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If you look at the energy sector, if you want to take to the company with the best ESG rating within the energy sector, it happens to be Repsol nothing against Repsol. If you take a company typically in the renewable energy sector, a smaller company, I mean, the footprint is obviously much better, but these companies do not necessarily have the same policies in place, they do not communicate as well as Repsol. Is that the reason?
A pure big data approach will not enable you to necessarily understand the impact of a company, […] we still need the human brain, but one human brain is not sufficient to measure all the different aspects of impacts of a given company. So rather than just going for either an expert-model or a big data model, the most interesting approach is to use collective intelligence.
I think the main reason is that it was the demand at the time. You know, we should also care about responsibility. So, the question was, you know, trying to find out whether those guys do things right. And this is how ESG started. So you get interested in what are your policies, you make sure you treat your employees right, or you make sure you control your supply chain, and reduce your environmental pollution.
And those are two different questions. And again, at that time, we were happy with the answer to the first one, but the time has come now to move to the next one. And the time has come to go… You know, ESG is about finding whether the companies are doing things right. It is also true that it is much easier to assess the practices of companies than the impact of companies which have been huge for multi-facet products operating in many different countries.
So, what is the carbon footprint of the company but also how do you judge, for example, you know, pumping effluents into the river versus pumping carbon into the atmosphere? How do you make value judgments about these different impacts? The first one is that, of course, if you only are interested in practices, the best thing you have to do is to ask the company, right? So, a large part of the information is just coming from the companies. And Sylvain was right to mention that this is done through questionnaires sent to companies and companies answer to this questionnaire and this is how you calculate your ESG scores.
Now, the impact, you know, is much broader and the company might not be the best organization when it comes to answering what is the global impact that you have on the planet and society. Facebook has much impact on the world in terms of democracy, privacy, you know, access to information, fake news. I mean, we saw many of these issues, some of them, you know, being very important in terms of scale that they can have, and the impact they can have on the world. So, we need to have a different approach that can be a lot more open, that can look into different sources, and not just the company, and that can really look at the impacts and not just practices.
And this really was the frustration that we had, with Sylvain, when we used those data in the financial industry because we were also using these ESG data, we always got frustrated to the fact that they were not measuring what matters, and they were not getting the information where it was the most important to do so. So, a lot of companies are taking a big data approach to this. It is not a questionnaire approach, but a sort of big data approach to trying to calculate the broader impact of companies.
Why is it that you are not pursuing the same approach? Why do you see that there is a gap for a different approach? It is kind of self-assessment, and doing self-assessment means that, you know, your VC has a lot of cherry-picking and these companies are going to report on what they are doing. But then you end up with situations like Philip Morris saying that they have a positive impact on SDG 3, which is about health and wellbeing.
So, why not just take a big data approach? Because this is the moment for you to tell us a bit more about Impaakt. You are taking a much, much more radical approach, which involves, you know, creating content yourselves, right? It is a qualitative assessment also to do, above that. As I said earlier, a lot of the data come from the companies themselves, so you have to dig to get to the data, and you have to analyze this data.
So, a pure big data approach will not enable you to necessarily understand the impact of a company, as on each of these SDGs, which is the reason why we thought, you know, we still need the human brain but one human brain is not sufficient to measure all the different aspects of impacts of a given company, and which is why we thought, you know, rather than just going for either an expert model or a big data model, what is probably the most interesting approach is to use collective intelligence.
We knew that it would be difficult, we knew it will be challenging, so we actually looked at big data as one of the first, you know, intuitive way of doing that. And we realized, for the reason that Sylvain just mentioned that was not the right way. I mean, we still use artificial intelligence to support the work of our analysts, but at the end of the day, we still need to have people that look at data, are able to put that into perspective, are able to also confront their views, building this collectively-built knowledge around the impact of companies.
But when this is done, if you find a way of gathering all that data and organizing it in a structured way to the depth of it, then you can really build a very strong and robust knowledge about the impact of companies. And this is the model that we started, actually, and we refined all the time, and now we are very confident about the value-added that it is really providing in comparison with any other solution that we can find on the market.
So it is huge. The reality is a bit more complex. So, in order to get people to write on Impaakt, we need to train them, which is what we do through our certification. Then, in order to make sure that they write on the relevant topics, you have to really build a framework of the most important topics, whether positive or negative for each industry.
And this is where artificial intelligence gets into the picture, right? Actually, I think that Geneva was a chance for us. First of all, because I would not describe Impaakt as a tech company. We do have a data scientist and CTO which is a Ph.
But in the other way around, I think probably the idea of Impaakt would not have been born somewhere else than in Geneva. I mean, we have a unique ecosystem where the financial center sits together with the United Nations and many international organizations.
And this might have not happened if we were based in London or New York, because just impact investing was not as mature in those cities at that time that it was the case in Geneva. And the community is neither in London, nor in New York, nor in Geneva. And, you know, hundreds of companies have done this in the United States, very few of them have done it in Europe.
So, talk us through that. So, you mentioned certification, you mentioned trying to build the community. How difficult has it been? How many wrong steps along the way? The reality is that there are many pitfalls. So the first issue for us was, we cannot just rely on the layman, we need to train these people, which is why we do this certification, to make sure they know how to write a good analysis.
And this does create a very robust and a very engaging relationship with the community that we are leveraging today in terms of making sure not only the community increases in terms of size but in terms of how active that community is on the platform. You know, it took us some time before we figured out how to do that, but I think the certification has really been one of the major steps in terms of solving that issue.
And if I look at the figures, you know, a quarter of all the people that come to the platform today are regular visitors which, for this kind of platform, is a very important number. If you look at the number for TripAdvisor, you know, some people go there once or twice a year, and the vast majority only go there and then never come back.
So it was sort of a never-ending investment. And what we then realized was that for people to carry on writing, then we give them incentives. And by starting to pay contributors once they are certified, we have been able to build a community of these regular contributors, who do not just come for the certification but want to continue afterward. And then you keep them engaged by paying them for their contributions.
And by different means. I mean, we just basically replicated the success that we had with the certification program but just did the same thing for the reviewing team, right? So we created a certification for reviewers. You first have to be a certified Impaakt analyst and then you can apply for the certified reviewer program.
And then, we created a similar community. Of course, it is not driven out of the same kind of incentives and the same profile of people. But we just did a community of both external freelancers and internal staff managing that. And so, we have this capability that we need as well, on that front. Some just wanted to discover about sustainability.
And, you know, a profile, which is extremely International. What does that mean? These are finance professionals or are much more general than that? Some of them are engineers, some of them are teachers, some of them are students, but they come from very different backgrounds, both geographically and in terms of education, and in terms of professional experience.
And this is actually what we want. I have to say that the common alignment in sustainability is one of the key features we want to encourage even more. And we can tell at the end of the day that is making a difference. And so, we also try to find ways of making sure we expand the community by looking for those, you know, sustainability-aligned type of profiles.
How easy is it now to recruit them? Sylvain: Do you mean clients? Ben: Yes. And this is what we decided we would focus on first. So what we are doing is we are building content first, we are working together with some, what we call pilot clients to help us understand what are the fast-evolving needs of the financial community, because you know, we both exited the industry only a few years ago, but we realize that things are changing.
Mostly, like a very silly question. So obviously, we hope that they would use the platform to make investment decisions. How do you think that this will go into practical use? So, yes, we do hope that this is going to happen. And this is what is already happening with ESG data. We mentioned at the beginning of the podcast that not all of them are using the data in a way that is sufficiently deep, but many do.
So they have that interest in making sure that they really use the data to make an investment decision. But what is happening is that we see an increasing number of people within the community that is starting to realize, you know, the limits of ESG data that we have already detailed.
This is not already the majority, because you have to remember that most of them just discovered those ESG data only one year or two years ago. So, the level of maturity is not always the same within the financial industry.
But, you know, every single week now you start to see reports or articles about the need to go beyond ESG, the limits of ESG, and why we need to look at Impaakt. And so, as the industry becomes more sophisticated, what we believe is that those that are already using ESG data to inform their portfolio management practices, they will just use Impaakt data to do the same thing. Do you believe it might go beyond finance? But the way Impaakt is built, the platform is built in many different building blocks, which we can re-assemble in different ways.
So, people may use it just to understand what is the score of the company they have in the portfolio, but they may be interested in one dimension. I mean, our initial focus was on the financial industry because this is also the industry we know more about, but we have companies that this data is of interest to and that brings value to many more stakeholders, you know, for consumers, for future employees who want to check about whether they want to work with that company, for governments who want to know whether they want to give out some family contract to this company or the other one.
Similar to seed-stage accelerators for traditional startups, impact investment accelerators provide smaller amounts of capital than Series A financings or larger impact investment deals. Large corporations are also emerging as powerful mechanisms for impact investing.
There has been a growing interest in impact investing from faith-based investors, as they seek to align their investments with their core beliefs. World Pensions Council and other US and European experts have welcome this course of action, insisting nonetheless that: Governments and international institutions need to do more if they truly seek to 'unlock' private sector capital in a meaningful way.
They have to ask themselves the following questions: what are the concrete legal, regulatory, financial and fiduciary concerns facing pension fund board members? How can we improve emerging industry standards for impact measurement and help pension trustees steer more long-term capital towards valuable economic endeavors at home and abroad, while, simultaneously, ensuring fair risk-adjusted returns for future pensioners?
For example, after the Heron Foundation 's internal audit of its investments in uncovered an investment in a private prison that was directly contrary to the foundation's mission, the foundation developed and then began to advocate for a four-part ethical framework to endowment investments conceptualized as Human Capital, Natural Capital, Civic Capital, and Financial Capital.
For private foundations, PRIs count towards the required 5 percent annual payout. Mission-related investments MRIs [ edit ] Mission-related investments MRIs are investments, generally made from endowments, into mission-driven organizations that are expected to generate market-rate financial returns comparable to an ordinary investment of a similar type and risk profile.
MRIs are designed to have both a positive social impact and contribute to the endowment's long-term financial stability and growth. Examples of MRIs include loans to mission-aligned non-profit organizations e. However, there are ways for individuals to participate in providing early stage or growth funding to such ventures.
MSCI offers 11 environmental, social and governance index ETFs, including popular low-carbon and sustainability indexes. As equity deals can be prohibitively expensive for small-scale transactions, microfinance loans, rather than equity investment, are prevalent in these platforms. MyC4 , founded in , allowed retail investors to loan to small businesses in African countries via local intermediaries, though the service permanently closed in
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