Impact Investing and Reporting on SDG Outcomes

Back to EMW 2020: a panel session moderated by CERISE


The Special Online Edition of the European Microfinance Week 2020 successfully gathered 500+ participants from all over the world, bringing ideas and discussions to a large international audience. CERISE took part in several meetings, including the e-MFP Investors Action Group on November 18 (learn more here).

On November 19, Cécile Lapenu, Director of CERISE, moderated the Panel Session “Impact Investing and Reporting on SDG outcomes“, with three speakers: Rachel Bass from the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), Giulia Debernardini from the FMO and Safeya Zeitoun from Symbiotics. Discussions focused on how different stakeholders try to manage customer and outcome data aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Rachel Bass shared significant statistics from a GIIN global survey, showing that there is a rapidly growing traction of the SDGs among impact investors. Around 73% of impact investors are using the SDGs to help inform their investment strategy and operations. According to this survey, investors seek to address three main SDGs: SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) and SDG10 (Reduced Inequalities). Recently and because of COVID-19, the areas of interest have evolved and investors have been focusing more on the SDG3 (Good Health and Well-being) and SDG17 (Partnerships for the Goals), knowing that partnerships are helping to cope with the crisis.

These results are great news. Nevertheless, there has also been a risk of “rainbow” washing (social/environmental) by companies that intend to externally communicate a positive impact of their activities. This challenge comes along with other attention points for the sector: how can we turn data into action, specifically in the context of COVID-19? How can we foster more of a culture of performance measurement at both the investor and the investee levels?


The panel shared concrete examples and advancements


On her side, Giulia Debernardini presented the open access tool developed by FMO with other DFIs to harmonise how different institutions are measuring their results. The Joint Impact model has three main outputs: value added, employment and GHG emission, which are related to the SDGs 8, 10 and 13. The model is being tested by many institutions and FMO made a methodology document available to the public. This model provides proxy indicators on job creation and other outcomes, and it will be interesting to verify how much these indicators match actual results, later on.

Then, Safeya Zeitoun explained how Symbiotics collects data at the outcome level, with the help of local consultants where the investments are being made, to map their transactions to the SDGs. Symbiotics directly collects data from the end-clients and focuses on measuring relevant targets and their respective indicators for each SDG. For SDG8, they measure indicators related to targets 8.3 (decent job creation), 8.6 (youth in employment), 8.8 (safe working environment), and 8.10 (access to banking. However, this is a demanding process from which Symbiotics have learned a lot in recent times.

As a conclusion, speakers agreed on the fact that there is a need for more alignment with resources and tracking outcomes to shape business decisions. It seems important to triangulate the macro and micro data to obtain a better understanding of real changes linked to investment.