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How Sustainable Impact Investing is Changing Business for the Better

Traditional investments are primarily motivated by whichever venture promises the best profits and highest returns—the most bang for your buck, so to speak. However, those profits often come at a high cost for the environment.

But what if they didn’t have to?

Some businesses are adopting the triple bottom line approach, balancing the importance of profits with the needs of people and the planet. When this is done with investments, it’s called impact investing. Investors can earn a return and make a positive impact in the world while doing so.

The future of impact investing looks bright. Expect impact investing to change how we conduct “business as usual”—for the better. How exactly will that happen? And why is impact investing important to sustainable business?

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What is impact investing?

According to the Global Impact Investing Network, impact investing is defined as “investments made with the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.” 

Impact investors identify mission-driven businesses that do positive work for people, the planet, and their pockets, whether it be reducing poverty, creating clean energy solutions, providing more people with access to quality healthcare, preserving natural resources, protecting human rights, fighting social justice issues, reducing waste, and so on.


Impact investing trends and types

Sustainable impact investing looks different depending upon the type and scale of impact you desire to make. Global impact investing and social impact investing are similar, with a difference in financial return.

  • Global impact investing guarantees financial returns while also creating a beneficial impact in both social and economic impacts in the world.
  • Venture philanthropy focuses on social impact investing, such as funding and improving individual projects and organizations' goals. And although venture philanthropy usually makes a profit—which is one of the ultimate goals—it’s not always guaranteed to do so. 

The Office of Social Impact Investment suggests that the four main distinctive features of social impact investing include outcomes, innovation, partnerships, and investment. The investments can be in different forms such as layered investments, bonds, payment-by-results contracts, and grants. 

FMO, a Dutch development bank, is one of the many social impact investing examples. Their investment in Clean Energy, a Mongolian clean energy and infrastructure holding and investment company, led to the creation and operation of the Salkhit Wind Farm.

The Packard Foundation is another example. This company is passionate about conserving and restoring the earth, which is why it invests in Ecotrust Forests I, LLC. Ecotrust Forests I, LLC implements smarter and more sustainable methods of forestry to enhance the health and resilience of our ecosystems in rural Pacific Northwest communities.

But there are even more niche areas, like faith-based impact investing. Just Capital Quotient believes in revolutionary capitalism and sits at the intersection of faith-motivated philosophy, impact investing, and market-based solutions to social challenges. This agile consultancy brings together professionals with skills in finance, international development, brand development, business, and much more.

Sunny skies emerge over the Salkhit Wind Farm in Mongolia, where 95 percent of their energy is wind produced

The future of impact investing

Compared to 2019, 2020 saw a large increase in both the people and profits dedicated to impact investing. A reason for this increase is that the COVID-19 pandemic gave people the opportunity to take a step back and recognize social challenges such as unequal access to healthcare, systemic racism, and a widening wealth gap, among other issues. Many investors wanted to find and fund positive investments. 

Going into 2024, the Global Impact Investing Network estimates the world's impact investing market to be worth over $1 trillion dollars. And despite evidence of a temporary retrenchment this year, impact finance is only expected to grow. Sustainable impact investing has proven itself to be more resilient than some other investment categories. This is partly because it often targets less volatile sectors with good long-term projects. 

How to start impact investing

The best way to start impact investing is to grow in experience throughout your time as a student and your career. Real-world experience is key. Cultivating a passion for entrepreneurship, policy and management, and a desire to create real, measurable change in society is a great starting point for those who want a career in impact investing. 

These passions can land you in a position to grow your experience in structuring deals, assessing multiple outcomes, increasing financial modeling skills, and extending analytical thinking and creativity. Lily Trager, head of Impact Solutions for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, shared the story of her dedicated and rewarding career in sustainable and impact investing. Listen to her story below. 


With numerous impact investment organizations worldwide, there are many different opportunities for those looking to start a career in impact investing. In fact, there are over 1,340 organizations currently managing 502 billion dollars in impact investing assets globally. And within the impact investing field, there are many different roles to fill. Among those roles are impact asset managers, investment analysts, global strategy consultants, social impact fund managers, investment officers, organizational development directors, directors of investment development, and many more. 

Impact investing is part of a growing field that seeks people who are ready to take action in socially responsible investment practices for the greater good. You can meet the sustainable finance needs in our world with an MBA in Sustainability

Bard's Graduate Programs in Sustainability educate and train the leaders of today who are passionate about making a difference in the world. Bard believes in real-world experience, and that’s exactly what we strive to help our students achieve. Students graduate with resumes that include experience and internships that solve real-world sustainability problems, and that will ultimately land our students their dream job.

Sustainability vision, thoughtful leadership, and hands-on learning are three pillars that hold Bard’s MBA in Sustainability Program together. With the tools to pursue their passions, graduates land successful careers in a multitude of rewarding, sustainable-focused industries. 

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About the Author

Katie Boyle

Katie Boyle

Katie Boyle is the Enrollment and Marketing Director for the Bard MBA in Sustainability program and Bard Center for Environmental Policy. In this role, she oversees the marketing and brand management for The Impact Report podcast. She also manages recruiting, admissions, and enrollment for both programs as well marketing and advertising campaigns.