If social and environmental impact go hand in hand, Climate Finance Forum 2023 was a warm, firm handshake.
Organised by the International Climate Finance Accelerator Luxembourg (ICFA), the forum brought together a diverse group of leaders and practitioners of both climate and impact finance – all in service of finding collective solutions to the greatest climate challenges of our time.
To quote ICFA’s article on the key takeaways of the event:
- “When fundraising, know who you reach out to but also who you don’t reach out to.
- Gender should be embedded in all climate action.
- Investors in funds should lean into the process, and proactively engage with their fund managers to improve and advance.”
Great advice for climate finance actors – but surely applicable for those more focused on social impact, too.
Impact finance and climate finance practitioners have significant overlap and a great potential to exchange wisdom. Evidence of this exchange was abundant at the forum, as several seasoned impact finance actors offered their experience and lessons learnt. For example, Piet Colruyt, in a keynote speech, took attendees through the evolution of impact finance, with discussion of the challenges for measuring and managing impact, but also specific examples of where a systems-change approach accounted for environmental solutions alongside the social.
Speeches like this underscored the synergies between social and environmental impact investing, in terms of best practices, strategies and even the players involved. So perhaps it’s not such a surprise that a theme not overtly climate-focused made a splash at the event: gender.
Gender lens investing in climate was well-represented in the forum’s discussions. A particular highlight was the keynote from Carmen Niethammer, Senior Gender Specialist at the EIB, who spoke about the critical role women play as climate finance leaders. While her speech gave many positive examples of female leadership, Carmen also pointed out the barriers still ahead: “There should be more financial incentives and more awareness to promote gender equality and gender lens investing,” said Carmen. “The leaders are there, often they are not so visible, but they are already there.”
By the end of the conference, participants took step beyond the topic of gender to discuss the role of diversity more generally: “Diversity can bring different perspectives in decision-making and ultimately leads to superior performance,” said another of the roundtable takeaways, in addition to the three previously mentioned.
A takeaway like this points to the intention to build more effective organisations. And indeed, there were many organisations present who could lend their perspective on how to lead for greater impact, including familiar faces from EVPA’s community. Romain Diaz, CEO and Founder of Satgana -- featured on EVPA’s Sound Funding podcast – joined the Actors of Change session, discussing Satgana’s particular approach to high-impact, climate-focused solutions. EVPA’s own Knowledge Manager, Gianluca Gaggioti, was present to share his perspective in several roundtable discussions, and Martijn Blom moderated the closing session of the forum, which offered actionable conclusions.
As the event had sixteen roundtable discussions, there were many more takeaways than those mentioned already; a few most resonant for the EVPA community, as universally applicable in driving change more effectively: “Social and climate indicators to come bottom up” and “Storytelling is crucial, not only when fundraising but advocating about impact and climate, how to inspire, how to bring awareness, how to have data to elaborate on that.”
The conclusion of the forum also marked the launch of a community of practice, tailored to the needs of emerging fund managers; this initiative aims to aid collective and systemic solutions to better support emerging impact funds (please reach out directly to Martijn if you’re interested in joining this community).
At the end of the day, the Climate Finance Forum tallied up some impressive numbers: 120+ in-person attendees, 400+ online; two ministerial speeches in addition to the five keynotes; and 281 connections made.
ICFA has already made great strides in accelerating innovations in European climate finance and empowering its future leaders, as shown in our interview with ICFA CEO Stephan Peters. The Climate Finance Forum was another bold step forward; by bringing together impact and climate finance practitioners – innovators and seasoned veterans alike – the event further knit this community together.