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GSG Impact: Beyond impact investing

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Published: 15 May 2024

The Global Steering Group for Impact Investment has been rebranded to reflect its focus on the broader narrative of impact, extending beyond just impact investing, according to chief strategy officer Alasdair Maclay.

GSG Impact’s network expands across the world and currently has 44 national partners driving impact locally and contributing to the development of the sector globally | Ktsimage on iStock

The Global Steering Group for Impact Investment (GSG) is entering its second decade with a renewed vision and a new name, GSG Impact.

Originally emerging from the Social Impact Investment Taskforce established during the UK’s 2013 presidency of the G8, the organisation’s mission has been to catalyse impact investment and entrepreneurship to benefit people and the planet, and today has a global presence expanding 44 countries.

According to chief strategy officer Alasdair Maclay, the new name reflects more accurately the organisation’s focus on the wider aspects of impact beyond just impact investing, as he discusses with Paula Garrido.

Paula Garrido (PG): Firstly, let’s talk about the name change. Why and why now?

Alasdair Maclay (AM): We have just celebrated 10 years since the creation of the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment, or GSG. Over that time, the impact sector has evolved significantly. We now even have job titles such as ‘chief impact officer’ which didn’t exist a few years ago.

Alasdair Maclay, GSG Impact

Also, as an organisation, we have grown from our early beginnings out of the G8 Taskforce in 2013, to become a network covering 44 countries, with partners all around the world.

With all that change in the sector and in ourselves, we felt it was the right time to rethink the way we present our organisation externally through our brand.

We felt that our name and our brand were talking a lot about impact investments, when actually the conversation and the topics we’re covering are much wider and go beyond impact investing.

PG: What areas beyond impact investing are you referring to?

AM: We are focused on the broader story of impact, from impact transparency to what we sometimes describe as impact economies, where you’re putting impact at the heart of every decision made by businesses, investors, consumers and governments. Our work with our partners globally has been much broader than just impact investment – we are looking to address and solve broader impact issues and opportunities.

Everyone in our sector knows GSG and we wanted to maintain our brand value and recognition but also spell out the word impact more clearly in our name. Our rebranding has been a very inclusive process, involving all the national advisory boards which from now on will be called national partners.

PG: You mentioned your 10th anniversary earlier. How do you envisage the next decade in terms of your main priorities?  

AM: We’ve always spent a lot of time thinking about where we can add the most value and after this first decade we now want to focus on addressing the main barriers which we believe are holding back the sector.  

We think there are two particular areas that need solving. One is the lack of incentives for decision makers and organisations to optimise impact. The other challenge is the lack of knowhow in delivering impact by entrepreneurs, by businesses.

We are looking at ways we can help solve those two challenges and one area on which we are very focused is impact transparency.

PG: What do you mean by impact transparency and how can it be achieved?

AM: When we talk about impact transparency we are talking about the measurement of impact through harmonised standards. We are working closely with the International Sustainability Standards Board, the ISSB, to make sure the voice of the countries where we have national partners, particularly those in emerging markets is heard, as the new ISSB standards are designed and implemented. We believe that with meaningful impact transparency, we’ll be able to ensure that people have the right incentives to drive better outcomes.

It’s much more than just impact investing. It’s about putting impact at the heart of decision making for investors, for governments and, ultimately, for people.

PG: Going back to impact investing, the need for accelerating the mobilisation of capital in emerging markets is a main concern across the sector. What is your role there?

AM: This is linked to the lack of incentives and knowhow I mentioned earlier. We are spending a lot of time supporting colleagues in emerging markets, particularly in Africa, on designing and building new investment vehicles for impact.

We’re not a fund manager but of course we’re of interested in catalysing other people’s capital into vehicles and sharing best-practice ideas, so the lesson we learned from Zambia, for instance, could perhaps be applied in Nigeria – there is a lot of cross-fertilising and knowledge-sharing.

We know that some of our measurable goals will be about the amount of capital mobilised and deployed for positive impact. That alone will tell us if we’re succeeding and doing a good job. But the ultimately message we want to communicate is that it’s not just about the precise asset class or the specific field of impact investment, but it’s about the broader impact.

PG: You currently have 44 national partners. How to do see your presence growing over the coming years?

AM: About half of the countries where we have partners are OECD, Northern Hemisphere countries, and the other half are emerging or developing economies. We want to make sure we have an effective global partnership which can make really change happen.  We will continue to add countries but we want to do this in a targeted way – success is not about adding dozens of countries but about making sure we have an effective partnership with the right members who can drive impact locally but also contribute to the development of the sector globally.

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