Impact investing for social and environmental change

Traditionally the entrepreneurial philanthropist brings innovative ideas and fresh thinking. Unless they are a well-known celebrity the giving as such tends to go unnoticed. These ‘unnoticed’ philanthropists have commonly supported numerous small initiatives in the local community for social benefit or the underprivileged. Such schemes could be termed ‘venture philanthropy’ but are far removed from John Rockefellers’ view that it was “an adventurous approach to funding unpopular social causes”. Today the move is far more towards ‘impact investing’.

However, in the post pandemic world there is a growing requirement of the high net worth and ultra-high net work to support elements of global recovery and the increased focus on social investing and social profit schemes. Impact investing is one such area that supports this with the dual goal of making profit and creating positive social, environmental, employment and education improvements. In emerging economies typically, we see such investment supporting sustainable agriculture, healthcare, housing and the development of cleaner technology.

We have all heard of the billionaire business philanthropist’s making the worldwide impact such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buff and Mackenzie Scott. But what of those charitable celebrities trying to make a difference albeit maybe on a slightly smaller scale? Here are just a few trying to make a difference:

  1. Bono – The U2 frontman, decided to create the Rise Fund and environmental and socially conscious investment company with currently 25 mindful investments under its belt and aiming to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  2. Leonardo DiCaprio – Leonardo could be viewed as the face of sustainable investors in Hollywood and a passionate environmentalist. His focus is a particular interest in supporting environmentally sustainable start-ups from rainforest focused tea company call Runa, a tech company called Rubicon, sustainable bank Aspiration plus many others. He has also ventured into building a ground braking sustainable resort of the coast of Belize to focus on restoring the island’s natural resources.
  3. Cate Blanchett – This Oscar winning actress invested in the Sydney Theatre Company to fund the innovative green energy project to install 1900 solar panels which now provide 70% of the theatre’s power.
  4. Matt Damon – Matt was a founder of, more than just a charity but a providing safe water and sanitation to communities. Their new ventures fund also provides funding to projects that are helping to solve the world’s growing water crisis.
  5. Elton John – A renowned campaigner and supporter of various worldwide Aids charities and in the past year alone has donated £28.2 million to charity, mostly his foundations in Britain and America.
Picture courtesy of

All trying to make a difference of varying levels and the list could go on. Despite the extravagant lifestyles and constantly being in the public eye so many celebrities are trying to use their influence for change to so many social and environmental issues.

Making a difference they are, but is it enough? Can they influence government policy and lobby for change and at a time when there is so much focus on the human impact on the environment and social deprivation and it is so desperately needed? Are they truly being listened to by those that have the power to make great change?

Look back a few years and you see Bono and Geldof spending a great deal of time and effort, with the support of many others, backing the jubilee 2000 ’drop the debt’ campaign and forcing successful change to policy. Geldof himself spend a great deal of time privately lobbying Tony Blair and the Live 8 concerts in 2005 leading to the G8 agreeing a £50bn aid boost for Africa. It highlights that the celebrity can influence and make a fundamental difference.

So, what for the next generation ?

With the stars of today having so much presence and exposure across social media, sharing their thinking, views and highlighting their endeavours they have so much opportunity to continue to influence views and force social and political change. We also have the new generation of activists supporting efforts such as Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai, all unelected trying to ensure public policy reflects collective interests.

The landscape between politics and philanthropy is a complex one, but what is clear the world of Philanthropy and the unelected celebrities will not stop with their impact investing and drive for positive social and environmental change. At the time of writing the world waits with bated breath to see the commitments and reactions from the world leaders at the UN COP26 Summit. Philanthropists, Celebrities and Activists alike are all intelligent enough to appreciate change takes time but, as Sir David Attenborough said, “There is no going back – no matter what we do now, it’s too late to avoid climate change and the poorest, the most vulnerable, those with the least security, are now certain to suffer.”

Without a doubt Impact Investing and Philanthropy is the way forward!