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SwatTalk: “Investing for Social and Environmental Change”

with Amit Bouri ’99

Recorded on Monday, April 15, 2024



Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Well, welcome everyone this Monday for a SwatTalk with Amit Bouri class of 1999. Today's SwatTalk is a part of a thread of conversations we've had over the years. We're engaging alums who are leaders in marshaling capital for environmental and social impact. If you're tuning into SwatTalk for the very first time, I'm glad to share that a little bit about it. SwatTalks are a production of the Alumni Council and the intention here is to create spaces of connection and conversation for by and featuring Swatties and tonight's talk. Oh, special thanks to the coordinating committee for SwatTalks on the Alumni Council that's led by Jason Ley. Now, before we dive in a few housekeeping rules. Tonight's talk will feature Armit and I discussion followed by a live q and a, including questions from all y'all. On the other end of the line, as questions arise, please use the q and a feature. The chat will be turned off. You can use that q and a feature to submit your questions. And if you'd like, append your class here and we'll surface them at the end of the call, the zoom session, the webinars and presenter mode. So no worries about muting yourself. We've taken care of that. And the call will be recorded and available on the SwatTalks webpage a few weeks after. There's also a treasure trove of recorded talks there, and I encourage you to visit them. Some of them related to this chat that you might find interesting as one we earlier did with Morgan Simon and another with Christiana ez. Now, now a little bit about Amit. Amit Bouri ’99 is the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of the Global Impact Investing Network. It's a knowledge exchange network for the impact investment industry, and it focuses on accelerating the allocation of impact investing capital to solve some of the world's intractable problems. We're gonna dive into a ranging conversation from its amid Swat days to his current work and passion. So it's a great pleasure to have you here with us this evening. Thanks so much for joining us, Amit.

Amit Bouri ’99 Oh, thanks for having me. I'm thrilled to be here.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Yeah, so we're all Awatties on the call and it's always interesting to hear a little bit about our past. So I'm, I'm curious, would you share with us a bit about your, your educational journey and how you found yourself at Swarthmore?

Amit Bouri ’99 Sure. Well, I have a lot of gratitude from my experience at Swarthmore and it's really great to have this opportunity to talk with all of you. So I grew up in Northern California. I was actually raised in a pretty small town in a rural area. It's a random place for Indian immigrants to stand up. And from a very early age, actually just before I turned three, I ended up from that point forward being raised by my mom alone. So I was raised by a single mom along with my brother and for part of my early childhood, we lived on welfare while my mom who immigrated just a few years before I was born, got herself reeducated and credentialed to work in the US. She had been educated in India but wasn't in a position to be employable here. And so, and then we worked from welfare to I think kind of middle class. And yeah, I was, worked really hard at school, was excited about opportunities and actually hadn't heard of Swarthmore until I was in the college application process. Kind of visited it while doing an East Coast tour and really loved it. And it was very different from any of the places I looked at because I was mainly applying to larger universities, universities of California, et cetera. And I got a scholarship, which is what allowed me to go there. And I'm really grateful for it because I ended up making some of my friends for life, you know, in that, during that experience. It was a really, yeah, I, I went to California public schools, which were fine, but I, you know, I did not have such a special educational experience, you know, anything close to what Swarthmore was like. And I did, I worked a ton of jobs at Swarthmore. I think I worked all the jobs at different times. I reshelved McCabe, I was an RA, I worked as an admissions officer. I did, we used to have a language lab, which I think is technologically irrelevant anymore, at this point, but I think it's, but I have very fond memories of the experience.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Thanks for sharing that. Yeah. I deeply resonate with that experience and am glad to also be a part of a place that helps to make some of these stories possible. Outta curiosity, what were some of the questions you were asking at the time at Swarthmore?

Amit Bouri ’99 You know, I was, you know, Swarthmore for me is a really kind of exciting place 'cause it, it just opened up my eyes to like the world beyond, you know, I had, you know, you know, gone to, you know, schools and worked really hard and done well and I had like decent schools that I was part of. But I think at Swarthmore was just, you know, kind of so expansive and thinking, I remember I had, you know, I was excited about so many things. I think I changed my major, you know, I don't know, five, 10 times during my freshman year, which didn't really mean much 'cause I was still doing core curriculum primarily, but I think it was, it, it just felt, I felt like a kidney candy store. There was so much to learn and take in. I did everything from peace studies to, I started to take Mandarin and then I did a study abroad program, which is a traditional Chinese medicine program in Shanghai, which really should change my life because I had not had a chance because of my economic circumstances to really travel much abroad. And I was able to do so through, the foreign exchange program. And it helped me understand how big the world really was. And I think it got me thinking much more expansively about my career at the same time, it's kind of overwhelming. So I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do as a result of all that. And so it just took it one step at a time coming out of Swarthmore.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Yeah. And so what did, what did you end up doing afterwards, pursuing?

Amit Bouri ’99 So I majored in sociology, anthropology, and I also finished the pre-Med program just in terms of the, the, you know, requirements. But then my first job out was actually working in management consulting. So I worked for a BA company, did that for a few years, learned a ton and actually made some really great friends that are still friends to this day. But then, you know, I, I always knew purpose would be some part of my career. I didn't know exactly what that would look like. And I ended up leaving Bain to work for one of our pro bono clients, which is a pediatric AIDS foundation. So it was a nonprofit based outta Los Angeles that was focused on helping to prevent kids from getting HIV, you know, all over the world. And that was incredibly meaningful. I learned a lot, you know, from that experience. Then I went to grad school in a government program and a business program. And I was trying, I was very interested in how to try to address social and environmental problems at the intersection of government and business and the NGO sector. And then ended up consulting again for another firm called The Monitor Group. But this time I was in a part of the monitor that was just focused on the social sector. So all of our clients were foundations and nonprofits. And that I really enjoyed, it was like the strategy work that I really like to bain, but with causes that meant a lot to me and, and were very meaningful. And that from that experience led to the, efforts to launch the impact investing market and, and then, you know, create the organization that I now work for.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Incredible. So even though, just before we dive into GIIN and impact investing, even though this is mostly being watched by the alumni body as a whole, some recent alums and some students may also, current students may also watch this at some point. And so just outta curiosity, what advice might you have for some young Swatties or maybe navigating similar interest and opportunity?

Amit Bouri ’99 Yeah, I, I think it's, I mean, one of the things that I think is so important is that, you know, they take a long view on your career. And I mean, I think there's so much kind of like, since I'm getting the right thing and figuring it all out at once, you know, once you're done with school. And I think, you know, being at Swarth from such an incredible learning experience, but in many ways I feel like it sets you up to learn over the course of your life, you know? And so I think that I would take your first job opportunity and your second, your third and your fourth as just, you know, think of them as additional steps and what you wanna learn about. You should look for things that challenge you, you know, things that stretch you and you probably won't like everything about your first job. That's fine. You know, it's just about like over the course of your career, learning more about yourself and what will drive you. And, and I think keeping that attitude towards lifelong learning, I think is something that I didn't, I don't think I disagreed with that. I just don't think I was as intentional about being aware of it coming out of school.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Yeah. Thanks for sharing that. So I think you mentioned that you created a, ended up working on GIIN and being involved in the impact investment world after, after that last gig focusing on social enterprise and, and being a part of the foundation world. That was, I suppose, amid 2008, 2009. Can you yeah, share a little bit more about that, that context in the financial industry and in the impact investing field?

Amit Bouri ’99 Yeah, it was such a bizarre time in the world. You know, we had things like the, you know, there was a, when it was started to work on the project that led to the creation of the GIIN, it was in the beginning of 2008. So there was this really intense election, you know, underway. And then a few months in, you know, the financial markets started to collapse in ways that, you know, felt unprecedented. And it was a time of great turmoil and disruption and dislocation. We were trying to introduce this new way of thinking and impact investing that was building on traditions that go way back in different parts of the world, but was creating a new brand to build on things like community finance in the us which really traced back to the civil rights era and the civil rights movement, things like social finance in the, in the uk there was movements, you know, from all different cultural traditions and different parts of the world that were trying to get at this intersection of how, you know, investment and business can play a positive role in society beyond just generating financial, you know, profit. And, and so it was, in one sense could have felt like the worst time to try to do something new because the markets were just so rocked by it and, and everything was, you know, there's so much uncertainty and volatility at the same time. It may have been one of the best times to introduce something new because people were looking, you know, were, we had big questions, had doubts in the system that everyone had faith in, and were possibly more open to new alternative ideas. I mean, I think that's, you know, and during that time that we were trying to change the way that people thought about the way, the role of investment, you know, what's the fundamental success of investment? And we're trying to change that from a view that the purpose of money is to just to generate more money. Something where investments could deliver so much more, which is actually, you know, helping to improve the quality of life for people all over the world and helping to foster more regenerative and sustainable planet.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Yeah. Well, can you, can you share a little bit more specifically about, I suppose this idea, what do we, what do we want the, the money to do? What are some of the, I suppose, the themes that emerge as we, as we look into impact? Sure.

Amit Bouri ’99 Well, and just take a, a step back because I think there's a lot of you in terms of the, the heritage and, you know, I think it's worth noting because impact investing, it's kind of an like an evolution of, you know, this, you know, broader move around ethical and socially responsible investing that goes back a long time. And actually the Quakers had a role in its early origin in many ways, but I think people were trying to wrestle with how, you know, early on, like, you know, how do you actually connect your values with the way the money is managed? A lot of that started early on with like, trying to take bad things outta your portfolio and to make sure money was invested in, in things that you, you know, were at odds with your values. And so that's where a lot of what people call negative screening or divestments, I think that really kicked off in a big way in the world around the anti-apartheid movement. And, and, and that was really one of these, you know, powerful moments that people really pushed for how business can play a role in putting pressure on big social and environmental issues over time. What that started to evolve into is not just taking the bad things out, but trying to put money into the good things that you wanna see in the world. It's very simplistic, and I'll get more, yeah, talk a little bit more about what that means. But people were trying to use capital to actually help address some of the issues that they were seeing in local communities and on a global basis. So everything from investing in things like affordable housing or creating access to capital, you know, for, you know, people who wanna start businesses from marginalized communities. And that can be anything from rural, poor communities where they're banking deserts. It can be, you know, you know, to create more access to capital for women, for minorities, you know, for, you know, essentially people who are left out of the way that markets were operating in a sense where like star from opportunity to actually build business and build wealth and actually economic mobility for themselves and for their communities. But we have, you know, other things that impact investors are focused on everything from regenerative agriculture to clean energy. You have huge clean energy projects like, you know, big wind farms all the way down to household solar places like Sub-Saharan Africa and India. People are investing in, you know, access to healthcare and a whole range of sectors. But the fundamental thing that connects them all is, you know, the way we define impact investments are investments that are made to achieve a positive, measurable social or environmental impact alongside a financial return. So that means these, they're both trying to generate, invest in sustainable companies that are profitable, but do so, you know, with models that are directly trying to address social and environmental issues baked into the DNA of the effort. And so that is, you know, where I think it has a powerful energizing, you know, quality to it because the idea to invest in positive things to, you know, to invest in the world that we all wanna live in by investing in the companies that will help realize that evolution, I think is an incredibly energizing thing. And when we were, you know, in the early time of the GIIN when we were launched, it was, we had 20 members felt like a huge success. You know, we were thrilled to have 20 organizations who signed on. It was a whole range. We had the Rockefeller Foundation, which had seeded the organization and actually, you know, funded a lot of the research that went into the creation of the gym as well as big global banks. We had TIAA, which as you know, with a lot, a lot of people in academia know of it and, and then all kinds of small boutiques that were a hundred percent focused on impact. But what connected them all was this idea that, can we actually change the way people think about investing? Can we change what markets are designed to deliver? Which is, you know, a healthy society and, you know, and a sustainable environment in addition to a solid economy that provides economic opportunity for people. And so now fast forward to 15 years later, we have over 450 members and growing around the world, you know, so it's more than 20 x the original size, but I still feel like we're just, you know, at the beginning of what this could be because I think there's a lot of opportunity. We ultimately want to change the way the financial system operates and what it's designed to deliver for society.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Thanks for sharing that. And then importantly for list lifting up that history about the, the long thread in conversation about money and social good. I think the term impact investing was only coined in 2007 at that very, at a conference you may have been at in Yeah, the rock roll. That's

Amit Bouri ’99 Right. It was a tiny event. It was like, yeah. So it was the first coin there, and then by the time we launched it. And no one was really using it around the world. And so it was, that in itself was a risk of do we bank a whole organization on this brand that no one knows what it means? And so I think, but now we, we actually, I mean, it's exciting to see where things have come. You know, there are lots of people working in impact investing all over the world. We have members in 60 countries and growing. Next month I'll be at an event in Japan where the national government, you know, the prime minister, part of his agenda is to help foster an impact economy. And he is prioritizing impact investing as part of the national strategy for facilitating that. And that's, so we've just seen, you know, a lot of engagement around these issues. The Vatican has hosted multiple conferences on impact investing that I've attended. And so I think from a lot of different walks of life, people see the need to change the way that markets operate and ultimately how we define success for investments.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 That's incredible to hear some of those stories. So in this context of the, the, the impact investing in the field, what specifically is the, the role and purpose of the, the j the global Impact investing network?

Amit Bouri ’99 Yeah, so, the GIIN is a nonprofit organization and essentially we were designed to help you build out the global market for impact investing. And ultimately we see our role and our vision is to, you know, eventually to make impact become part of all investing. And so all investors are actually thinking about the impact that they're having, you know, from a financial standpoint, but also from a social and environmental standpoint as well. And so we have a ways to go till we get there, but one of the things that's incredibly exciting is that, you know, we have a membership network that includes a lot of the leading investment firms around the world. So it's not quite common for big institutions to be active in impact investing. We of course want to make sure that they're doing it at scale, you know, so moving capital that is big enough to actually make a difference on big global issues like climate change and inequality and, you know, and nature loss. We also want to do work to make sure it's with integrity, you know, so a combination of scale with integrity. So we do a lot of work around tools for how to measure and manage your impact. We have a whole system of how you can measure your impact across a range of themes, and that's actually free. So anyone who's, you know, listening to this, you can actually check it out. It's called Iris Plus, it's IRIS. And it has a wealth of knowledge and information if you're, let's say you're trying to address, you know, to use investments to advance racial equity. So we've developed metrics with partners to actually help you understand what are the ways in which investments can play a role in that issue. If you're interested in biodiversity or, or gender, you know, lens investing or any range of, there's almost 20 themes that are captured there, but it really helps people understand that, you know, have the tools and the knowledge and then the indicators they can use to, to understand the performance. We also do a lot of research on the markets. So if you read about impact investing in the news, there's a good chance at citing some of our research that we've published and then we engage with, you know, a lot of education. So we do training and we end up speaking to, you know, people interested in impact investing all over the world in many ways, you know, we're hoping to influence the way that people invest. And so we've used our membership, our, you know, impact measurement tools, our research and our training all is, you know, means by which to, to manifest our vision.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 So you mentioned that that certainly the membership has really taken off over the last about decade and a half plus. And I'm, I'm curious, how has the work of GIIN changed or evolved since that, that early founding to now and, and also as the field matures and hopefully impacts spreads to, to just become investing? What, what, what do you feel the role of GIIN will be?

Amit Bouri ’99 Yeah. Well it's, it's, you know, we, we actually had a pretty big strategic pivot, you know, around 10 years in, we are at a, the time of our first decade, we thought we'd take stock and really tried to like, you know, reflect on how things have come and, and where they needed to go. And what was amazing is that during that first 10 years, the way the impact investing market has grown, it was our wildest dreams, you know, we saw, you know, engagement from, you know, in institutions that wouldn't pay any attention to this in the early days, the G seven in 2013, and, you know, made impact investing part of the, the, you know, the G seven agenda, you know, globally, we, we saw, as I mentioned, the Vatican was hosting sessions. We had coverage in places like the economists in Financial Times, you, so in many ways, you know, including like the amount of capital that was flowing, it was a huge success. But at the same time, if we looked at that decade, and, you know, so go from like 2009 when we launched to 2019 and we look at issues like climate change or inequality or, or just, you know, biodiversity, those, you know, issues have all gotten much worse over that time in just about every part of the world. And so it really forced us and, and, you know, addressing those types of issues are what motivates people to be impact investors in the first place. So it really forced a bit of a reckoning of, you know, what does our success mean in a failing system? And, and that was a pretty big, you know, pivot for us because we, we changed from just growing this impact investing ecosystem, which is plenty of work on its own to try to think about how do we work with the impact investing community and, and use impact investing as a way of contributing to broader systems change in a financial system because we can't have a thriving pocket of impact investing in the world that's helping to, you know, drive more equity and, you know, drive more environmental sustainability. While the rest of the system was working at odds with those things, but if we were actually going to address systemic progress, we needed to actually think about, you know, addressing the systemic issues. And, and that's where we really set out with a much bigger mandate for ourselves. It's lofty and it's a bit ambitious, but it's really to try to think about how impact investing can actually shift the way that all investors operate. And so we spend a lot more time now working with people who are not self-identified, impact investors, helping them understand what it is, how it could, you know, for, for them and ultimately how they can approach investing in a very different way than anything they've thought about previously.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Well, I want to come back to that point on, on systems change that I think is a really exciting thread to kind of pull on. Before we jump in there, I'm just curious, can you, you mentioned the membership of GIIN is pretty vast and we're kind of curious, what, what kinds of institutions are these? And, and I suppose what, what insights can you share about the membership and how they show up? The different ways that they

Amit Bouri ’99 Sure, yeah.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Impact investing field.

Amit Bouri ’99 Yeah, it's, you know, they're all, they're all investment firms for the most part, but it's a pretty diverse group, you know, so we have a number of large philanthropic foundations, you know, some of which are completely focused to social justice, and they're working with, you know, impact investing. 'cause it's a means of helping to achieve that. So we have foundations, like I mentioned Rockefeller, the Ford Foundation, MacArthur, Cerna. You know, there's a whole range of, you know, of major philanthropic institutions that are active in our network. We also have large institutional investors. So big pension funds and insurance companies, particularly pension funds. Those are not names, but they're hugely important in the investor markets 'cause they control like, you know, a lot of money and it's the money of workers typically. So they're investing on behalf of people who are working today who are gonna retire in 30 years. And so, you know, that's an audience that has, you know, a very long-term view. They need to pay people back 30, 40 years down the road. It's not that, you know, different from maybe how  kind of an endowment, you know, of a college or, or foundation might be thinking with an intense sense of responsibility to their stakeholders. We have big global banks who are very much part of the, you know, kind of the current financial system, but have groups within that are looking at impact investing. We also have development finance institutions, which are, you know, government backed organizations that are designed to invest for international development. So a lot of these, you know, they're from the US, Canada, you know, a number of European countries and others, but their mandate is to help invest to, you know, for social environmental progress in Latin America, Asia, Africa and beyond. And so then, we have a lot of people who are running impact investment funds. Some of them are tiny in the landscape of, you know, the capital markets. And some of them have achieved pretty significant scale. What I like about this group, what I think is really interesting is they all have very different departure points. So it's diversity, but in a different way, excuse me. Some, you know, wake up every day thinking about how to solve social environmental problems like the foundations, some wake up every day thinking about how to meet their financial obligations and others are institutions that are very much embedded in the Wall Street culture. But part of having these things mixed together is really what I think is really powerful because people learn, you know, how to see the world through a different set of lenses, you know, as a result of this type of, of being part of the same network. So we think that diversity is actually a very powerful thing because it kind of cross pollinates different worldviews and helps people think about, you know, just very different ways of thinking about the world. I think that's very important. 'cause ultimately we're trying to do is get people to think about the intersection of, you know, kind of you thinking about financial success, you know, how to make businesses that are actually viable and successful and grow, but that are also trying to look at, you know, positive impact for local communities and big global issues. So having a lot of different perspectives in the room I think is really powerful. But many of them, you know, start, if they're like bigger institutions, they start with a little bit of an allocation towards impact investing. You know, the market now has a lot of track record and it has a lot of demonstrated success and people are much more comfortable with it from a financial standpoint, but in some ways it's a very safe thing to do. 'cause a lot of people have been doing it for a long time and have been getting good, you know, results. On the other hand, it feels completely radical and, and sometimes, like, I almost like a different ideology of thinking about how to invest that can be incredibly challenging for people to process. So people tend to start small, dip their toes in the water, but then you can, you typically see momentum build because they get quite energized, but what they're able to accomplish with their money,

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Yeah, that's a, an incredible group of, of folks to, to be learning from and, and cross-pollinating with. And I think it's, it's almost easier to, to imagine some of the groups that almost have, that have an a priority commitment to, to social impact, social justice equity and, and many other forms them to kind of jumping into this, some of the institutions that you mentioned though are, you know, like in it for the, you know, I think for the long haul and they have some mandated, I suppose, objectives that they need to meet. And so I'm, I'm just curious for those long-term horizon institutions, what, what insights can you share into their rationale for going into this?

Amit Bouri ’99 Sure. Well there, there's a few different things that can drive them to it, but I think one thing around time horizon makes this actually way more compelling and actually enticing, which is if you, if you're a pension fund, you know, so, so you imagine people are working their teachers, their healthcare workers, et cetera, that, you know, you know, working, you know, they're firefighters, you know, they, whatever the profession may be, you know, they are putting away their hard-earned savings and they're expecting that to generate returns for them to retire and to live comfortably and safely and to be able to retire with a decent quality of life. And so the people who are managing these long-term, these pension fund managers are essentially managing for 30, 40 years with an obligation towards the working class, you know, to workers who work hard for decades, you know, turn this money. And so that sense of responsibility is very strong. We see similar things. If you're working with people who work at the foundation or the endowment of a university, they want that mission to continue for a long time. They take that incredibly serious and it's a badge of honor, and it's something that's really deep in terms of their psychology. But also if you're looking at a long-term view, what you need that to, in order to fulfill that responsibility, you need the markets to perform for 30 or 40 years. And so now that we have, you know, climate change, which is causing all kinds of disruptions and some of it, you know, we always, you know, I know you've had a lot of amazing speakers talk about climate related issues here. And there's always this challenge of how do you get people to think in the short term, the near term, to prioritize things that, you know, the worst of which will come, you know, down the, on the horizon. And it's a hard thing to do. It's a hard thing to get governments and everyone, you know, individuals to focus on. But one of the things, if you have to pay people back in 40 years, those horizons start to become pretty significant pretty quickly, right? You can't have, you know, disruption of the economy, you can't have disruption of supply chains, mass migration of people, you know, will all disrupt things. So things you also need social stability. And so we're getting to a point where inequality is really starting to destabilize markets around the world. So as a long-term investor, you need social stability, you need environmental stability just to meet your financial obligations. So whether or not you're enlightened or kind of have some strong sense of values at a basic level, the math has to add up. So you need to actually be addressing some of these bigger systemic issues. So that can be one motivating force. Another actually though is very straightforward, which is people whose money you're managing are starting to expect these things from you. So they want you to address climate change. Ultimately, it's their money that you're managing and you're, and so we are also seeing everything from unions and others around the world who are saying, we actually want you to improve the quality of life, the working class people in this country, because those are our people and we want, you know, we, we wanna have a decent quality of life. We want our kids and grandkids to as well. We also want you to address climate change because we can see  how that's disrupting the world that we wanna retire into. So these are a few of the drivers that I think get people motivated, but I think ultimately we are starting to see momentum build for this, because I think more and more investors are waking up to the fact that the system as we have it now, is not serving us for the long term. You know, it's not serving, you know, people, it's not serving the planet and ultimately it won't be serving investors in a way that they need it to. And so, you know, there's more openness to change right at a time when the impact investing market has more results and track record to demonstrate.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Nice. Well, that bodes well. So it seems that, that in this space, that there's a, that there's a, a question of of scale and a question of of depth as well. I imagine there's a, you know, I suppose investor education and about the gamut of possibility, and then there's also the need for, for pace and scale to meet the challenges that we're we're facing. How do you see these ideas and perhaps tensions between them kind of playing out in the field?

Amit Bouri ’99 Yeah, well I think it's, you know, one of the challenges I mentioned earlier is that, you know, there has been a tremendous amount of progress, but starting from a relatively small base in terms of what we've seen. And, and so I think, you know, we definitely see, I mean, every impact investor is excited as they are about what's happening in the market, want it to be, you know, bigger, moving at a, at a greater velocity and ultimately, you know, going deeper in terms of how it's addressing issues. So I think, you know, there's a lot more work to be done. What are the things I think is quite powerful though, is to start thinking about how, investing relates to the, of, you know, governments who are trying to set the rules for the market and actually trying to steer the way that, you know, markets work to be more in service of the, the kind of the public good and also kind of activity from NGOs and others. But this is a time when I think people are really looking for solutions. And, and I think in many ways, one of the things that you know, is important to understand is that it's not, you know, investing alone won't solve the world's problems, but given the scale of the problems we need, we can't solve them without changing the way that the world invests. So, you know, things like impact investing on their own are insufficient, but they're absolutely necessary if we're actually going to move the needle on the big problems that we're facing. What I think is really powerful and energizing though, is that, you know, part of the tone and the orientation on impact investing is you're actually putting resources into solutions. And so there's a certain energy to that, you know, though they may not be big enough yet and they may not be best of scale, you know, we, we currently size the impact investing market at 1.16 trillion, and that's kinda the best data we have. We're about to redo that study, so we'll have more current numbers later this year, but that's big enough to pay attention to. It's, you know, it needs to be a lot bigger, but I think it is getting to a place where it's formidable and I think that, you know, that also allows it to get more momentum because it's becoming more credible and comfortable for more investors to get active in the market. Yeah,

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Well that's a pretty huge number even still and glad that it's, it is gonna grow where I'm calling in from Canada, that's probably roughly the size of the GDP of the country. So

Amit Bouri ’99 There's lots of great Canadian impact investors and many more to come. I think there's a lot more people who are getting interested in it in Canada, but we've had some great leadership in that market already.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Yeah. Well you, you mentioned earlier about systems change and it seems that, you know, part of the conversation about by considering impact alongside financial return is also too about this broader question about reimagining how the economy functions. And so are folks having, I suppose, conversation at that scale and perhaps attempting to, you know, reimagine what capitalism looks like?

Amit Bouri ’99 Yeah, they are. I think so, and it's actually been something I've personally been very interested in because I've been, you know, one, one of the things that I observed a few years ago is that you started to get, you know, there was always a people who were, you know, trying to change the economic system and debating whether or not our current mode of capitalism is, is serving us well, what we started to see, you know, around, I dunno, five years ago was this is actually starting to come from people who were titans of industry, not just kind of like activist NGOs and, and you know, and you know, I think progressive politicians, but we actually started to see some cases, CEOs and, and others saying like, the system isn't working, it needs to change. And it was an interesting moment where people started to wrestle with this. I found what was starting to come up oftentimes was a pretty consistent critique of the system we have today. And it's failing what I think is more challenging, more interesting. And I think a lot of Swatties would be interested in exploring these issues is - what's the system that we should be working towards? That's much harder. Because most people can talk about a piece of it, but it's really hard to articulate what the economy would look like. You know, where do people work? You know, how would they earn a living? What's a good company to look at that you can operate at like the scale of a global economy? And that I think is really interesting. I actually had a podcast series called The Next Normal that we kicked off during Covid, 'cause everyone was talking about how Covid was the new normal, and there was this, this piece that Dr. Roy, the author who had written around the pandemic is a portal piece, which is, this really provocative piece around, maybe we can actually not go back to normal, but actually propel ourselves forward to something better and different. I'm paraphrasing, she said it much better than I ever will. But, it was a really interesting thought. So the podcast was essentially designed to bring people with different perspectives together just to talk about how they thought the needs to be from their perspective. So we'd end everything from some racial justice advocates in the US to some people who are thinking about, almost like, philosophers, in other parts of the world. And,  former head of Amnesty International presented a perspective. I had indigenous economists from British Columbia share her views, but it was just an interesting way of starting to get different perspectives on what the world could look like. It doesn't have all the answers, but I think working on that question, I think I found to be quite energizing and interesting, and I imagine a lot of Swatties who are probably working on this already, but I think a lot more would be interesting in this question of not just the critique of where we are today, which is important and it's important to face those issues, but how do we actually channel that towards something better and put some energy into envisioning what that could look like.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Yeah. I'm also excited extraordinarily about that question and also excited to dive into the podcast series. Thanks for sharing that. And yeah, it's also been interesting to see some of the cracks though, or I suppose, you know, almost turning points with some of the traditional and conventional players in the investing field. I was surprised when this news came out about, you know, a couple years, I suppose now when Colbert Kravitz, Ravi Roberts, KKR, known as, I suppose, as aggressive into leverage buyouts. And I think a book was written about them, you know, evocatively titled Barbarians at the Gate, known for  engaging in some interesting corporate practices and they moved significantly into an employee ownership equity fund, which some may have found almost interesting given some of the, the history about investments in the company. But it's, I suppose it's a bellwether for some of the changes that are happening.

Amit Bouri ’99 Yeah, I think it, it's interesting, there's a lot of institutions that are moving into different ways of engaging in impact investing and some of 'em are supporting alternative models and people are engaging in climate solutions. And some of these involve pretty radical shifts to business models, we'll see bigger institutions investing in regenerative agriculture, a lot of which has indigenous roots in terms of the philosophy of living with the land and, you know, some of the, you know, people who are engaging in this would be shocking by conventional perspectives. But I think a lot of people are looking forward to different solutions and different ways of approaching the problems that they're seeing. There's, you know, you know, lively debates about, you know, who's got the right approach? Is this far enough, is it fast enough, et cetera. But it's really interesting that we're actually having that conversation with a set of actors that are not just the really important radical actors at the fringes who are really pushing on things, but we're actually getting some people pushing in from within the system itself and from within various establishment players that are trying to think about different ways of doing things. And, and I think it's actually, that's been one thing that's been really interesting for me because we run this big global network, you know, it's a network of institutions that are formerly members, but it's all people and a lot of people working in all kinds of institutions, including ones that are, ones that are very kind of powerfully positioned in the status quo are still people living in this world trying to think about how to do things differently. In some cases, I've been very successfully on being entrepreneurial within their big kind of corporates and figuring out ways to be involved in impact investing or other progressive things you have through these large institutions. So it's, you know, it's an interesting thing of like, how do you actually think change happens? And there's a lot of different ways in which you can come about.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Yeah. And it is really exciting that this conversation is happening and it's happening in so many different parts, not just, I suppose in some of the expected places, but I suppose as these conversations are happening almost with a kind of atavistic vengeance, it seems, you know, some theories are also coming back to the floor. One of them principally shareholder theory from the 1970s, the idea, I suppose it was a Freedman-esque idea that the social responsibility of business is solely to generate profit. I'm just curious, how do you, you've mentioned so many things about, I suppose, kind of yeah, endearing us, I suppose, to this approach. But I'm curious, how do you respond to this central economic idea? Yeah.

Amit Bouri ’99 Well, I learned that economic theory actually in the Kohlberg building at economics class at Swarthmore. And so I think it was, I remember reading that book among others, of course, as any good, you know, Swarthmore class would engage with different perspectives. But I think fundamentally it is a model that is driven by the current era of economics in many ways. You know, that model has won in terms of like, you know, driving the, the kinda economic system we have today. But I also think we're starting to see the shortcomings of it in a very palpable way. You know, everything from wage stagnation that we're seeing in the United States, for most people, kind of the widening of the inequality gap that we're seeing in the population. And, and this is obviously, you know, happening in other parts of the world as well, that's leading to all kinds of, you know, issues around the tearing of social fabric and kind of, you know, dislocation of communities and a whole host of social issues that are coming from that. So I, you know, I think that we need a different system now. And I think what we now have, and you give some examples of this, we have a lot of, you know, very established financial services players who are actually pushing on that model in pretty interesting ways. I do think it's embedded in, in ideology, you know, and, and so I think it's a hard thing to shift, you know, people's thinking even just to be open about other ways of thinking about the role of business. But ultimately we see this from students at places like Swat, you know, who want to work in a place that's more in line with their values. We see this from employees, you know, you know, older than, than you know, recent grads who are, you know, expecting different things of their employers. And also we see this actually from, you know, leaders in companies who actually say, we wanna be running our companies in different ways. And, and part of the reason why impact investing emerged was that people who were running companies wanted investors who were aligned with that sense of purpose. And that's part of where, you know, the impact investing movement started was actually a, a community of investors said, we want to back the companies that are trying to, you know, operate in a different way. But I think we're, we're looking for the new script for the future, but ultimately what I think we know is that, you know, people want a more holistic view of business and what it does, you know, that it actually supports, you know, people to have, you know, a, a, a good quality of life and to be able to live with dignity. It's, you know, that it works in harmony with nature and the environment that ultimately that business is actually a regenerative force, you know, actually helps improve society and improve, you know, the environment as opposed to one that is extractive and, and actually you kind of taking value out of people and out of, you know, kind of na you know, nature in, in order to generate profits for the owners.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Thanks for sharing that. And I think that that overlaps and I think covers a lot of ground around some of the, the more recent ESG kind of clashes and debates on environmental social governance. And so maybe if you, if you can just touch, you know, briefly on, on some of that work and also how ESG maybe relates to impact investing.

Amit Bouri ’99 Yeah, absolutely. Well, ESG is like, it's interesting that it's become such a, you know, front page news story because you know, fundamentally what it is, it's, it's really important, but it's also very straightforward and not that exciting. You know, in many ways it's quite boring, but it's important in that it's essentially incorporating environmental, social and governance factors into the way you manage businesses. And it's at a basic level, it's not necessarily doing that with the purpose of delivering positive impact in the world, but it's rather through an orientation of this will be help business be more responsible and, and actually be less risky. So for example, if you want businesses to be more thoughtful about having safe work environments so people don't get injured, you know, for having decent employment policies, you know, having diverse board members and independent board members so they make better decisions, it's become kind of attack because part of what it was doing was also, you know, investors were asking companies to be more open about their carbon footprints, and that type of transparency can make certain companies look really bad, you know, based on what they're doing. But I think that became, you know, became a very big political hot button issue in the us It is not that way in other parts of the world. And so it's quite interesting. I just got back from a trip, you know, sharing with you earlier from, you know, Stockholm and Copenhagen where there's a lot of impact investing activity. You know, earlier about a month ago I was in Australia and ESG is not a controversial issue in these other parts of the world. It's been very politicized in the us but I, you know, ultimately I think that was politicization is a distraction because I don't think issue should be that political. I think the, you know, and, and the real conversation we should be having is what do we expect, you know, kind of companies and investments to deliver and the end impacts that people are expecting from impact investments, you know, the actual results they're working towards have a very broad political resonance in the United States, but all over the world. And there's a lot of polling to back this up that people have done around, you know, do people want companies to, you know, help create more fairness in the economy? Vast majority of people do, you know, regardless of political affiliation, do they want, you know, people that, you know, create more economic opportunity for low income people, you know, do they want it to help actually protect nature? I mean, all these things actually have pretty strong resonance, and so the labels have become politicized, but ultimately what people are trying to accomplish as impact investors, I think can be quite inclusive. I think a lot of people can get excited about that, and there are a lot of, you know, regardless of where they're from, you know, kind of from a political standpoint. And I think that is, you know, really important because we want all investors, regardless of which political party they're connected to, to be investing in a better world. And I think that's the end game that I think we should really be working towards.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Nice. Well, I, we have some questions bubbling up in the, in the q and a here, Ahed, if any calls you please sure jump in. And then of course, I suppose as that's happening too, maybe I'll also throw in one whenever we get to it, if we have time around the SEC and the recent kind of rulings around climate disclosure.

Amit Bouri ’99 Yeah. So I'm happy to talk about some of those policy things just to take a couple of questions really quickly. And there's some really long ones that I don't know if, well, I'll be able to read them in time, but, so one of the things that that came up is, you know, just to take any economics courses at Swarthmore, I did, I wasn't an econ major, but I definitely took some courses and really appreciated, actually, I, I took a lot of courses in a lot of different departments. I tried to sample as much as I could, but I thought the econ program at Swarthmore was great and it really helped me with some fundamentals that are still important today. You know, there's another question around did I leverage the Swat network as I was building the GIIN? You know, in the early days, you know, not, not as much, actually, I would say I leveraged the Swarthmore network most just out of like personal friendships and support for doing something entrepreneurial that felt really challenging and risky, but less from a professional standpoint. What's interesting now is that I come across Swatties, you know, kind of, you know, it, it's, you know, for a little school in a big world, Swatties pop up all over the place, and I really enjoyed running into to, in different parts of my career. And I think that'll continue to evolve with time as more and more people kinda get involved in impact investing. But I've, I've been very grateful for the ongoing kind of Swarthmore community, you know, beyond my graduation. So do you wanna, you know, are there any questions you really want to prioritize or do you wanna go talk about some of the policy issues you may, you mentioned,

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Yeah, we can do that. And maybe also if we can reference maybe some, some retail, some opportunities for retail and investors as well. I think there's some questions here about how and where folks can, I suppose, pursue some of these opportunities.

Amit Bouri ’99 I'm happy to do so. And there's, there's actually one question that came up that I thought would be around kind of like how DEI fits into things and how it relates to ESG, and I thought I, I tried to take that on as well. And that's, it's, it's a big topic, but you know, similar, I think there are, the question was asked in large part, I think because, you know, you know, DEI, you know, these three letter acronyms, that's also been pretty heavily politicized and is used as like a scapegoat for all kinds of random things these days. But I think ultimately what you know, a lot of impact investors are focused on, you know, the language we would use is less kinda DEI per se, but really around like advancing equity. And so, and this can come in a lot of different forms. You know, we work globally and so things like racial equity look very different in different contexts. So there's a US version of it, which is very distinct from the way this conversation would look and like Denmark, where I just was, or in India or in Japan. And so it's very contextualized, but it is, you know, it tends to be very important, you know, for a lot of impact investors. We also see a lot of work around advancing gender equity. And that is a huge issue, whether it's, you know, and a lot of what the narrative and, and, and the media will focus on is like leadership. So our female or diverse founders getting capital and investments. Do we have diversity of boards or at CEO levels? We think about it both in terms of leadership, but also who gets employment opportunities. Is there equity and you know, within the employment opportunities, looking at like wage ratios and wage gaps and things, but also who's being served with the products and services. So anything from access to healthcare, you know, to something like, you know, you know, creating more financial inclusion. Do you know, you know, kinda ethnic minorities or do you kind of, you know, you know, women actually get access to capital and that's a huge issue in just about every part of the world. There's huge discrepancies. And so we see impact investors can prioritize any range of issues, but these issues around equity do become quite prominent for a number of impact investors around the world.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Thanks Amit. And maybe before we dive in, I, I said to that the, some opportunities I at least wanna name, I'm not sure we'll be able to to answer it, but there are some questions around the college's investment strategy and that, you know, alignment with social values that many students and alums kind of espouse. And so at least wanted to name that as a question, even if we're not able to, to, to adequately respond to it.

Amit Bouri ’99 Yeah. Well, and I can, I don't know the latest with what's happening with the endowment. I followed a lot of the news a while ago, you know, several years back. I, I think, you know, one of the things I think is interesting and I, if there's anyone who's involved in the endowment was interested, I hope the j and our resources could be useful. You know, we focus a lot on how assets can be put to work to help advance kind of positive impact in the world. We have seen a lot of traditionally managed, you know, kind of endowments start to do this in different ways. We don't work with a lot of universities though, but we have seen this from foundations and from bigger institutional investors. And so we're now at a point where there's a lot of opportunities to make positive impacts and, and, and to do so while honoring the financial obligations that any endowment manager would have. And so, you know, I I would, it would be great if, you know, the endowment got more active in impact investing. If that were a question on the table, I would hope that Jen and I could be a resource, you know, to the staff that's working on that.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Thanks Amit. And yeah, I'm excited too. Let's see if folks take you up on the offer. I'm, I'm, yeah, excited to see what comes of any conversation there. So we've had a few more questions on some of the retail opportunities, so, sure.

Amit Bouri ’99 Yeah, absolutely. So, in terms of retail opportunities so, a lot of impact investing started off in what, you know, we would call like private markets. So things like venture capital, you know, private equity, et cetera. Most of that's not available to most people because it tends to be riskier types of investments that for consumer protection reasons are, you know, are restricted to, you know, investors with more resources. So it's typically institutions or wealthy individuals. We do now see some, like, like there have always been some retail opportunities that are available for impact investing and that will continue to grow with time. So what I'd say is that if you are a person of modest means that there will be only limited opportunities that are available to you that are focused on positive impact. I don't want to name specific opportunities 'cause I'm not, you know, endorsing financial products, but it's worth, if you were a financial advisor, it's worth asking. A lot of them are just learning about this though, so you may have to send them information that you want them and, but there's also some things if you're gonna do some like research on it that you know, that you can actually start to find some, some interesting investment opportunities. And I think it's a really powerful thing. I also think it's a powerful thing for the folks who are, you know, kind of working with their families, whether it's like kids or other generations to talk about how you want your families, you know, resources to be invested, even if they're modest. At a very minimum, what you can do is you can bank with a community bank. And so this is a, you know, there, there are banks and this is like a checking, savings account. So you can have very, you don't have to have a lot of money if you have, but if you do have some savings, you can put some of those deposits with banks that actually use those to lend to communities that typically don't get a lot of access to capital. Those can be urban communities, you know, that tend to get less investment. They're also ones that serve rural communities. So if you look at community development banks as a whole host of ones that offer kind of basic financial products, that is the, those are technically investments even though we don't tend to think about them that way, but are ways in which one can get started at putting your assets to work for positive impact.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Thanks for sharing, Amit. Are there any other questions that jump out with the last few minutes?

Amit Bouri ’99 There are a, I mean, there's a lot of great questions, but there's so little time I actually thought I might share with something. I, I was, you had asked a question earlier and, and I'd regretted, I mean, I, I'd shared an answer, but then I thought of something else that I regretted not, not mentioning. And that was something that, that I would take from my Swarthmore experience and apply it, you know, kind of a advice to people who are currently students or recent grads. One of the things that I think was so powerful for me in my experience at Swarthmore was just like the way in which you learn to question things. I remember when I came at like the kind of the welcome day, the, the weekend where you kind of, you get to check out the school as an admitted student and see what it's like. It was super exciting for me. You know, I got to visit classes and I actually didn't know problematic was a word until I got to Swarthmore. I thought it, it was just not something that was used in the, the kind of educational environment that I was in. It's used constantly, or at least it was when I was a student. You're constantly talking about how everything is problematic and it's, and a lot of it is, right? And so I think, but one of the things I think is really important about this moment that I think I didn't appreciate as much while I was a student is the need to embrace the complexity of the world that we live in. If you really want to kinda make a difference in things, I think everything is problematic in some ways. You know, nothing's perfect, no institution is, no organization is, you know, individuals aren't either, you know, and, and, and I think that when we're dealing with some of these big, thorny issues, it does take a lot of leadership and critical thinking to address it, but it also takes a bit of courage to try to figure out some type of path forward. I'm still learning about this always, but I think it's something that I don't think I appreciated as much then. But I do think one of the things I was really grateful about, I'm grateful to Swarthmore for the experience, is you do wrestle with complexity a lot. You know, take the easy way out. And so I think combining that kind of facility with engaging with complexity and then figuring us out, like working on how to apply, you know, engage in solutions in that context, I think is something that Swarthmore is particularly well suited to help us all do.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Yeah. Yeah. And it's in a, I think especially helpful and, and relevant to so many of the conversations we're happening, especially in, in this field around finance and money and social good. And there's a, there's a lot of, I suppose, complexity to hold. So we've reached the hour here and maybe just on a kind of quirky parting question. So I think that there's another impact related firm may be founded by or connected with a Swattie that's called Tonic. And I wonder if GIIN had any relationship to tonic at some point.

Amit Bouri ’99 I was very curious what your quirky question would be. And we did have a relationship and we're friendly organizations. So GIIN was created with the name, Global Impact Investing Network. And then Tonic was later created as a group of like individual investors, high net worth individuals and it's a great organization and they wanted to call themselves Tonic as a compliment to the GIIN because they're more individuals and we're more institutions. It's not an acronym though, so it doesn't stand for anything. But it's a great organization doing really good work.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 That's hilarious to know that, that out there, that was, it was really interesting.

Amit Bouri ’99 You, you called it. Yes.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 Well, thanks so much, Amit, for joining us and for spending some time with us and sharing about your perspective and the incredible work that you and your organization are doing in the field.

Amit Bouri ’99 Well, thanks so much and thanks to everyone for participating in this, and I hope you all get active in resting with these big questions and, and putting money to work for positive impact. So thank you.

Saba Thackurdeen ’12 There we go. All right. Goodnight everyone.

Amit Bouri ’99 Goodnight.