Introducing the Age of Impact

An introduction from Roberta Bosurgi and Leslie Johnston, CEO and Board Chair, respectively, of Impact Europe. Excerpted from our 2023 Annual Report.

Introducing the Age of Impact
A big anniversary feels like being on top of a mountain. Looking forwards. Looking backwards. Reflecting and celebrating. Seeing a further horizon and finding new strength to carry on towards it. 

After 20 years as Europe’s investing for impact network, we appreciate, now more than ever, that all capital providers have a crucial role to play in driving transformative change. Our membership is comprised of leaders and practitioners at the vanguard of this effort. The data, stories and thought-leadership included in this annual report look both backwards – at the past year and our history – and forwards, towards a future where our shared goals are closer to realisation.

The goals are clear: mobilise more capital and stakeholders for impact, catalyse collective action, advocate for enabling policies and build new impact investing markets.

Our efforts to reach these goals unfolded in a challenging context in 2023, a year of poly-crisis, high inflation and a sharp reduction of private equity and venture capital funding flowing into impact start-ups.The gap to achieve the SDGs is still €4+ trillion annually.

And yet, we still noted positive signs. More impact actors are seeing the value of the full continuum of capital and its crucial role in mobilisation; the role of catalytic capital is gaining recognition. Signs of market maturity were also reflected in the scaling trajectories of impact enterprises and successful investment exits, in the many new impact funds launched last year (50+) and in the role played by funds of funds, which we see as having the potential to mobilise more institutional funding.

The impact investing market in Europe reached €80 billion in 2022. If we manage to keep the pace, it can hit one trillion by 2034, and grow its mainstream market share from one to ten percent. That big ‘if ’ depends on an enabling policy framework, well-tailored public funding and continued agility and innovativeness of impact capital providers in mobilising capital across the continuum.

To start with the public sphere, we’ve seen the positive effects when policymakers step up and come into the impact space as accelerators, enablers and facilitators. When it comes to influencing regulatory frameworks, clearly the impact community is speaking up.

For example, we collaborated with several National Advisory Boards (NABs) and the Global Steering Group for Impact Investing (GSG) to write a joint letter of recommendation to the European Commission on how to tailor the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation for impact. 

It’s a hopeful development to note more public funding mechanisms deployed to be catalytic and mobilise more private capital for impact. To achieve the SDGs, we’ll need to keep increasing a sense of shared accountability among public, private and philanthropic actors.That’s just one mountain among many: leveraging the full power of impact investing to catalyse and drive a just and green transition; redesigning the systems that perpetuate inequality; sharing a coherent narrative that brings together business, philanthropy, policy and civil society by speaking the same language; breaking silos and building trust among new collaborators.

Added to these challenges is what we see around us every day: war, hunger, disease, social unrest, intolerance, misinformation, uncertainties over AI’s role in society, renewed love for internal combustion engines, coal and gas.

In this context, one can easily surrender to the thought that we have entered a new dark age. We believe the opposite: that with right collective action in the next decade we will witness a dawning of the Age of Impact.

 For the investing for impact community, this work is well underway. Each section of our annual report reflects this, as it does our priorities going forward. If, in reading this report, you find a place where we could include your voice, expertise or action, please get in touch and let’s work together – towards a future that puts despair in the past.