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Horizons: Family Office & Investor Magazine

With The ImPact, Justin Rockefeller Defines Impact Investing For The Modern Era

Sunday, March 11, 2018

In 2013, when Justin Rockefeller started The ImPact, a non-profit focused on impact investing, he wanted to build on the impact investing work he started doing at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. With ImPact, his goal was to bring together other high profile families and get them to commit to measurable actions that would increase the value of their investments. He calls it 'values aligned investing'.

"One of the hard things about impact investing is that business owners can get understandably defensive about the label impact," Rockefeller tells Horizons. "People feel like they have built something that created jobs and contributed to the community, and to them, that's impact -- and it is. So we try to get more nuanced than that when we work with families. What it really comes down to is measuring both the positive and negative impacts of a given business and deciding how those impacts align with the values investors want to reflect in their portfolios."

The nuance is important. When bringing several families together into one organization, it can be challenging to align interests. Rockefeller notes that this is also true for wealth managers that are dealing with multiple clients. "The data are clear that the next generation is very focused on values-aligned investing, but it can be difficult to get clear on what that means and how to measure it," he says. "Skeptics are quick to point out that there is no perfect unit of impact like there is the U.S. dollar. But, there is no perfect unit of impact because there are many types of impacts. If you're willing to do the work on what those impacts are, you can measure."

The Five Core Components of Impact Investing

For Rockefeller, impact investing has five core components: geography; asset class; sector; return profile and impact strategy. As with any investment strategy - geography, asset class, sector and return profile help investors understand what the specific opportunity is and where to put it in a portfolio. The impact strategy helps investors understand what the additional return might be in terms of societal benefit.

Understanding impact strategy drives the investing process for members of The ImPact. Impact strategy is important because it can help investors identify investments that are aligned with specific goals like gender equality or environmental sustainability. The impact strategy also provides a roadmap for how an investment should be measured. Screening with a gender lens, for example, will likely yield different companies than screening for environmental sustainability or other impacts. Once each of these factors is identified, investors can align their portfolios accordingly and also commit to specific actions that are in alignment with their values and their portfolios. The idea is to create a well-defined process around values aligned investing in order to make it more efficient and trackable for the families that belong to The ImPact and for anyone who wants to use a similar framework in their portfolio. "We've made a lot of resources available for free on our website to help people understand the space and our approach," Rockefeller adds. "Even if someone isn't working with us directly, we want to help people understand impact investing if they are looking for a way to get involved." Impact Investing can do better with technology

At The ImPact, Rockefeller and the team pull all of their investment data together using Addepar, an investment technology platform. Rockefeller is the Global Director of Family Offices and Foundations at Addepar and the company is a pro bono technology partner of The ImPact.

Rockefeller says that growth of financial technology in the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis is helping impact investing take off by enabling investors to track and gather a broader range of data than ever before. Indeed, Rockefeller has seen FinTech as a segment grow first hand, prior to Addepar and The ImPact, Rockefeller was a venture investor with Richmond Global.

"A lot of investors, especially Millennials, sense that, with technology, business can behave better than it did in the past," Rockefeller says. "There is a recognition that we need to tackle some very large problems and it's going to take the scale of the capital markets to make that happen. Governments and philanthropies can't do it alone. The next generation sees a way forward where business is profitable but also helps to address the broader issues we face as a society."

B. McCann

Justin Aldrich Rockefeller is an American impact investor and financial technology professional. He is the youngest son of former West Virginia senator, Jay Rockefeller, and his wife, Sharon Percy Rockefeller. Rockefeller's maternal grandfather was former U.S. Senator Charles H. Percy, and his paternal grandparents were Blanchette Ferry Hooker and John D. Rockefeller III, the eldest son of philanthropists John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller.

Justin Rockefeller is the Global Director of Family Offices and Foundations at Addepar, a financial technology company. He also cofounded and chairs the board of directors of The ImPact, a membership network of family enterprises (family offices, foundations, and businesses) that are committed to making investments with measurable social impact

 
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