CEO and co-founder of the Global Impact Investing Network shares his vision for mobilising capital on a scale commensurate with the social and environmental challenges facing the world
- CEO & Co-Founder, Global Impact Investing Network – 2009-present
- Consultant, Monitor Institute – 2007-2009
- Consultant, Gap Foundation 2006
- Consultant, Corporate Contributions, Johnson & Johnson – 2005
- Senior Development Officer, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation – 2001-2004
- Associate Consultant, Bain & Company – 1999-2001
Amit Bouri, CEO and co-founder of the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), has a first-hand understanding of the meaning of social mobility. Born in California to Indian immigrants, Bouri was brought up by a single mother who, upon arriving in the US, had to go back to school to in order to get a job in the US.
Living on social assistance for a number of years, she eventually found employment as an accountant, moved up in life, and gave her son the opportunities he otherwise never would have had, including access to a great education.
“I have experienced a great amount of social mobility, and that has very much shaped my views on what I want to do with my career, which is to help create opportunities for others,” Bouri says. “I experienced what it was like to live on a very low income, and also saw the opportunities that become available to you when you move to a more stable environment.”
After several consulting jobs, Bouri worked for a global health non-profit focused on preventing HIV transmission among children, which he describes as “incredibly fulfilling and important work, but it was on a small scale” when compared to the many other large-scale problems facing society.
It was then when he started thinking about ways to develop solutions for addressing social challenges at a greater scale, combining private and public resources. Eventually, he joined social sector consulting firm Monitor Institute, later acquired by Deloitte.
“It was a small company but all of its clients were social enterprises, foundations, and other organisations trying to change the world,” he explains. “We ended up partnering with the Rockefeller Foundation on a project that led to the creation of the GIIN.”
The GIIN was built on a shared recognition that the world’s problems were growing faster, and at a much larger scale, than the philanthropy and aid sectors were able to respond to.
“At the time, there was a movement around social entrepreneurship bubbling up across the world, with pockets of impact investment happening all over, in the US but also across Europe, in particular the UK and the Netherlands,” he explains.
“It was what we described at the time as ‘uncoordinated innovation’. And there was this sense that, if done right, this could be built into a market with global scale.”
The GIIN was launched in 2009 with seed funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and the US government’s international development agency USAID, with the aim to connect different stakeholders and weave together all the impact investment initiatives already taking place around the world. Today, it has nearly 400 member organisations, spanning across 51 countries.
“Our agenda is to focus on scale with integrity – in other words, moving capital on a scale that is commensurate with the problems that the world is facing, and with the integrity of impact that will really lead to lasting progress.”Amit Bouri, GIIN
The organisation has played a pivotal role in developing some of the infrastructure needed for the sector to thrive, with a focus on providing members with the appropriate tools, knowledge, and networks to accelerate their impact investment work.
Creating the right frameworks and methodology for impact measurement and management (IMM) has been a priority – its IRIS+ system, designed to help investors measure, manage and optimise their impact, is free and publicly available and widely used across the industry.
The GIIN’s focus continues to evolve as the market grows – from the early days of building industry credibility, to today’s calls for social and environmental factors to be integrated into investment decisions “simply by default, and are a fundamental part of how investors think not just about risk, but also about value and fiduciary duty”, he says.
Bouri celebrates how environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing has moved mainstream, and the fact that investors are more aware of the climate risk in their portfolios “because that will lead to better behaviours. However, we want investors to go a step further, which is to think ‘how can I use my portfolio to help mitigate the climate crisis and support communities that need help around adaptation and resilience to the climate crisis?’”
Scale with integrity
The organisation’s vision for the future was laid out in its 2018 Roadmap for the Future of Impact Investing report, which included the ambitious aspiration to create a world where financial markets play a central role in driving solutions to address the most pressing societal challenges, and where impact would be the “viable, taken-for-granted option for every investor, from retail to institutional, across all investments”.
Speaking about the challenges of bringing impact investments to the retail sector, Bouri says: “All the data is pointing to a great deal of demand amongst the broader population for opportunities to put your money to work, to invest in a better world.”
“But the financial services market has not stepped up to service this demand with a diverse array of high-quality impact investment products.” (Read more about retail investors in this recent article)
Bouri hopes to see a shift in investors’ thinking when it comes to the role of impact in their overall portfolios, from being just one of the many asset allocation decisions, to moving to “a strategic level where they are thinking about impact across their entire portfolio”.
“I think this is critical if we are going to make a real difference, not just on the climate crisis, but also step up to the challenge of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” he stresses.
“One guiding principle for us is ‘how do we make sure that the world delivers on these promises and moves the needle on these big systemic issues?’ Our agenda is to focus on scale with integrity – in other words, moving capital on a scale that is commensurate with the problems that the world is facing, and with the integrity of impact that will really lead to lasting progress.”