Diary of an Investor: Making an impact
We at Wasserdicht like to think that our company has a positive impact around the world as a pump and flood protection equipment multinational. At a recent corporate seminar, our CEO introduced the new head of stakeholder engagement, who gave a short speech about the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs), and how Wasserdicht was contributing to meeting them.
Consultants, I believe, came up with the term ‘what can be measured can be managed’. Accordingly, Wasserdicht has started on a two-year programme to measure and boost its impact against a selected number of the UN SDGs. ‘We not only want to be the top of our peer group in sustainable development,’ our CEO announced, ‘we want to be able to prove it.’
All this has piqued the interest of some of our trustees, including Rolf, the chairman. ‘What do you know about impact investing?’ he asks my colleague Geert and I one morning.
Geert gave an explanation of how impact originated in the endowment sector and has spread to large institutions. ‘There are many terms but impact investing seems to have stuck,’ he explained. ‘It certainly sounds better than terms like system-level investing.’ He also went through what Dutch pension funds have done in microcredits and private market impact funds.
A few days later, impact investing was on the agenda at our investment committee meeting. Rolf took the floor to advocate making an impact related investment. The committee agreed that a water-focused private equity project in the developing world would be the best fit for us, given Wasserdicht’s profile in water management. My team was tasked to report in time for the next meeting.
Immediately afterwards, we had a meeting with our design agency to finalise the design of the pension fund’s 2017 annual report. ‘I’m so excited,’ says Thijs, the designer, when he heard about the new investment. ‘Think of all the pictures we can use to make real impact in next year’s report.’
Pieter Mullen is investment director at Wasserdicht Pension Funds