Telling the Truth

This section of our 2023 Annual Report follows up on some points from last year’s report, asking: has our organisation closed our say-do gap?

Ben DeVries | Tom Dinneweth |
Telling the Truth

The fog of history can obscure the truth. Let’s start the Age of Impact with clear skies. Back by popular demand is a section we introduced in 2022: Telling the Truth. We’ve selected some quotes from 2022’s Annual Report to examine whether we’ve bridged our say-do gap. We do this in the spirit of fostering an organisational culture of honesty and continuous improvement.

Net zero: “...a horizon to aim for, beyond just a net-zero economy: zero poverty, zero discrimination, zero inequality.”

According to CEO Roberta Bosurgi, whose remarks in the 2022 Annual Report are quoted above: “I think in 2023 the net- zero language naturally evolved into the theme of ‘just and green transition’. This language resonated and aligned better with the EU policy framework and more clearly put the theme of inclusion, close to the heart of our community, at the core of the green transition. In 2023, we also started working with partners and members to increase the focus and resources mobilisation for climate adaptation. Watch this space in 2024.” 

Investors with impact: “We have engaged significantly with grantmaking foundations – but what about investors with impact? There’s still more opportunity to speak the language of these stakeholders and bring them into the conversation more effectively.”

In 2023 we intentionally stopped using the investing for/with impact labels to define distinct types of investors. While still advocating for the importance to keep additionality at the centre of impact investing, we also understand that the world is not black and white and that impact outcomes are delivered through a combination of financial instruments and impact strategies, spanning along the continuum of capital. We therefore started deploying targeted engagement strategies with different segments of impact investors: impact funds, impact VC, banks, corporates, etc. More to follow in 2024.

Impact integrity: “Late in 2022 we developed the Impact Integrity Quiz, a frictionless tool to let corporate impact actors assess their integrity risk.”

We’re following up on this item because the quiz was launched too late in 2022 to provide an update in that year’s report. Since then, more than 50 organisations used the tool and learned strategies to assess and mitigate their risk.

Accelerating Impact: “To tell this story, we’re launching, in 2023, a series of conversations with contributing national advisory boards, in the form of a podcast episode, webinar and blog.”

Regarding the content mentioned here, we exceeded this goal by a lot: two podcasts and five blogposts included insights from National Advisory Boards, who also proved to be significant presences in several other articles, meet-ups and events. In short, their contributions to Impact Europe’s thought leadership have been invaluable. 2024 will see their work in the spotlight again.

Endowments for impact: “Looking ahead to 2023, a series of online talks, a UK site visit with practitioners and more events at Impact Week in Torino will further discuss investing endowments for impact.”

Our plans for endowments for impact in 2023 may have been overly ambitious. The online talks and discussions at Impact Week were key convenings for foundation stakeholders seeking ways to change mindsets around investing endowments. But we also encountered unexpected viewpoints during these sessions. We aimed to assess the interest in a public pledge to invest endowments for impact; this is still a priority for some leaders in the foundation space, however, some Impact Europe members shared a need for more learning opportunities and safe spaces to discuss the topic (coming in 2024). Connected to this point, the UK site visit, mentioned in the quotation, was cancelled because key foundation stakeholders were not yet ready to share their insights.

Despite recognising the critical importance to mobilise more endowment assets for impact, not much progress was made in this area. This is linked to the level of investors’ readiness, mentioned above, but also a perception that fiduciary duties and the absence of an enabling policy framework stand in the way of moving more capital for impact. But we are not giving this up.We have decided to join forces with other market builders, with the belief that by working together we can hope to change mindsets, laws and behaviours.

Impact Together!: Expect actions like “launching new impact funds and optimising existing ones, with smarter use of EU funding.”

A bit of a mixed bag, here. We were ready to celebrate the launch of the BuildPalestine impact fund in October 2023. Sadly, we had to postpone because of conflict in the region. Behind the scenes, though, we are very much active on this goal, taking each of our respective partners through the motions to maximise the potential of their (future) impact funds.