On 28 September 2023, PYM hosted a gathering of thought leaders, impact investors and impact fund managers in the heart of Brussels to discuss how we can work together to create a more sustainable world through impact investing. We heard from three inspiring keynote speakers and five Belgian impact funds, who explained how they turn the desire for impact into reality.
In this blog, I would like to share my personal key takeaways from this remarkable day.
1. Finance is reconnecting with its purpose through impact investing:
Professor Luc Van Liedekerke took us on a historical journey, contrasting the intricate financial structures of industrialised Western nations with those of emerging markets such as Ethiopia. There, local farming communities work together through an informal insurance system, Iddir, to share financial risks and to improve the well-being of the community with the modest means they have.
Meanwhile, in the West, all of us are shielded by a vast financial system encompassing insurance, savings, and investments. This system offers us incredible opportunities, but its pursuit of returns and complexity have led to systemic failures, such as the 2008 financial crisis.
Luc's core message was clear: at its heart, finance should exist to improve people's lives, as exemplified by the communities in Ethiopia. Impact investing reignites this intrinsic purpose, bringing finance back to its origins of creating meaningful, positive change.
2. The climate emergency in the Arctic:
By now we are all aware of the ongoing climate crisis and the urgent need for action. Polar explorer Bernice Notenboom’s presentation served as a sober reminder of this fact. Bernice shared her alarming insights into the rapidly disappearing Arctic landscape, drawing on her extensive experience of more than a dozen polar expeditions.
What struck me was the fact that the Arctic, currently a victim of climate change, could soon become a contributor to further climate disruption. As the Arctic's ice and snow continue to melt, exposing darker surfaces such as water and land, more sunlight and heat will be absorbed, adding to the warming effect.
Bernice's talk left me with a sense of urgency to reduce our emissions to preserve this unique region of our planet and others threatened by a changing climate.
3. The Impact Revolution will touch every facet of our lives:
Sir Ronald Cohen, one of the pioneers of impact investing, compared the ongoing Impact Revolution to the digital revolution. He described how impact entrepreneurship is rapidly gaining momentum, driven by the potential of new technologies such as AI and the large improvements made in the reporting standards for companies’ social and environmental impacts.
Sir Ronald's optimism about AI challenges many of the prevailing fears about the harm that AI could cause; he sees AI as a catalyst for improving our quality of life, particularly by enabling people who have been historically marginalised to move into higher value-added employment.
4. Belgium’s vibrant impact ecosystem:
Belgium is a country with a deep culture of social responsibility, which can be seen in its well-developed culture of philanthropy and now in the extraordinary impact ecosystem that has developed in the country. During the event, we heard about the impact strategies of five very different and remarkable Belgian impact funds, each dedicated to a specific impact theme. Namely:
For me, PYM Impact Day Belgium 2023 was a potent reminder of the potential for impact investing to reshape our world for the better. From Professor Luc Van Liedekerke's historical perspective, emphasising the reconnection of finance with its core purpose, to Bernice Notenboom's urgent call to address the climate crisis.
Sir Ronald Cohen's visionary outlook on the Impact Revolution filled me with hope: the change we want is no longer theoretical, but is becoming a tangible reality all around us.
Listening to five remarkable Belgian impact funds reinforced this message: these funds showed how impact can be manifested in different ways.
For me, this day showed that investing in impact is not just a choice; it is a commitment to a better tomorrow.
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