How impact investment is addressing societal problems

Since being launched in 2020, the Scottish National Investment Bank has committed direct investment of £518 million to help create a ‘stronger, fairer and more sustainable’ Scotland, chief executive Al Denholm told delegates at its annual flagship conference.
keynote speaker Anne Lise Kjaer. Photo: Sandy Youngkeynote speaker Anne Lise Kjaer. Photo: Sandy Young
keynote speaker Anne Lise Kjaer. Photo: Sandy Young

Speaking at the start of yesterday’s ‘Investing with Impact: Innovating Across Scotland’ conference from the Bank, in association with The Scotsman and Insider Media, Dehholm explained that it takes a ‘patient’, or long-term, capital approach to providing funding to organisations operating in at least one of its three mission areas. These areas are the transition to net zero, achieving equality through improving places and harnessing innovation.

At the conference the Bank unveiled a new ‘Just Transition for People and Place’ paper that looks at how the move from fossil fuels to renewables can be achieved in a way that ‘ensures no-one is left behind’.

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Keynote speaker, futurist Anne Lise Kjaer, discussed the need for curiosity, creativity and collaboration to deliver effective impact investment. She said: “Short-termism is one of the greatest challenges facing communities and the whole planet.”

Panel sessions and fireside chats at the event covered a range of topics, including transforming communities, funding innovative models, diversity and net zero.

In the session on funding innovative models, Simon Forrest, chief executive officer of Nova Innovation, said the biggest single challenge he has faced in building a business is politics.

He said: “Investors need to know the regulation environment is stable.” He added that there can be a struggle domestically to get traction with investors because of short-termism caused by politics and culture.

On diversity, Ana Stewart, chair of Pathways Forward, pointed out that there is a need for more change, giving the example of only one in five businesses in Scotland being female-led. In terms of steps being taken to improve diversity, organisations are being encouraged to sign up to a Pathways Pledge.

As the conference drew to a close, the Bank chairman Willie Watt said: “This whole day has been about getting into the nuts and bolts of how businesses grow and how impact and commercial returns can be combined.

“As impact investors we can demonstrate that capitalism can be part of the solution to societal problems.”

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