Guus van Puijenbroek

“To me, companies that do not consider all the different forms of return - financial, ecological, social - are not worth investing in, because they are simply not future proof”

Guus is a Dutch impact investor. He is the director of his family’s investment company - VP Capital - as well as a private investor. He is also an active member of the PYM community and is committed to working with other family offices to change the world.

How did your impact journey start?
It started with the realization of my privilege. I increasingly felt the responsibility to do something with what I was given. So together with my wife Astrid I started researching philanthropy first, but it did not feel like the answer for our situation. That is when I read a book by the Rockefeller Foundation, which brought impact investing to our attention. Soon after, my wife and I met Frank van Beuningen and were introduced to Pymwymic, which made us further discover the Dutch impact universe and community. We started very small initially, and definitely made some beginner mistakes, but after several years of practice, research and experience, we were confident and ready to take it to the next level. That is when we involved the family. 

We started with a presentation to find out what inspired everyone. From there we were able to identify our main domains of impact investment: Energy, Health, and Water, next to our heritage domains Agrifood, Media, Smart Industry, Real Estate, and Textile. Today, VP Capital has grown to a team of 12 people, managing over 50 investments, of which over 30 investments are funds. Some 30% of our wealth is now in pure impact, with a target of 45% in 2023. In about 75% of our assets we have a seat at the table - so we are quite active investors.

What is your impact strategy? 
We have a double strategy. On the one side, we seek to change the (heritage) companies we are shareholders of, and on the other side we invest in impact, privately and with VP Capital. As shareholders we felt that, instead of selling our shares in the heritage companies and just transferring the problem to someone else, who might not be as passionate about sustainability as we are, we should be frontrunners in making these companies greener. As impact investors, we will invest in our 3 impact domains and increasingly are aiming toward more early-stage VC. We think we can do more good for smaller companies with higher risk. At the moment, this is just over 5% of our portfolio and we're considering tripling that. 

VP Capital is also a B-corp - what does that mean and why was that important for you? 
We noticed that a lot of our efforts and successes were in the ecological field, but that we were not focused as much on the social aspects of doing good business. That led us to start the process of becoming a B-corp; an ambition to be and do better. It was a long journey with a very strict process of auditing and checking that taught us a lot. And as one of the first family offices to become a B-corp, we did not have many examples to draw from. However, we are very happy we pushed through, it has been extremely valuable to be a part of this small but growing community. 

What is an example of one of the investments that you are particularly excited about? 
Aquaporin: a company that has developed a type of filtration system based on biomimicry by using the proteins responsible for transporting and purifying water in all living cells. A spin-off of Copenhagen University, they incorporate aquaporins into their biomimetic membranes, to enable tailor-clean water faster and more energy-efficiently than ever before. This can be done on a small and big scale and has endless application potential; from desalination to dialysis and transportation. We are very excited to be involved in this project! 

In your family office - how did/do the different generations respond to impact investing? 
The push for impact really came from the new generation, and initially there was some skepticism from the older generation, until we were able to show them just how positive the results were. Now both are very engaged, with the next generation (in our case 5th and 6th)  more focussed on intention and meaning and the older 4th) generation more technical and finance orientated). 

What advice would you give a starting impact investor? 

  • Don’t get stuck on the story, always look at the ideas behind it. Do your due diligence and don’t get carried away. Question everything they tell you. Look at the whole market. 
  • Make sure you can check up on the company. Have local teams. Be actively present. Consider investing closer to home so you can see how a team truly functions. A lot can be lost in virtual meetings and flying can be (and perhaps should be) a barrier. 
  • Connect the funds/companies you invest in with each other, so they can potentially work together. There can be big wins for an investor in facilitating this.  

Do you see a specific role for family offices? 
Yes! Actually, one of my personal KPIs is to try to actively work together with more single-family offices, to change the world on a greater scale. Family offices naturally are a perfect fit for impact investing, because there is a long-term mindset and often the intention to do good.

Join us on the 14th & 15th of April for the PYM Impact Days!

Come explore what we can learn from our ancestors
and how we can apply that in the years and decades to come. 

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