Last week, President Clara Miller was interviewed by Forbes‘ Anne Field on Heron’s decision to “go all in”–moving our whole portfolio into assets with a positive social impact, particularly those that serve the Heron mission of helping people and communities help themselves out of poverty. In the interview, Miller shares how Heron came to the conclusion that our previous approach to our mission required a new approach, due to a changed economy that no longer reliably provided jobs:
We’d been deploying our capital largely in areas like home ownership programs and financial literacy. But that wasn’t necessarily about jobs. Now, we’re looking across asset classes for opportunities where jobs and a way to go up the ladder are built into the fabric of the companies. The actual sectors those companies are in is not as important as their dedication to building human capital or adding jobs.
So for example, we invested in a couple of private equity firms that are focused on jobs. We also buy bonds that are financing community development financial institutions (CDFIs). We invested through Program Related Investments (PRIs) or enterprise capital grants in nonprofits and cooperatives that are providing training or advocacy or data infrastructure that will help build the impact investing world. We created screens for public companies on the basis of their employment practices and impact on their community.
Miller shared also on how Heron re-structured internally to support the 100 percent impact goal and how businesses in any part of the economy can have positive or negative impact–which opens up impact investing opportunities. “Some people think of impact investing as an asset class that is about solving problems. We think that’s one part of the impact investing sector. We look at it more broadly.”
Heron is not the only investor moving to 100 percent impact investments: in a previous article, Field spoke with Charly and Lisa Kleissner about their pioneering work in this area and efforts to organize a cohort of impact investors to co-invest and share experiences.
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