Impact Group: Supporting the growth of the impact sector around the world

August 13, 2020

Interview with Debbie Ryan CEO of Impact Group

We interviewed Debbie Ryan, CEO of Impact Group, a group established to help support the growth of the impact sector across the United Kingdom and the globe. Impact Group has created a group of companies established to build upon the work achieved through its predecessors, the Social Stock Exchange and the Impact Investment Network LTD.

Collectively they deliver a variety of services including: Impact accreditation, Investment support, Education and Training through a free global network.

As the financial and investment sectors continue a rapid shift towards impact investing, as public conscience and political awareness demand change - this paradigm shift has opened up the market for a new type of business, the investment wholesaler. Impact Group fills that gap.

Debbie shared with Nossa Capital about the group and each of its subsidiaries.

What are the four subsidiaries that fit underneath Impact Group?

Impact Group consists of four independent companies.

Impact Network:

Impact Network is an award-winning platform of value driven businesses. Impact Network members come together to connect with socially-driven, commercially-focused businesses from across the globe. The network’s aim is to support these businesses grow in a sustainable and ethical way. Members also have the opportunity to go through an impact accreditation process.

Impact Investor:

Impact Investor offers a suite of Investment Services, including commercial assessments and investment brokerage. In the future, the business will also operate a smartphone application platform which will allow investors the opportunity to participate in equity raises across a variety of Impact ventures.

Impact Academy:

Impact Academy is a niche and specialist Education and Training Provider. The academy offers a wide range of education and workforce programmes to support individuals and employers gain the skills, qualifications and experience aligned to Impact qualifications and roles.

Impact Capital:

Impact Capital, the newest member of the Impact Group family, is a Venture Capital Firm, specialising in Early Stage Businesses operating in the Impact space. The fund invests in Seed and Series A investment. The Portfolio is formulated and augmented through the strategic alignment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, with independent businesses with a Pro-Environmental and Pro-Social focus.

Wow, Impact Group offers a lot of things! Could you please expand a bit about the accreditation process offered by Impact Network?

Of course. Impact Network underpins the group of companies. Via a platform, the network brings members together to share best practices, collaborate with each other, read industry articles and generally create a community of impact businesses spanning the globe. For the members who want it, Impact Group provides an accreditation process.

What that means is businesses will be taken through an impact accreditation process that will pull out their values and alignments. This process will determine exactly where they fit beside the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The process looks at the intended consequence of business activity as well as the unintended consequences of business activity. This will create an impact report document that will go to an accreditation panel. If the report is approved, the business becomes accredited.

There are numerous purposes to the accreditation process. The benefits to companies are that:

It enables them to tackle head on the green washing issue. It shows to their customers and stakeholders that they are an impact business.
It also supports companies that are currently looking for investment. That document will form part of a pack we send to our investor community. It gives the investors evidence that the impact credentials of a particular company.

Before going deeper into Impact Group’s offering, could you share a bit about how Impact Group got started?

Impact Group was originally launched as the Social Stock Exchange. The Social Stock Exchange launch was announced by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, at the Social Impact Investment Conference in London as part of the UK’s leadership of the G8.

The vision at that time was to create an alternative stock exchange for impact businesses. However, it became clear that businesses in the impact sector needed support to get to that level of growth before they could be listed on a stock exchange. This led to the launch of Impact Investment Network which later evolved to become Impact Group.

Our vision is to grow the impact sector.

If we had stayed limited to just the stock exchange, would be a vast amount of impact businesses that are excluded from that process. Impact Group as we stand now will work with businesses at every stage of their lifecycle to help them grow. We hope that some of those businesses will reach the size and scale to complete an IPO, but our goal is to support them through that journey.

Impact Group does a lot of work to grow the impact investment sector overall. Can you share some more details about how you aim to demystify impact investing?

As our aim is to raise awareness across the sector for employees, stakeholders and businesses, we’ve discovered that this work first requires that we demystify what lies behind impact businesses and impact investment.

One way we do this is by generating a strong pipeline of impact related businesses. The businesses we work with have done a robust accreditation process, and have a clear impact credentials. It is also clear how these businesses deliver against the UN SDG goals both now and in the future.

It is very important we help our investment community understand the exact impact our businesses deliver, define why that is impactful and monitor how the business is doing against those objectives.

What other work do you do to raise awareness about impact investing?

Daily, we actively research and publicize what is happening across the sector. We also encourage our members across the world to bring awareness to their local communities.

We have many success stories of members who have raised funds and grown businesses that benefit the planet. The more we can raise awareness the better.

What does it mean to become a member?

Becoming a member means that an impact business is signed up and a part of our network. We have accredited members within that. Members are allowed to attend our events, they have a profile on our website and they are able to actively engage with the other members on our platform.

We already have members from all over the world – Russia, India, Canada and more.

Where do you see Impact Group developing in the future?

The general goal is to become the platform of choice for impact businesses. We have just hit our 100th member  and our vision is to scale our platform to 500+ members over the next two years.

Have you noticed an increase of discussion around impact investment recently?

Massively. We have seen a huge shift in both public consciousness as well as political awareness in the past two years.

Demand from the public comes in terms of if businesses are able to identify their green credentials. People care what businesses are doing for the planet and the people who live on the planet more and more.

We have seen a shift investor behavior. Investors are now actively looking for impact investment opportunities. While financial return is still important, investors now value social and environmental return as well. That’s where we believe an accreditation process becomes so important - it creates  assuredness that these are genuine impact opportunities for investors.

On top of this, we have seen that investors are actively moving away from companies that pollute the planet. Even if an investment has a high potential return, if it is damaging the environment, due to significant public and political pressure, investors are looking elsewhere to invest their funds. We encourage and support that. That’s why we work to make a robust and sustainable pipeline for the investor community.

What has this increase in interest in impact investing meant for Impact Group?

It has allowed us to scale from an individual company to a group of companies. We need to make sure our service is able to meet demand.

One of the things we want to do for our members is to ensure we keep the value for our members as high as possible with the price as low as possible. We also want to make sure we continue to raise awareness about impact businesses and the positive effect these types of businesses can have on people and on the planet.

What type of businesses do you connect with most?

We work a lot with small businesses and social enterprises that are focused on impact. We are very happy to work with large corporates as well but with highly complex organizations, they often can often find it harder to change.

We would love to work with more large corporations moving forward who want to embrace sustainability and impact. If you are a large corporation, looking to bring sustainability across your business as a whole- come talk to us and we can help you do that in a step by step way.

Any final thoughts you would like to share?

One of the things that is very important for us is our engagement with the younger generation. We have seen lots of young people choosing their career paths by thinking of the legacy of the company versus the pay.

Our academy is here to support people at the beginning of their careers on that journey by offering training and apprenticeships. These programs encourage and develop young professionals to embrace sustainability and impact. We believe this is a mentality they can then both at their current workplace as well as all of the companies they will go on to work for.