Championed by Minderoo Foundation Co-Chair Nicola Forrest AO, the Strategic Impact Fund invests in businesses that deliver impact in Minderoo Foundation’s areas of focus and will demonstrate how capital can be used as a force for good.
In the past month alone, the Strategic Impact Fund has made six investments valued at more than $20 million across modern slavery, the sustainable ocean economy, and circular plastics solutions.
Mrs Forrest said impact investing is an extension of the Forrests’ approach of actively seeking positive impact from investments.
“All businesses need to be accountable to their customers, employees, investors and communities. The Strategic Impact Fund is backing businesses that are building sustainable models for tackling long-standing social and environmental challenges,” Mrs Forrest said.
“Andrew and I have always believed that at a minimum, no business should do harm. Beyond this, business is uniquely positioned to create opportunity for positive impact, as well as financial return.
“It’s time to unlock business as a force for good. There is a groundswell of discontent, particularly among young people, at businesses failing to account for their impact on people and planet.”
Felicity Gooding, Minderoo Foundation Deputy CEO and Chair of the Fund’s Investment Committee said impact investing was a key strategy for the Foundation.
“The Strategic Impact Fund unlocks the power of Minderoo’s corpus to drive a measurable contribution to Minderoo Foundation’s goals while generating a sustainable risk-adjusted return. We invest in scalable, for-purpose businesses that are led by strong management teams who are committed to impact,” Ms Gooding said.
“All investees are required to regularly report on impact metrics that align to the Foundations goals. In some instances, our returns are even contingent on social outcomes being delivered.”
The Strategic Impact Fund will also use investment as a key part of the Foundation’s approach to addressing gender inequality by investing in businesses that directly address inequality and promoting gender diversity within the governance and management of businesses invested in by the Fund.
Minderoo Head of Impact Investing Jenna Palumbo said the Strategic Impact Fund had already appointed women to the majority of governance roles in the businesses it had invested in.
“To hear that only two per cent of venture capital flows to women founders is immensely frustrating. We want to see more women empowered to lead businesses and investment processes that actively tackle entrenched gender bias.
“In addition to women in leadership roles, we consider how a proposed product or service addresses gender inequality. For example, the Fund has made a number of investments to tackle modern slavery, which disproportionately impacts women,” Ms Palumbo said.
One female entrepreneur the Fund has invested in is Kimberley Randle, the founder and CEO of Fair Supply Analytics. Fair Supply is a software company with a unique, data driven approach to identifying modern slavery risk deep in companies’ supply chains.
“Gender bias in investing is a real and ongoing issue,” Ms Randle said. “The Minderoo Foundation investment process was very open and supportive and we now enjoy a strong ongoing relationship with Minderoo Foundation representative, Serena Grant,joiningthe Fair Supply board.”
The Strategic Impact Fund recently invested into Canadian based Ulula, a platform that allows workers to anonymously voice grievances and provide anonymous feedback to reduce and address risk within supply chains. The platform can provide workers trapped in modern slavery a voice to report their situation safely.
The Strategic Impact Fund also works in partnership with leading global fund managers where there is strong alignment with the goals of Minderoo Foundation, with investments in Working Capital Fund, which is focused on ethical supply chains, Ocean 14 Capital, a fund aligned to Minderoo Foundation’s Flourishing Oceans initiative, and Circulate Capital’s fund that seeks scalable solutions to the global plastics crisis.
Impact investing is becoming more common globally to help finance solutions to social and environmental challenges. Distinct from Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing, impact investing actively seeks positive impact, providing a much higher bar than the negative screen applied by many ESG funds.
The Australian impact investment market is growing rapidly, more than tripling to $20 billion in the two years to 2020 and projected to grow to $100 billion over the next five years.
Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, we are a modern philanthropic organisation seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. Minderoo Foundation is proudly Australian, with eight key initiatives spanning from ocean research and ending slavery, to collaboration in cancer and community projects.