Impact investing is no longer confined to the fringes of the global capital markets. Once the purview of aggressive venture capital funds and NGOs with a social mandate, the notion of impact investing has now become a central conversation amongst mainstream investment funds and firms. As a result, the impact investment sector has ballooned to an estimated USD715 billion in 2021, according to the Global Impact Investing Network’s (GIIN) annual survey.
Impact investing often aligns its mandate to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). These 17 interlinked goals cover a wide variety of targets to be achieved by 2030 that is aimed to create a better world by ending poverty, fighting inequality, and addressing climate change. Believing that private capital would be the key driver to funding the collective costs of the UNSDGs, the Rockefeller Foundation was first to coin the phrase impact investing.
Having come into its own, impact investing has fuelled an entire ecosystem of research and innovation, so much so that the idea of impact investing is often correlated with technology. Many of the global issues that impact humanity are problems that can be solved with the innovative application of technology, so the attraction to private capital is clear, especially when new business models are able to make it sustainable.
New technologies that are maturing towards commerciality include artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), biotechnology, robotics, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), blockchain, and 3D printing. At KWAP, we have participated in this area as we seek to diversify our investments for the benefit of our stakeholders.
However, technology’s almost magical ability to create value up and down the value chain, the most valuable asset for most organisations remains its employees, who collectively form the talent inventory that the company uses to deploy its value proposition and business model. Talent drives the human face of a business as well as architects the strategy of how to grow and create impact in the market.
The talent required to build and deploy technology is enormous. Even now there’s a skills gap for talent and the race is on for companies to future-proof their existing workforce by investing in training and capability development—upskilling and retooling. Companies that are seen to be investing in their talent development alongside investments in technology may find that they attract more investor interest, especially if they can synergise the two to drive value creation.
Areas where technology and talent will intersect to create value include DevOps, which work to speed up new features, ensure stable IT environments, and reduce operations times. Automation, cloud, cybersecurity and platforms are other segments where talent and technology will work together to create value. Many of these paradigms will come to bear at companies and organizations of the future which are going to shoulder the responsibilities brought about by the sustainability and climate change movements.
Impact investment is growing by leaps and bounds and will command an increasing share of the global market for private capital. These investors are beginning to understand the crucial role of talent alongside technology and will allocate resources to the organizations that successfully manage to marry the two.