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Impact Investing is now

As investors ask themselves some fundamental questions, Lauran Halpin, Head of Impact Equities, looks at the increasing popularity of sustainable investments.

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Date published
12 Dec 2023

Sustainable investment has become a significant trend in financial markets as science and society address a growing range of issues that pose both risks and opportunities: biodiversity protection, water management, extreme weather events, diversity, equity, and inclusion, are just some of the topics on investors’ minds.

Increasingly, investors are asking themselves some fundamental questions: what sort of society do we want to create; what is our purpose; and are we living it? The manifestation of this emerging worldview is the rise of impact investing as investors increasingly embrace an investment style that offers diversification of choice through a fresh and more unconventional approach.

The worldwide impact investing market has now broken the USD1 trillion1 barrier and continues to grow. It reflects the demand pressure for the investment industry to be part of the solution. Many investors are considering their purpose and reflecting on the type of society they want to live in, and the state of the planet they want to leave for future generations.

Impact investing focusses on identifying companies whose products and services are providing real world solutions to the biggest issues we face globally. Investing specifically in publicly listed companies allows impact to be made at scale as opposed to piece meal finance available from private investment or debt issuance.

Identifying impactful companies must focus on intentionality and measurability to ensure legitimacy – is the company actively embracing and driving its potential impact forward and are there metrics by which this impact can be measured currently and in the future? For example, is the delivery of affordable housing central to the business model of a homebuilder, or is it simply an add-on to meet obligations or improve corporate reputation? Does the homebuilder disclose the number of affordable units it delivers and the revenue these generate? What would happen if this homebuilder no longer built affordable units? These are the types of questions that impact investors must ask to determine authenticity and magnitude of impact generated by potential investments.

  • Impact investing focusses on identifying companies whose products and services are providing real world solutions to the biggest issues we face globally.

By investing impactfully, we can utilise savings and investments as a potentially huge force for good in the world – and in doing so, gain the emotional reward experienced from helping others. Research by Harvard Business School confirms this.2 Investing our money for social or environmental good, is consistently associated with greater feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Furthermore, a recent survey indicated that more than two-thirds of UK citizens are concerned about issues like social inequalities and climate change.3

There is however a widespread misconception that impact investing means lower returns.
There is no need to choose between doing good socially and doing well financially. Generating long-term returns and supporting a healthy society are entirely compatible aims.

In a recent GIIN report4, 79% of investors reported that their impact investments performed in line with, or better than their expectations, in financial terms. Research from Morgan Stanley concluded that sustainable funds combine competitive financial performance and reduced risk. Not only did it reveal that there was no financial trade-off in the returns of sustainable funds and traditional funds, but it also found that sustainable funds experienced a 20% lower market risk than their traditional counterparts.5

Raising public consciousness, followed by action, is a key to positive change in society. Growing public opinion has played a major role in improving social health, wellbeing, and inclusion. Huge progress has been made socially in terms of diversity, inclusion and equity as evidenced by improvements in disability rights, gender and racial equality, as well as greater awareness of equality in pay and opportunities.

People prefer living in societies that are inclusive, promote heath, wellbeing, fairness, and opportunity. When the public are given the means, the motive, and the potential to improve society, they step up. It is possible to invest in companies that are making a positive change to society in the longer term while also generating alpha. So, while more considered and thoughtful investments can satisfy a desire for positive societal difference, investors can also reap a financial reward.

Investors are shifting their focus from shareholder value in a purely financial sense, to stakeholder benefit in its widest sense. Intentional investing is set to become a more significant part portfolio allocations, playing an important role in driving corporate behaviour.

  • Improving Society

    Martin Currie’s socially-focused impact strategy aims to positively address the problem of human inequity while delivering long-term capital growth.

    Find out more


1GIINsight: Sizing the Impact Investing Market 2022. Global impact Investing Network (GIIN), October 12, 2022, Dean Hand, Ben Ringel and Alexander Danel.

2Prosocial Spending and Wellbeing: Cross-cultural Evidence for a Psychological Universal. Harvard Business School, 2010.

3Financial Wellbeing Survey. Findings based on a sample of over 10,000 UK residents. Aegon, August 2021.

4GIINsight: Impact Investing Allocations, Activity & Performance. Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), 2023.

5Sustainable Reality: Analyzing Risks and Returns of Sustainable Funds. Findings based on analysis of 10,723 funds between 2004 and 2018, using Morningstar data. Morgan Stanley, August 2019.

Important Information

This information is issued and approved by Martin Currie Investment Management Limited (‘MCIM’), authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. It does not constitute investment advice. Market and currency movements may cause the capital value of shares, and the income from them, to fall as well as rise and you may get back less than you invested.

The information contained in this document has been compiled with considerable care to ensure its accuracy. However, no representation or warranty, express or implied, is made to its accuracy or completeness. Martin Currie has procured any research or analysis contained in this document for its own use. It is provided to you only incidentally and any opinions expressed are subject to change without notice.

The document does not form the basis of, nor should it be relied upon in connection with, any subsequent contract or agreement. It does not constitute, and may not be used for the purpose of, an offer or invitation to subscribe for or otherwise acquire shares in any of the products mentioned.

Past performance is not a guide to future returns.

The distribution of specific products is restricted in certain jurisdictions, investors should be aware of these restrictions before requesting further specific information.

The views expressed are opinions of the portfolio managers as of the date of this document and are subject to change based on market and other conditions and may differ from other portfolio managers or of the firm as a whole. These opinions are not intended to be a forecast of future events, research, a guarantee of future results or investment advice.

The analysis of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors forms an important part of the investment process and helps inform investment decisions. The strategy/ies do not necessarily target particular sustainability outcomes.

Risk warnings – Investors should also be aware of the following risk factors which may be applicable to the strategy shown in this document.

  • Investing in foreign markets introduces a risk where adverse movements in currency exchange rates could result in a decrease in the value of your investment.
  • This strategy may hold a limited number of investments. If one of these investments falls in value this can have a greater impact on the strategy’s value than if it held a larger number of investments.
  • Smaller companies may be riskier and their shares may be less liquid than larger companies, meaning that their share price may be more volatile.
  • Emerging markets or less developed countries may face more political, economic or structural challenges than developed countries. Accordingly, investment in emerging markets is generally characterised by higher levels of risk than investment in fully developed markets.
  • The strategy may invest in derivatives Index futures and FX forwards to obtain, increase or reduce exposure to underlying assets. The use of derivatives may result in greater fluctuations of returns due to the value of the derivative not moving in line with the underlying asset. Certain types of derivatives can be difficult to purchase or sell in certain market conditions.

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This material is provided on the basis that you are a wholesale client within the definition of ASIC Class Order 03/1099. MCIM is authorised and regulated by the FCA under UK laws, which differ from Australian laws.

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This material is intended for residents in, or incorporated in, Canada and are a Permitted Client for the purposes of MI 31-103. The information on this section of the website is not intended for use by any other person, including members of the public.

Martin Currie Inc, incorporated in New York with its registered office at 280 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and having a UK branch registered in Scotland (no SF000300), Head office, 5 Morrison Street, 2nd floor, Edinburgh, EH3 8BH, Tel: +44 (0) 131 229 5252 Fax: +44 (0) 131 222 2532, operates under the International Adviser Exemption with the Ontario Securities Commission (‘OSC’) and is therefore currently not required to be registered as a portfolio manager for the purposes of MI 31-103. Martin Currie Inc. is also authorised by the UK Financial Conduct Authority.

For the avoidance of doubt, nothing excludes, limits or restricts our obligations to you under the UK Financial Services and Market Act 2000, National Instruments or any other applicable law or regulation.

The opinions and views in this website do not take into account your individual circumstances, objectives, or needs and are not intended to be recommendations of particular financial instruments or strategies to you.

This website does not identify all the risks (direct or indirect) or other considerations which might be material to you when entering any financial transaction. You should consult with your professional advisers before undertaking any investment activity. The information provided on this website should not be treated as advice or a recommendation to buy or sell any particular security or other investment. The information on this website has not been reviewed by any competent regulatory authority.

For professional investors:

In the People’s Republic of China:

This document does not constitute a public offer of the strategy, whether by sale or subscription, in the People’s Republic of China (the “PRC”). These strategies are not being offered or sold directly or indirectly in the PRC to or for the benefit of, legal or natural persons of the PRC.

Further, no legal or natural persons of the PRC may directly or indirectly purchase any of the strategy or any beneficial interest therein without obtaining all prior PRC’s governmental approvals that are required, whether statutorily or otherwise. Persons who come into possession of this document are required by the issuer and its representatives to observe these restrictions.

In Hong Kong:

The contents of this document have not been reviewed by any regulatory authority in Hong Kong.  You are advised to exercise caution in relation to the offer.  If you are in any doubt about any of the contents of this document, you should obtain independent professional advice.

In South Korea:

This document is for information purposes only. It is prepared and presented to provide an introduction to the business of MCIM and its related companies (collectively known as ‘Martin Currie’). This document does not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of any offer to invest in any security, fund or other vehicle managed or advised by Martin Currie.

None of the security(ies), fund(s) or vehicle(s) managed by or advised by Martin Currie are registered in South Korea under the Financial Investment Services and Capital Markets Act of Korea and accordingly, none of these instruments nor any interest therein may be offered, sold or delivered, or offered or sold to any person for re-offering or resale, directly or indirectly, in South Korea or to any resident of South Korea except pursuant to applicable laws and regulations of South Korea.

Martin Currie is not registered with or regulated by any regulatory authorities in South Korea.