In advance of this year’s conference, Beth Richardson, the director of the Global Impact Investment Rating System at B Lab, spoke with blogger Emily Goligoski about overseeing the launch of the organization’s systemized rating and what she’s most looking forward to at Fort Mason. Their conversation was part of a series of brief Q&As with SOCAP speakers before they come together in October.
EG: The GIIRS that B Corp has championed has been getting attention recently for its promise for government and business partners. Tell us about it.
BR: Two years ago people at the Rockefeller Foundation starting talking to investors about their needs to make more high impact investments, and it was clear that a third party rating tool was needed. The Rockefeller Foundation commissioned a study on different methodologies to address investors’ needs and determined that the B Impact Ratings System, a ratings system that was developed to certify B Corporations, was the furthest along in terms of what investors were looking for. After developing a business plan, B Lab received funding to rate both companies and private equity funds on their social and environmental performance. Institutional investors and advisors can use this information to give advice to clients interested in making impact investments.
What about this work makes it most meaningful to you?
Early in my work in the social enterprise space , I realized that business could be used to solve social and environmental problems. I now feel so fortunate to be in a position to help create systems and infrastructure that enterprises can use to grow. The capital markets for sustainable businesses can be murky, and we want to do our part to make these markets more transparent and efficient in order to help entrepreneurs raise capital and scale.
B Lab is a small entrepreneurial organization, and it’s our goal to help build a new sector of the economy comprised of businesses that are using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Beyond GIIRS, B Lab is certifying companies as B Corporations . To date we have certified 320 companies with collective revenues of $1.7 billion.
What’s planned for B Corp for this year’s conference?
At SoCap we’ll announce the names of the 12 North American GIIRS Pioneer Funds. GIIRS Pioneer funds are leading private equity and venture capital funds with a focus on impact investing. They’re joining 13 other Pioneer Funds that invest in emerging markets; collectively the 25 Pioneer GIIRS fund managers have $1.2 billion in assets under management and have investments in over 44 countries.
During my first SOCAP I really felt that the impact investing space was no longer just a collection of individuals trying out new models, but rather an emerging movement. I enjoy that SOCAP is a “202 event” rather than a “101 event” in that people already know the basics of the space and one can dig further into the challenges and opportunities at the conference.