In a series of forthcoming articles, a prominent US figure in the impact investing space will explore how to pull together disparate ways of thinking about the world to show how this model of managing money should be addressed.
Impact investing – the business of making money while also achieving non-financial “impacts” such as cleaning up the environment or reducing crime – is one of the hottest subjects in the wealth management market at the moment. As readers know, it has been a regular subject on this news service; Family Wealth Report held a conference last week in Manhattan on the subject (details here, a summary report is forthcoming).
Benjamin Bingham, a published author on impact investing and expert on such issues, is preparing a series of articles for FWR – possibly becoming a book. He intends to “build a bridge for smart investors”, connecting the analytical “left-brain” world of metrics to the “right-brain” world of holistic synthesis, as he describes it. In coming weeks, he will be sharing his ideas in these pages. Ben wants to connect the world of the of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB, pronounced “sazbee”) and the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s pronounced “esdeegeez”).
Impact investing blends many varying disciplines, and attempts to break down the assumption that “doing good” involves sacrificing investment returns. That’s an important assumption to contest given the probability that equity markets, on a bull run since the end of the 2008 financial crackup, are due for a correction. There remains considerable debate on the hows and whys of measuring impact investment when set aside more conventional ways of overseeing money.
Ben is already the author of Making Money Matter/Impact Investing to Change the World (www.makingmoneymatterbook.com), and the editors know from personal experience that he is an engaging and forceful advocate in this space. As is always the case at FWR, the editors don’t necessarily endorse all comments from guest contributors and invite readers to respond. To do so, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s continue the debate.
To set the scene, here are some introductory remarks from Ben:
Investors need a map if they are going to navigate in the world of impact investing. But even before this, investors need to believe investments matter, to relate to their money in a new way; to see it as a tool for change. To make this real, to inspire and lead to real change, the author will explore each of the standard industry designations used by professional investors and how they relate to each of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals or SDG’s. The point is to break it down from the siloes that have us hiding out in separate worlds. Some of us revel in complexities but miss big picture opportunities; others tend to dream about change but eschew the details that if embraced would lead to what we want. A bridge is needed.
We are witnessing a time of global change that could prematurely end what Hazel Henderson calls the Age of the Anthropocene: Humankind may become as extinct as the dinosaurs. Recent floods, tsunamis and the incineration of thousands of homes in unprecedented fires all makes this possibility all too believable.
At the same time there is an exponential growth in consciousness and a plethora of technological solutions springing up globally. The future is not known, but is more than ever in our own hands. The question is whether we will support the proliferation of ready solutions or, continue to invest in the status quo, using financial “experts” who are all informed by the same uninspired consultants or wholesalers, each with their own preferred stable of managers.
There is plenty of room for error in our attempt to get it right. Being “right” on any subject is a good start, but it does not insure success. It may be that if we embrace the energy of the sun, the wind, and the rising tides together we would be able to provide twenty-four times the energy we currently consume, but will this make us better people? Would it change the predominance of greed and fear or the disconnect with nature brought on by virtual reality?
The hope for this series is to bring a sense of meaning to investing, to empower investors to understand how to affect meaningful change in every sector of the economy; not just one at a time but also as a harmonious whole.
About the author
Benjamin Bingham’s grandfather, Hiram Bingham III, uncovered the sacred site of Machu Picchu in 1911, opening an important portal between the sacred nature of the southern Andes and the rest of the world. The author sees his vocation as an adventure in the asphalt jungles of the financial world, turning money into a sacred tool and common ritual for connecting cultures, peoples, and businesses globally.
Growing up as the tenth child at the tail end of a once-enormous inheritance from the Tiffany fortune afforded Mr. Bingham a unique window into the world of the wealthy: accepted into country clubs and private schools on scholarship, while needing to live simply and frugally at home.
After twelve years managing public and private investment portfolios, Mr. Bingham founded 3Sisters Sustainable Management, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor, along with its research arm www.wikipositive.org and in 2012, its first proprietary fund family: Scarab Funds. More information can be found at www.3sistersinvest.com.
Ben is a Fellow of Economists for Peace and Security. He is a member of the Investors’ Circle and the Social Venture Network, and, as a social entrepreneur/investor/money manager, draws on broad hands-on management experience at two technology startups, one in biological healthcare and the other a workflow solution provider. His first social enterprise was an intentional agricultural community for young people who longed for a college like experience but lacked the intellectual capacity. It is still flourishing near Hudson, NY (www.triform.org).
Ben is also a Registered Investment Advisor with a CFP designation. He is on the board of the Mariah Fenton Gladis Foundation and CSRHub.com: the largest aggregated data source for ratings of corporations on environmental, social, and governance issues. He attended Groton School, Yale University, and Emerson College in England where he received a certificate in Bio-Dynamic Agriculture and Soil Science. Ten years in sustainable agriculture and the continued growing of vegetables and fruit at home, inform his thinking about prudent fiduciary duty.