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Top takeaways from the 12th annual Social Finance Forum

November 14, 2019 By: Khilola Zakhidova

From reflecting on the backlash against capitalism to highlighting the impact investing potential in technology, green tech and trends in ESG investing, this year’s Social Finance Forum was an electrifying event, delivering insights, perspectives and bold ideas.

We’ll be sharing exclusive content from the event over the next few months, but for now, here are our main take-aways from the keynotes, panel discussions and workshops that made this year’s event so special:


  1. The cycle for impact and ESG investing continues to mount

Institutions are shifting into impact and ESG investments. Today, there are approximately US$32 trillion ESG investments in the world and the cycle continues to grow. More customers are asking for impact as part of their financial portfolio, and financial institutions are creating products that align with those needs. Most importantly, the barriers that held back ESG investing–in particular, the lack of standards and comprehensive reporting–are being overcome as more corporate leaders push for change and increase middle managers’ involvement in ESG and social issues.


  1. What does it take to scale the social finance market in Canada?

The Government of Canada’s “Investment Readiness Program” is a two-year,$50 million pilot designed to help advance Social Innovation and Social Finance by building on existing frameworks to support community-led solutions. This program will be delivered through various partner organizations and the Forum presented an excellent opportunity to engage stakeholders and share ideas on how to ensure that the program reaches its full potential. Important questions were raised—for example: what role can private capital play and how can it be leveraged to scale social finance? And how do we reconcile small scale social finance investment with growing social finance market?


  1. Impact investing can go wrong and more coherence is needed in setting expectations, defining and measuring impact.

Multiple industry leaders, organizations and policymakers are committed to impact investing and are working to create standards that will be useful to the sector. How do we build consensus around expectations, metrics and methods to create truly reflective data? At the moment, we are competing on whose metrics are the best, and who has the best proprietary method. As we continue to search for precise ratings and scores, there is a danger of losing sight of what genuine impact might mean in different contexts.


  1. How do we deal with the backlash against capitalism?

Capitalism needs to become more responsible and facilitate solutions to global challenges. The solutions to social and climate problems are there, they just need the right-sized capital to scale. There is hope in capitalism, but we need a little less conversation and a little more action.


  1. Climate change must be tackled urgently and clear-headedly

The good news is that we are in the midst of a massive energy transition. There is optimism among investors and entrepreneurs but also a sense of urgency and consensus that the rate of transition must accelerate. We need to be better at using policy levers and partnerships to accelerate the energy transition.