising interest rates, particularly in the United States. They think that if interest rates go up, the market will go down. The reality is that there is no correlation. Sometimes the Fed rate goes up and the emerging market goes up. Sometimes it goes the opposite way of what you would expect.

The big story is the internet. If you look at the use of the internet globally, you will see China represents 21% of the total and India 14%. The biggest and most populated countries in the world are now consuming more and more online.

This has been achievable through the use of smartphones. Remember the regular Nokia phones? No pictures, no internet, just a phone. Now with the smartphone you can do everything. You can take pictures, you can get apps. In 2008, about 100 million smartphones were sold. This year, it will probably be well over 1.4 billion smartphones sold and 70% of those are in emerging countries.

As just as an example, on ‘singles day’ in China—11/11, the eleventh day of the eleventh month—in one day one company, Alibaba sold $25.3 billion worth of smartphones. In the US, Thanksgiving, Black Monday, Cyber Monday, about $19.6 billion for all vendors. You can see this incredible impact in the emerging countries, particularly in China and now in India. 

We have had some bad times in emerging markets. In fact, the three years before 2016 there was net outflow of money from emerging market funds.

But if you look at the long-term picture, there have been bear markets, when the market went down more than 30%. On the average the bull markets went up by about 356%, lasted an average of 69 months, the bear markets went down by about 51% and lasted an average of 15 months. So, what can you conclude from this? Bull markets last longer than the bear markets in the emerging markets. Bull markets go up more than bear markets go down.

Crossing the Rubicon: Highlights from Impact Summit Europe 2018

What if solving environmental and social development could earn us a return? Investing would suddenly have a purpose that is greater than just making money

The 4th Annual Impact Summit Europe, held in The Hague in March, was purposely titled Crossing the Rubicon to reflect taking the discussion from the ‘what’ and ‘why’ to the ‘how to’ of impact investing. It was apt that at the two-day event Global Impact Investing Network’s (GIIN) decided to launch The Roadmap for the Future of Impact Investing, Reshaping the Financial Markets.

The day was opened by a powerful film made by Utah-based story agency Issimo, titled Think a New Thought. “There’s this notion that we’ve had stuck in our heads for so long - that the invisible hand of capitalism had to be a selfish hand, a hand without sympathy - that it simply wouldn’t work any other way. But what if that were wrong? What if that’s not true, and never has been?” the narrator said.

“People say a business’ purpose is to make money, but it’s not: a business’ purpose is to fill a need for the market, and they get to thrive, as a by-product of how well they can do that,” the voice continued.

Sophie Robé, founder of Phenix Capital, opened the event by asking the audience, “Let’s think about this video’s central message ‘the business purpose is to fill a need for the market and the byproduct is making money’. What if the need is ending poverty, or climate change, or inequality? What if solving environmental and social development could earn us a return? Investing would suddenly have a purpose that is greater than just making money”.

To this end, the 2018 event, which was co-hosted by City of The Hague and Phenix Capital, welcomed more than 70 speakers, experienced impact and sustainable development goals investors willing to share their know-how with more than 300 delegates about how to invest assets using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework.

In 2015, 193 nations signed the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. “These goals that include climate change, inequality, global inequality, poverty, represent a significant macro and micro risk for your portfolios, but at the same time, these issues also represent huge opportunities to generate competitive financial returns,” said Sophie Robé.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a universal framework for measuring, monitoring and articulating the impact of institutional investments. To achieve the global goals by 2030, the role of the private sector will be instrumental, given the financing gap of $5 to $7 trillion per annum.

Phenix Capital’s mission is to catalyse and mobilise $800 billion over the next seven years for the SDGs by moving the discussion from ESG to impact investing. This year the Impact Summit Europe was themed around Crossing the Rubicon, taken from 49BC when Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River and started the Roman civil war that led Caesar to become a ruler for life and that was Imperial Rome as we know became a reality.

The idea is that by mobilizing the investment assets impact investing will change investing and the world as we currently know it. “Over the next two days, there are more than 100 asset owners and institutional investors in this room who have the discretion of over nearly $11 trillion. We don’t think that it is about committing 100% of your assets into impact, but what if all of you were to put 5% of your assets under management to work using the SDGs, we would already catalyse and mobilise $500 billion,” said Sophie Robé.

Gerald Gartigny | CIO & member of the board of MN

Gerald Gartigny | CIO & member of the board of MN

The Keynotes

To a packed room, Gerald Gartigny, chief investment officer and member of the board of MN, which manages more than €125 billion in assets for two million beneficiaries, gave a powerful opening keynote charting MN’s journey 10 years ago from ESG negative exclusion to today’s SDG-aligned focus, suggesting ways the investment community could work together to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

The keynotes by the event’s other partners helped to take the impact investing discussion to the next level. Amit Bouri, chief executive officer of the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) talked about the The Roadmap for the Future of Impact Investing, Reshaping the Financial Markets and concluded that to achieve the impact that is needed, impact investing as it stands today has to change. “We need to think beyond impact investing, so we can influence all of investing. That is the future of impact investing and that is the future we are building today,” The GIIN’s Amit Bouri concluded in his speech.

One big challenge facing the impact investing movement is definition. Responsible investing is a broad spectrum that ranges from ESG right thought to philanthropy. In this keynote, Graeme Griffiths, director Principles for Responsible Investment, discussed the the evolution of responsible investment and talked about the PRI's own journey and the drivers that are influencing the industry’s future direction.

At the end of the second day, Hans Peter Lankes, vice president, Economics and Private Sector Development at the IFC tied together the two days highlighting that impact investing is more than aligning money with the goals; it is also more than just a commercial calculation of the opportunities and risks to the global economy; it is now an ethical obligation as four out of five millennials want both financial and social impact returns on their investments.

Emerging Markets

One of the key themes of Impact Summit Europe in 2018 were the emerging markets. In her opening speech, Sophie Robé referred to the fact that the business commission estimated last year that the market opportunity for contributing to the SDG was about $12 trillion in: food and agriculture; sustainable cities; energy and material; and health and wellbeing.

While these sectors are critical to delivering the Sustainable Development Goals, Robé pointed out that 90% of the market opportunities are in emerging markets. Day two saw Dr. Mark Mobius, a 40-year a veteran and a key figure in developing international policy for emerging markets, making a case for frontier and emerging markets.

One of the key concepts to mitigate risks in the emerging markets that came out of the panel High Noon: are the emerging markets the impact investors’ holy grail? was to work with Development Finance Institutions, such as the FMO and IFC, which have local networks, funding and experience.

The event also saw Kay Parlies, senior economist at the European Commission, Steve van Weede, managing director at Enclude Holding, Sylvia Wisniwski, managing director at Finance in Motion and Bosworth Monck, global head of client relations at the IFC Asset Management Company discuss over two hours how to create the ‘perfect’ emerging markets product.

Helping to moderate the discussion and hear the challenges from both the investor and product provider point of view, was Katherine Brown, head of sustainable and impact investing at the World Economic Forum and Dirk Meuleman, managing director at Phenix Capital.

Held under Chatham House Rules to ensure openness, this unique interactive product workshop produced a clearer understanding of the challenges to creating a scalable, appropriately priced impact investment product for the emerging markets. The outcome without attribution has been summarised in Closing the SDG GAP: The need for public/private collaboration.

Investor panel discussion: Crossing the Rubicon

Investor panel discussion: Crossing the Rubicon

Without mobilising institutional investor capital, funding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will not happen by 2030. The first panel of the event, also titled Crossing the Rubicon, started by taking the investor perspective on the challenges to making SDG-aligned allocations part of the mainstream investment management agenda.

Senior executives from Andra AP-fonden AP2, Pensioenfonds Metaal en Techniek (PMT), AXA  Group, and De  Nederlandsche Bank, moderated by Ruth Horowitz, eputy chief executive officer and chief operating officer of IFC Asset Management Company, lead sponsor of the 4th annual Impact Summit Europe 2018, explained how socially responsible investing is now a fiduciary duty and how implementing impact allows them to both achieve the returns and do good.

The investors agreed that the SDGs have given a new and broader framework and mindset for sustainable investing. In many cases existing investment themes such as affordable housing, energy or climate already fall under the SDGs, so transitioning conceptually has been easy. What several the panelists also agreed that the shift from negative screening to a more positive selection has started in earnest.


The core concern for the panel was making sure there are standardised metrics for measurement. For most institutional investors, particularly the public funds, it is important to show, transparently, that they are taking sustainability into account without compromising the returns. The second reason that the standards and measurement tools are essential is for risk management. 

Measurement is such an important topic within impact investing because it helps to build credibility. For this reason, the Summit had several high-level sessions on the topic. On day one, Aine Kelly, investment consultant at the Impact Management Project and her panelists: Dinah Koehler, executive director, sustainable equities at UBS Asset Management; Piet Klop, senior adviser responsible investment at PGGM; and Mabinty Koromoa-Moore, engagement manager, IRIS & IMM, Global Impact Investing Network, helped to dispel some of the myths around measurement.

Unlike other conferences, Impact Summit Europe works with strategic partners including PGGM, MN, the GIIN, Principles for Responsible Investing, and the IFC Asset Management Company to make sure the event is more than just a theoretical discussion about the SDGs and impacting investing, but a forum to solve problems and remove the obstacles in the way of deploying sizeable allocations of institutional capital to earn financial returns while making positive social, economic and environmental impact.

For this reason, day two, saw two separate educational sessions run: one for beginners to impact measurement, and a second higher-level discussion for advanced practitioners. It seems, however, that having a precise percentage allocated to impact investing is less important than the objective of the assets allocated. In France, for example, there is Article 173 with energy transition to build a portfolio under plus 20C.

In this, Erick Decker, CEO a AXA Mediterranean and LATAM, AXA Group said it was more important to define how to change the portfolio to achieve under plus 20C that state a specific amount into renewables, for example.

As a regulator, Gisella van Vollenhoven, ivision director pension supervision, De Nederlandsche Bank, said explained that its role was more about bringing people together to create a platform such as the one created in the Netherlands, where sustainable finance meets the financial sector, with regulators, with the government to find ways to work together.

Separately, van Vollenhoven referred to the creation of the Central Banks and Supervisors Network for Greening the Financial System. At the first meeting of the held in Paris at the start of the year, DnB’s member of the Governing Board Frank Elderson was appointed as chair of the NGFS.

In terms of the emerging markets, the event’s key theme, Eva Halvarsso, hief executive officer at AP2 echoed the sentiments of the emerging market panel discussion moderated by Siegfried Leffler, director GIZ Representation Brussels. Namely the notion that it is important to also work with Development Finance Institutions such as the IFC and FMO with long-experience and boots on the ground that allows investors to look at the investment possibilities from another perspective.

To cater to the multiple levels of expertise, the event hosted the Impact Academy that covered topics such as Begin with the end in mind for the investor at the start of their journey, and Private Banks: Making a High Net Worth Splash for private banks catering to the needs of the wealthier private clients.

And because risk management is an essential component of the investment process there were also two sessions under the Risk Academy umbrella. The first, moderated by Wim Weijgertze, senior manager, Ernest & Young Actuarissen, covered IRR: Impact, Risk and Return – a Three dimensional approach for investment strategy with panelists Andreas Koester, head of global asset allocation from UBS CIO WM, and Don Gerritsen, Head of Benelux, Principles for Responsible Investment.

The second, took the case study of climate risk for a session titled From Risk to Opportunity: Can you capitalise on climate? Jacqueline Duiker, senior project manager responsible investment, VBDO moderated Jaqueline van Voorthuizen at PGB Pensioendiensten, Maarten Vleeschhouwer at de Nederlandsche Bank and Michael Lewis, head of sustainable finance research at Deutsche Asset Management, to give a fascinating insight into how risk management myopia might stop investors looking beyond risk towards the investment opportunity.


Climate was a big theme at the 2017 Impact Summit Europe, which hosted  former U.S. Vice President and Nobel prize laureate Al Gore as keynote to discuss climate change. This year, in addition to looking at climate from a risk management perspective, both sessions Impact in fixed income: Beyond Green Bonds and How to build a climate proof portfolio were dedicated to various aspects of fixed income and green bonds.

The first addressed the issues that green bonds faced after The Climate Bond Initiative that social bonds are now facing. While the second panel looked at how building repeatable performance enhancing strategy involved more than just signing the Paris Accord on climate change.

One of the potentially most key areas where impact investing can make the biggest difference is in the listed equity market. Moderated by Dirk-Jan Verzuu, investment director at PGGM, From active engagement to impact: creating an SDG framework for listed equities highlighted how the SDGs could transform allocations to listed equities. Many investors, such as PFZW, were already allocating to SDG themes such as climate, health, food and water scarcity, long before the SDGs were developed.

Senior executives from NNIP, Royal DSM and Rabobank on the panel agreed that the SDGs force investors to a moralistic approach as to what a company is, what the purpose of the company is, and how financial returns should go hand in hand with socio-economic returns. The challenges of applying an SDG framework on a liquid asset class that has always been driven by shareholder value were also discussed.

Setting up an impact strategy from scratch is not for the feint hearted. Begin with the end in mind, was designed to help first-timers understand how to realise value, set the goals, an d consider which SDGs they might use in the portfolio. The speakers Frank Wagemans from Achmea Investment Management, Jonathan Dean from Axa Investment Managers and Lydia Guett of Cambridge Associates also covered how to pick the right funds and covered the discussion around measuring and monitoring risk.

GIIN’s case studies: Initiative for Institutional Impact Investment was moderated by Yvonne Bakkum, director of FMO Investment Management. In the session titled How we established an impact strategy within our organization Harald Walkate, global head of responsible investment at Aegon Asset Management and Tim Macready, chief investment officer of Christian Super in Australia discussed the hurdles they overcame to get to the point they are today; another useful session for an investor starting out on the journey.

For advanced SDG investors, each year Impact Summit Europe also hosts deep dives into certain SDGs. This year the SDG Focus were: #5 Gender Equality: Looking through the gender lens, moderated by Dimple Sahni, of Anthos Amsterdam; #11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, moderated by Anne-Marie Hitipeuw-Gribnau, chief resilience officer of City of The Hague; and #13 Climate Action: Impact Investor’s Guide to Restoring Balance, moderated by Aglaé Touchard-Le Drian of the European Investment Bank.    

With all the focus on the emerging markets, some investors simply want to allocate and make an impact closer to home. For these investors Investing begins at home, provided a useful insight into how Ircantec in France and Hesta in Australia allocate to impact locally. Caroline Le Meaux of Ircantec and Robert Fowler of Hesta shared their experiences in the session hosted by Evita Zanuso of Big Society Capital.

Phenix Capital’s aim through the Impact Summit series of events—the next one will be in San Francisco on 11 September 2018—and InvestorConnect—some 30 pre-selected impact funds presenting to 80+ investors—is to mobilise their own army of impact investors to cross the ESG Rubicon to impact investing so this become the new norm for sustainable investing. The next Impact Summit Europe will be held in at the Peace Palace, The Hague 2-3 April 2019.

Dirk Meuleman | Managing Director, Phenix Capital 

Dirk Meuleman | Managing Director, Phenix Capital 

Closing the SDG Gap: the need for public/private collaboration

Authors: Bruno BesekDirk Meuleman, CFA, CAIA; Sophie Robé, CFA, PhD

There is little debate that massive deployment of private sector funds is needed to successfully reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. It is also clear that the largest part of this capital is in the hands of institutional asset owners, such as pension funds and insurance companies. Hence, the most straightforward way in reaching the SDGs by 2030 is to engage institutional asset owners in allocating their funds towards impact investments aligning to these SDGs.

Since 2015, many institutions, including Dutch pension fund giants PFZW, ABP and PME, have made their pledges to the SDGs, yet there is still a mismatch in the amount of capital invested and the amount required for sustainable development. [1]

Asset owners, such as pension funds, insurance companies and other institutional investors often explain that the number of suitable investment solutions that fit their requirements is too limited. Phenix Capital works with asset owners to assist them on their impact investment strategies in order to catalyse traditionally invested assets towards impact investments. Also asset managers that provide impact investments are assisted in building productive relationship with potential investors. Having been connecting the worlds of asset owners and asset managers for more than 6 years now, we feel it is important to explain why institutional asset owners see very few investment solutions satisfying their requirements.

Institutional asset owner investment requirements are put in place to benefit the structure of their beneficiaries. Each institutional asset owner has a fiduciary duty to its beneficiaries and clients to deliver a specific return at a certain point in future. To fulfil this duty, each asset owner sets its own set of requirements that ensure that the return of the various beneficiaries is achieved, at a maximum allowable risk. Requirements are set on both strategic and tactical asset allocation and each potential investment needs to satisfy them. This is the reason why the majority of traditional investment funds (those that actually receive the funding from institutional asset owners) are set up in a similar way. Specific legal, operational and governance requirements apply to different asset classes and any deviation is not well received. In addition, a regulator on a supra-national or national level takes care that an asset owner does not engage into any investment activities that would undermine its fiduciary duty.

In such a regulated and detail-oriented environment, it is obvious that there is little room for introducing innovative structures that are praised within the sustainable development community.

One of the most transformative changes that can be employed to counter the mismatch is to reverse the process of product engineering. Instead of developing products with limited consultation from investors, resulting in sub-optimal product launch or even a failure, a switch to a so-called “demand-driven” economics is needed. Investors searching for investment opportunities would need to specify product characteristics, enabling fund managers to structure investment solutions according to the real investor appetite, which would likely reduce cost for the benefit of both parties.

A potential way to achieve this is to have institutional asset owners publish their mandates guidelines and requirements. That would not undermine their fiduciary duty but instead help them find investments that fit specific requirements, effectively matching supply and demand more efficiently.

However, if such an approach would be too demanding for asset owners, or would interfere with the regulatory requirements, another way forward could be the introduction of a consultation process between asset owners and asset managers in early-stage product development in order to secure the maximum alignment of both parties and shortening of the development cycle. Today, it usually takes a couple of years for asset managers to raise capital for a new product. With this pace and usual fund timelines of 10 years[2], a fund that would be launched right now, would raise capital in 2021 and distribute the profits to its investors in 2031 delivering economic, social and environmental development to investment beneficiaries in, hopefully, the same time. This is one year after the expected deadline for reaching the SDGs.

To speed up the process of raising capital, asset managers would save costly time by including asset owners in the product development phase to better incorporate mandate guidelines and take into account asset owner’s constraints and requirements.[3]

For successfully launched products that fit asset owner mandate guidelines, governance requirements and contribute to sustainable development more appraisal and positive marketing in both the investment and development would make sense. These products have demonstrated to satisfy institutional requirements and more of similar products would be very much welcomed by the institutional asset owner community. Asset owners that have invested in the product could share experiences by explaining their decision process to others. Moreover, any negative feedback is also essential so time and money is not wasted.

Sharing best practices should be the new normal, especially for the vital investment opportunities impact investment are. As should continuous communication between asset owners and asset managers in early stages of product development. The real estate investment industry repeats the importance of ‘location, location, location’ for a successful real estate investment, the impact investment industry should repeat ‘cooperate, cooperate, cooperate’ as its mantra.

Until now, cooperation has only been pursued, encouraged and initiated by investment networks and various industry associations. It is, however, still lacking between two major players in the investment industry, asset owners and asset managers. A product workshop at the Impact Summit Europe 2018 held in The Hague recently, showed that both of them are ready to cooperate and want to resolve the issue of slow capital deployment towards reaching Sustainable Development Goals.

By having the main industry players talking to each other, the progress towards reaching Sustainable Development Goals would be much more tangible.


[1] E.g. one of the 5 biggest Dutch pension funds pledged to commit approx. €5bn to Sustainable Development Goals by 2020 which is one of the largest commitment by now. This includes investments that the fund has already made in the past, effectively reducing its remaining investment to approx. €1bn by 2020 (since this announcement has been made in 2017, this would mean €250mln annually). SDG financing gap requires new investments of $2.5trn annually. By applying the exchange rate between euro and dollar, a Dutch pension fund is covering 0.012% SDG financing gap annually till 2020.

[2] The usual time period of a private equity fund is 10 years + extensions.

[3] A portfolio manager working at a pension fund might take a look at more than 100 investment funds throughout the year before she decides to invest in 2 to 3 at most. A consultation process between asset owners and asset managers in the product development phase would save time to both the portfolio manager and an asset manager looking to raise capital.

Climate is tomorrow’s return opportunity

More than 10 years after climate change documentary Inconvenient Truth, Phenix Capital, a leading European impact investing consultant, hosted a private screening of the sequel: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power for nearly 500 European institutional investors.

This was followed by a Q&A session with Al Gore, moderated by Sophie Robé, founder and managing director of Phenix Capital in Amsterdam.

“The film was a powerful reminder that the climate is changing irrevocably. Today, it is an institutional investor’s fiduciary duty to take externalities such as climate change into consideration in the investment decision-making process,” said Sophie Robé.

“We were honoured to have former Vice President Al Gore join us to take this discussion to the next level,” said Dirk Meuleman, managing director of Phenix Capital. “Investing sustainably is no longer just an ESG risk management exercise but an opportunity to add long-term returns to an investor’s portfolio now that there are an increasing number of high impact solutions available”.

The event, held at the Pathé Tuschinski in Amsterdam, was organised by Phenix Capital and Generation Investment Management and supported by Axa Investment Managers, Robeco, Triodos Investment Management and UBS asset Management.

The day-long programme included a small private lunch with Al Gore and a high-level institutional investor round-table discussion on the risks, challenges and opportunities for investing in climate solutions along the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.  


For further information, contact Niki Natarajan



Phenix Capital

Phenix Capital is a leading European investment consultancy advising institutional investors on impact investing. Based in Amsterdam, Phenix Capital supports investors by designing impact and sustainable development strategies; sourcing scalable impact investment opportunities from its proprietary database; and measuring and reporting impact and contribution to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Impact Summit Europe 2018, The Hague, 20-21 March 2018

The Impact Summit Europe is an investor-only impact investment conference that aims to catalyse private institutional capital to support the financing of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Over two days, asset owners and institutional investors share knowledge, exchange best practices, network and challenge each other.

European institutional investors begin to commit to the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Momentum is gathering pace within European institutional investors as they are increasingly committing money to impact and SDG financing. Europe, led by the headline grabbing Dutch pension plans, has developed a reputation as a breeding ground for ideas and good intention within impact investing over the last decade. Now we are seeing evidence that institutional investors can act on their impact and SDG mandates, investing large allocations to SDG financing.

Collaboration is critical, and allocations will be driven by increased exposure to impact investment opportunities. Moving forward, best practices gained from the European experience can provide perspective and impetus globally as other institutional investors look to integrate SDG and impact related investments into their mandates. Flows across continents will expand the impact investing ecosystem and catalyze further capital towards the SDGs.

As the transition from good intention to real implementation unfolds, European institutional investors are now singing from the same hymn book as they see investments as a tool to fight climate change. This was evident at Impact Summit Europe 2017, where Al Gore led a roundtable discussion with 30 CIOs, CEOs and board members of leading European pension funds and insurance organizations.

Last September, Dutch pension giants APG and PGGM coined the term Sustainable Development Investing (SDIs), emphasizing the transition of SDG investments from niche to mainstream. There is a desire to make SDIs the ‘new normal’. Institutional investors are seriously seeking innovative ways to invest in the fight against climate change, reducing inequality and fight poverty, aligning their fiduciary responsibility with impact, and contributing to a better world.

Dutch Pension funds making the headlines

Arguably, the biggest headlines have been made within the Netherlands. The two largest Dutch pension fiduciaries APG and PGGM are targeting EUR 58 billion and EUR 20 billion respectively in Sustainable Development Investments across asset classes by 2020. Metal Electro Pension Fund, managed by MN announced in March 2017 at the Impact Summit Europe 2017 to link EUR 5 billion i.e. 10% of its assets to the UN SDGs by 2020.

Under the radar searches and commitments drive the momentum

Alongside this, several other investors have gone under the radar across the continent, as they look to finalize commitments. This demonstrates real progress and momentum for European institutional investors. For instance:

  • A Dutch pension and insurance fiduciary manager is currently looking to allocate EUR 50 to 75 million into 5-7 impact funds across geographies, including emerging markets.
  • A European family office is looking to build a EUR 100 million portfolio of diversified listed equity, impact investing funds.
  • A European healthcare foundation is investigating how to commit 1 - 3% of their assets i.e. EUR 5 to 15 million into healthcare impact funds.
  • An insurer is starting a search to invest EUR 30 million into 2 renewable energy private equity funds investing in US / Europe.
  • A large Dutch pension fund is currently searching an investment of EUR 50 million for a private equity/infrastructure fund investing in Europe and aiming to target SDG 7 Affordable and clean energy and SDG 13 Climate action.

Compellingly, a real diversity can be monitored within these commitments, spanning across geographies, asset classes, and the entire spectrum of impact and SDG target. In each of these searches, clear impact measurement will be required by the investors. 

The UN General Assembly and Climate week (12 - 25 September) is an opportunity to deepen the dialogue, expand the impact investing ecosystem, and catalyze further capital to UN SDG financing. Momentum from good intention to real implementation can continue build a head of steam.

Phenix Capital is an impact investing investment consultant based in Amsterdam and London . Our mission is to support the institutional market with educational events, consulting services, and catalyze $800bn of institutional capital towards the SDGs within the next decade.

We are currently building the missing piece of the impact investing infrastructure to facilitate flows of investments and expand the impact investing ecosystem.

Spotlight this week: Generating impact through listed equity investments

What is impact investing in listed equity?

Public equity as an asset class is often overlooked in the impact investing space. There is a widespread skepticism surrounding what exactly classifies as 'impact' in the listed equity investments. Practices such as negative or exclusionary stock screening and best-in-class ESG screening are commonly grouped under umbrella terms 'responsible investing' or 'sustainable investing'. Such practices however may lack the intentionality, additionality or measurability required to qualify as impact investments.

Listed equity impact investments are investments made in public companies whose products and services directly address environmental, social and governance challenges. Going further, these challenges can even be classified in terms of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The impact of such investments would need to be continuously measured and managed.

The Impact spectrum which distinguishes between responsible investing, sustainable investing and listed equity impact investing can be seen here. (Source: Bridges ventures, 2012)


Next to providing one-on-one meetings with listed equity impact managers in InvestorConnect sessions, the third edition of Impact Summit Europe which took place this March also offered two sessions to provide institutional investors with a better understanding of public equity impact investing - Panel discussion on contributing to SDGs and generating impact in listed equity, and Impact academy on measuring impact and sustainable development in listed equity investments.

Save the date : Impact Seminar Series on Listed Equity - October 12, 2017 - Rosarium, Amsterdam

On October 12, 2017 at Rosarium, Amsterdam, Phenix Capital is hosting an investor-only Impact Series Seminar focusing on listed equity. Mark your calendars and join fellow investors, fund managers and impact investing industry experts for a productive conversation on generating impact and contributing to the UN SDGs through listed equity.

In a short and constructive afternoon:

  • Learn from leading institutional investors and thought leaders how to manage and measure impact in listed equity
  • Meet with a group of impact fund managers during the InvestorConnect sessions to gain an overview of impact investment opportunities in this asset class

For more information on this seminar, please contact Marthe Reinette.

APG and PGGM identify potential Sustainable Development Investments (SDI) across 13 UN SDGs

APG and PGGM have worked on investment strategies to boost the UN SDGs and developed taxonomies to provide ‘clear guidance on what type of investments qualify as SDIs (Sustainable Development Investments)’ and ‘kickstart the conversation about a market standard for SDIs’. Learn more about this new development in the impact investing space.

Since their inception in 2015, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have attracted attention from investors for their potential to serve as a universal monitoring framework for measuring impact of their investments. Over the past year, there have been many developments bridging the gap between the SDGs and the mainstream investment community in Europe. Last September, Swedish pension funds AP1, AP2, AP3, AP4 and Dutch asset managers APG, PGGM, Actiam, MN and Kempen came together to show commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and put emphasis on using SDGs as a reference framework to guide investors.

The term ‘Sustainable development investments or SDI’ was coined, to represent the link between the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and tangible investment opportunities.  SDIs are investments that yield market-rate financial returns which generating a positive social and/or environmental impact.

Last December, leading Dutch financial institutions collaborated on the Dutch SDGI agenda to present their perspective on ‘Building Highways to SDG investing’. In their report, the signatories recommend priorities for maximizing ‘SDG investing’ (SDGI) – at home as well as abroad and offer concrete ways to accelerate and scale investments into the SDGs.

We at Phenix Capital welcome this move and hope it will prompt many constructive conversations within the institutional investor community to push the SDG agenda forward.

Meet Phenix Capital at RI Europe

Phenix Capital's CEO Sophie Robe will speak about mainstreaming impact investing alonsgside JP Morgan Chase and Impax Asset Management at the upcoming Responsible Investor Europe conference in London on June 6-7, 2017.

Europe’s leading long-term, sustainable business and finance conference will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. RI Europe, hosted by Responsible Investor, is a unique opportunity to learn, share and debate with 550+ investment professionals from across the globe.

View the conference agenda here.


Fighting climate change - Call to action for investors and lessons from Al Gore's keynote

Fighting Climate Change is more urgent than ever and we at Phenix Capital are doing our best to draw attention to the gravity of this movement. On 21st and 22nd of March 2017, Phenix Capital convened the third edition of Impact Summit Europe, an impact investing conference that aims to catalyze private institutional capital to support the financing and mainstreaming of impact and SDG investing. We believe that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals provide a universal monitoring framework for identifying and measuring the impact of decisions and investments (institutional) investors make. 

The key focus of Impact Summit Europe this year was on ‘Climate change’, directly linked to the SDGs “#7-Affordable and clean energy” and “#13-Climate action”. We were honoured to have former U.S. Vice President and Nobel prize laureate Al Gore as keynote speaker making a case for mobilizing private capital to fight climate change. Here are some key takeaways from his keynote address: 

The inconvenient truth about the climate crisis
Mr. Gore began his climate change narrative with a meticulous array of inconvenient truths –several scientifically proven factual statements stemming from his Oscar winning movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. He explains how climate change works and what its direct and indirect ‘systemic’ consequences are - floods, hurricanes, droughts, mega fires, heat waves, famines, bacterial infections, pollution, refugee crisis - to name a few. 

Look beyond the visible spectrum to strengthen fiduciary responsibility
To revive a visibly deflated audience, Mr. Gore then moved on to the silver lining -the call for action. How can the financial sector help turn tables around on climate change and alleviate the damage it has caused? A fundamental problem lies in the way we define corporate growth. By looking ‘beyond the visible spectrum’ of financial data and taking into account the environmental and social impact of corporate activity, a more holistic picture of a firm’s sustainable profitability appears, bringing about better-informed investment choices in line with fiduciary responsibility. ‘Sustainable capitalism’ is no longer an oxymoron.

Al Gore during Impact Summit Europe 2017

Al Gore during Impact Summit Europe 2017

Be a part of the Sustainability Revolution
The Sustainability Revolution is the most powerful revolutionary change the civilization has yet gone through, taking the scale and magnitude of the industrial revolution and the speed of the digital revolution, and it is happening very quickly. Being still in early stages, the Sustainability Revolution presents tremendous investment opportunities– notably in sustainable solutions related to agriculture, forestry, transportation and power generation.

Call for Climate Action
Globalization has been a centrifugal force in driving change and advancing the global shared project of climate action. To gain a common ground with European investors and discuss the crucial role the private sector can play in leading the Sustainability Revolution and fighting climate change, Al Gore participated in several roundtables in an intimate setting with C-suite executives of pension funds, insurances and asset managers with combined AUM amounting to more than 1.5 trillion euros. The conversations took place in parallel to the summit with executives from pension funds/administrators ABP, Alecta, APG, MN, PFZW, PGGM, PME, PMT, PPF APG, Railways Pension Fund UK and Univest (Photo 1); insurances Achmea,  ACTIAM N.V, Aegon, a.s.r. Group Asset Management, NN IP and Storebrand (Photo 2).

A month down the line, 217 institutional investors representing more than USD 15 trillion in assets have written to the governments of the G7 and G20 nations, urging to combine forces and mitigate climate change. We are happy to see Al Gore roundtable participants ABP, ACTIAM N.V., Aegon, Alecta, APG asset management, PPF APG, MN, NN IP, PME, PMT and Storebrand among the signatories.

Phenix Capital has also signed the letter and stands committed to fight climate change. In a nutshell, the call to action touches on three key points:
●    Continue to support and implement the Paris Agreement
●    Drive investment into the low carbon transition
●    Implement climate-related financial reporting frameworks

The full letter can be found here. We would like to encourage our (institutional) investor network to join this movement and sign the letter.

The final deadline to sign the letter is June 30, 2017. Contact  AIGCC, CDP, Ceres, IGCC, IIGCC or PRI for more details.

‘Things take longer to happen than you think they will, but then they take faster to happen than you thought they could’. As Al Gore points out, that’s where the climate movement is.

The Sustainability Revolution will happen, because ‘a will to change is in itself a renewable resource’. Sign the letter now and be a part of the solution!

Al Gore keynote speaker at Impact Summit Europe 2017

During the third edition of the Impact Summit Europe on March 21st, Al Gore will share his vision on sustainable investing at the Peace Palace in The Hague, The Netherlands. 

With an Oscar winning movie, several No. 1 international bestselling books and a Nobel Peace Prize, Al Gore is well known for his work on climate change. But that is only one of many projects in the life of the former U.S. Vice President.

His efforts have led to the undeniable fact that sustainable investing is the future, but today’s question is how to apply the theory in practice?

As founding partner of Generation, an independent investment management partnership, he believes in the transformative power of allocating capital to businesses that deliver positive, productive change. Generation’s approach to investing is based on an investment process that fully integrates sustainability analysis into decision-making and is focused on long-term performance. As a mission-driven organization, Generation’s vision is to see long-term oriented, sustainable investing become best practice in capital markets and sustainable capitalism become the enduring economic model. 

Gore supports the view that the responsibility not only lies with government but also with the private sector. The key is to mobilize private capital and collectively fight climate change, amongst other sustainable development goals. By doing so, investors no longer have to choose between impact and return. For the past twelve years, Generation has delivered better returns with sustainable investing than nearly every traditional fund manager.

Gore will share his views on the drivers of return in the transition to a sustainable economy.


About Impact Summit Europe
The Impact Summit Europe gathers key players of the traditional institutional investment and impact investing industry, giving them a platform to exchange best practices, share experience and discuss the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals which were set out by the United Nations in September 2015. The Impact Summit Europe is initiated and organized by Phenix Capital.

Registration is now open to investors and fund managers. Third parties will be able to register at the beginning of February 2017. More information and registration links can be found on

About Phenix Capital
Impact Summit Europe is initiated and organized by Phenix Capital. Founded in 2012, Phenix Capital is an impact investment consulting firm based in Amsterdam. The firm primarily advises and assists institutional investors with designing their impact and sustainable development investing strategy, sourcing scalable impact investment opportunities, measuring and reporting their impact and contribution to the SDGs.  Phenix Capital also connects impact fund managers with institutional investors committed to aligning their investment policy with the SDGs. We provide an all-round perspective on impact investing through our scalable impact investment database and advisory services for institutional investors and fund managers. Visit our website 


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Marthe Reinette
T: +31 20 240 2731  

Lisanne Wintgens
T: +31 20 623 46 84



Impact Summit Europe 2017 – the major institutional platform where impact meets capital


Amsterdam, 15-12-2016.

The third edition of the Impact Summit Europe will take place at the Peace Palace in The Hague on March 21-22, 2017. The Impact Summit gathers key players of the traditional institutional investment and impact investing industry, giving them a platform to exchange best practices, share experience and discuss the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals which were set out by the United Nations in September 2015. Registration for investors is now open.

Not why, but how?

Impact investing is the fastest growing sustainable and responsible investment strategy in Europe. An increasing number of institutions share the conviction that investment capital can effectively address social and environmental challenges. Often it even makes good economic sense for those taking a long-term view on their investments. Therefore, the focus is no longer why Impact and Sustainable development investing, but how?

This year’s summit will attract eminent leaders of the traditional investment and impact and sustainable development investment industry and will be supported by PGGM and the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) as strategic partners.

Creating opportunities in impact investing

The Impact Summit Europe’s mission is to support the mainstreaming of impact and sustainable development investing. The main purpose of the summit is to educate institutional investors on opportunities in the impact and sustainable development investing space and inspire them to partake in the global agenda for sustainable development.

At the 2016 Impact Summit Europe, the Dutch Central Bank called upon investors, banks and other private sector actors to come up with a Dutch Sustainable Investing Agenda (SDGI Agenda) with the aim to accelerate sustainable investing in The Netherlands, and serve as a reference document for long-term collaboration and action across initiatives and sectors. Spearheaded by 22 signatories (i.e. PGGM, Triodos, ABN Amro, en FMO), the results of this initial assessment were presented to Minister Ploumen at the GIIN Investors Forum on December 7 in Amsterdam.

The summit not only offers a platform for the participants to exchange best practices and challenge each other but also creates networking opportunities in the space, thereby making the experience enriching, fruitful and educational. The conference also includes InvestorConnect meetings which provide a capital introduction and match-making platform across all asset classes to the participating impact fund managers.


Registrations are now open to investors. More information and registration links can be found on





Signatories of Dutch SDGI agenda publish report on 'Building Highways to SDG investing'

Signatories of Dutch SDGI agenda publish report on  “Building Highways to SDG Investing’ 

Amsterdam, Dec 7, 2016

The signatories of the Dutch SDGI Agenda presented their report “Building Highways to SDG Investing’ at the GIIN Investors Forum on December 7 in Amsterdam, in the presence of over 700 investors.

In their report, the signatories recommend priorities for maximizing ‘SDG investing’ (SDGI) – at home as well as abroad. They offer concrete ways to accelerate and scale investments into the SDGs. Further conversations will take place over the course of December, including a cross-sectoral stakeholder consultation at the Dutch Central Bank on the 14th of December. To access the report please click here 


Photo by Minister Ploumen and Signatories' Board Members.  In alphabetic order:  Ruter Bass, Director of Sustainability, Rabobank; Claudia Kruse, Managing Director Sustainability & Governance APG; Caroline Brown, Founder & CEO, C-Change ; Frank Elderson, Executive Director, DNB; Gerrit Zalm, CEO, ABN Amro; Herman Mulder, Chairman of the Board, SDG Charter; Hans van Houwelingen, Chief Executive Officer, ACTIAM ; Jack Julicher, Chief Investment Officer, ASR Netherlands ; Karl Guha, Chairman Executive Board of Van Lanschot Kempen; Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation; Linda Broekhuizen, Chief Investment Officer, FMO; Martin Edixhoven, Member of the Board, Aegon ; Marilou van Golstein-Brouwers, Managing Director, Triodos Investment; Peter Borgdorff, Managing Director, PFWZ; Peter Ferket, Member Executive Committee, Robeco

Photo by Minister Ploumen and Signatories' Board Members. In alphabetic order: Ruter Bass, Director of Sustainability, Rabobank; Claudia Kruse, Managing Director Sustainability & Governance APG; Caroline Brown, Founder & CEO, C-Change ; Frank Elderson, Executive Director, DNB; Gerrit Zalm, CEO, ABN Amro; Herman Mulder, Chairman of the Board, SDG Charter; Hans van Houwelingen, Chief Executive Officer, ACTIAM ; Jack Julicher, Chief Investment Officer, ASR Netherlands ; Karl Guha, Chairman Executive Board of Van Lanschot Kempen; Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation; Linda Broekhuizen, Chief Investment Officer, FMO; Martin Edixhoven, Member of the Board, Aegon ; Marilou van Golstein-Brouwers, Managing Director, Triodos Investment; Peter Borgdorff, Managing Director, PFWZ; Peter Ferket, Member Executive Committee, Robeco

Leading Dutch financial institutions embrace United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals







Amsterdam, 6 December 2016

Last year, the UN set out the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, a set of 17 highly ambitious goals relating to climate, poverty, health care, education, and other challenges. Institutional and private investment capital is critically needed to help finance the $5-7 trillion that is needed each year to finance the 2030 Agenda.


Tomorrow, 18 Dutch financial institutions, which collectively manage over €2.8 trillion in assets, will invite the Dutch government and Central Bank to continue to make a concerted effort with them in support of the SDGs. The Initiative is the first in the world to bring together national pension funds, insurance firms, and banks around a shared SDG investment agenda. Board representatives of the Signatories will present their call for further cooperation and collective action to Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, at the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN)’s conference in front of over 700 investors.


The consortium believes that it is not only of societal importance, but also in the interest of their investors and business relations, to consider the largest social and environmental challenges of our time in their work and investments. In their report ‘Building Highways to SDG Investing’, its signatories recommend priorities for maximizing ‘SDG investing’ (SDGI) – at home as well as abroad.


The SDGI agenda is a result of a six-month consultation process with more than 70 fellow investors, government representatives, and expert practitioners. In their report the signatories offer concrete ways in which to accelerate and scale investing in the SDGs. Further conversations will take place over the course of December, including a cross-sectoral stakeholder consultation at the Dutch Central Bank on the 14th of December.


The Signatories look forward to collectively build Dutch ‘SDG investment highways’ in the years ahead. Per Herman Mulder, co-facilitator of the SDGI Agenda: “In today’s tumultuous world, public-private action is ever more important as a driver for positive change. The 2030 Agenda offers not only a challenge, but also an opportunity to collectively do well by doing good.”  



For more information:

-         The report ‘Building Highways to SDG Investing’ will be released tomorrow at 10 AM on

-         For questions, please contact Veerle Berbers – SDGI Communications

+31 6 24236642 /


Catch Sophie Robé speak at the GIIN Investor forum

Sophie Robé will be speaking at the GIIN Investor forum 2016, taking place on December 7-8 at Amsterdam.

The Global Impact Investing Network is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the scale and effectiveness of impact investing. With over 80 speakers and 600 delegates from more than 30 countries across the world attending, the GIIN Investor Forum is the landmark event for anyone who is involved in impact investment or is interested in engaging with the industry.

Sophie will be speaking at the working lunch session on ‘Implementing impact investment strategies-Knowledge accelerator’ in the afternoon of December 7th along with Giselle Leung, Director of GIIN, and Kurt Morriesen, Senior manager, Investment practices - Alternatives, PRI association. In the session, the development of Impact investment since inception to the current stage will be explored. An overview of the impact investing industry and the key stages in development of impact investing will be provided to those who are new to the market.

Phenix Capital is looking forward to attending the GIIN Investor forum! More details on the event can be found here.


Save the date - Impact Summit Europe 2017 - March 21 / 22 - the Hague

Shaping the Future of Impact and Sustainable Development Investing

Not why, but how?

An increasing number of institutions share the conviction that investment capital can effectively address social and environmental challenges.

The focus is no longer why impact investing, but how?

The Impact Summit Europe offers you a platform to exchange best practices, challenges and opportunities in the Impact and Sustainable Development Investing across asset classes.

During the summit, recognized leaders of the impact investment industry will gather, providing a unique networking and educational opportunity, sharing their experiences managing for impact across plenary and breakout discussions.

This year, the summit will take place on 21-22 March at the Peace palace, the Hague. For more information about registration, participation or sponsoring, please contact us via e-mail or visit our website

Catch up with Impact Summit Europe 2016 here