Our vision at the Impact Investing Institute is for capital markets that are fairer and work better for people and the planet. We see impact- driven investment by charitable endowments as integral to that transformation. With support from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation we have created materials to support charitable endowments as they consider this approach to investing and seek inspiration to get started. 

For the Impact Investing Institute, impact investments are investments made with the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. Investments can be across asset classes, in both emerging and developed markets, and target a range of returns from below-market to market-rate, depending on the investors’ strategic goals.

When discussing charitable endowment investments specifically investors are often focused on risk-adjusted market rate return opportunities. The Association of Charitable Foundations terms this sub-category as “impact- driven” investing: in the US this approach is referred to as Mission Related Investing.

As this is an emerging field of practice, and there are no mandated definitions of impact, many impact investors use different terminology to refer to similar concepts. Where possible in the case studies below we have attempted to clarify the definition in use.

Founded in 1961, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation is one of the UK’s largest independent grant-making organisations, with an endowment of £1.172bn a typical active portfolio of over 900 grants and a £45 million social investment fund. It has three main aims: improve our natural world, secure a fairer future and nurture creative, confident communities.

Dame Caroline Mason, chief executive officer, spoke about transitioning the endowment’s investment portfolio towards impact investing.

Ceniarth is a private family office focused on improving livelihoods in marginalised and vulnerable communities globally. Founded in 2013 by Diane Isenberg, Ceniarth manages the assets of the Isenberg Family Charitable Foundation, as well as unrestricted family assets totalling more than $500 million. The firm’s team of twelve is based primarily in London with an additional presence in New York and San Francisco.

Friends Provident Foundation began life as an independent charity endowed by Friends Provident plc in 2004 from unclaimed shares with a mission to support a fair and sustainable economic system that works for all. It has an endowment of £33.5mn.

Colin Baines was appointed as the Foundation’s first Investment Engagement Manager in 2016.

Based in the heart of London, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation seeks to drive more equitable health, especially in cities, by working with local communities, grassroots organisations, major corporates, government, hospitals, academics and others.

Kieron Boyle, chief executive officer and Ethan Hall, chief investment officer talked to us about their ambitions to configure their whole endowment portfolio to focus on health impacts.

Treebeard Trust was established by Barnaby Wiener, a fund manager, and his wife Cassandra, a lawyer, in 2011 to formalise their personal charitable giving – with a broad mission to create a fairer society and a healthier planet. It now has an endowment of over £20 million.

Barnaby talks about their approach to direct impact investing.