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Assessing the Impact of Private Investment:
A Focus on Biocultural Diversity

This project, led by GDAE Research Fellow Shaun Paul, builds upon and contributes to GDAE’s Research and Policy program goals by evaluating, refining, and disseminating impact investment metrics that include considerations for biological and cultural diversity. This research seeks to increase the value that investors and business leaders place on practices that build economic, social, cultural and ecological resilience. This is especially relevant to conservation areas used and occupied by Indigenous Peoples.

Conservation managers and a new generation of entrepreneurs are increasingly interested in scalable approaches to nature-based businesses (e.g. agriculture, forestry, and renewable energy businesses) that enhance biological and cultural diversity.  However, these initiatives are typically hampered by a lack of investment. A rapidly growing group of impact investors, many whom are attracted to these ‘next generation’ nature-based companies, report that better standards and metrics would help them make investment decisions (J.P. Morgan, 2013).

One of the most prominent approaches to standardized social impact assessments of private investments is the Global Impact Investment Rating System (GIIRS). Large institutional investors are beginning to use GIIRS as their first screen to identify new impact investment portfolios. GIIRS is powered by B Analytics, which assesses the social and environmental performance of individual companies; however, it has yet to consider a business’ effect on community well-being, biodiversity, and cultural diversity.

Moreover, many impact investors are increasingly interested in ‘whole systems approaches’ that consider social-ecological systems and resilience perspectives not considered by investment rating systems. The Transform Finance Investor Network provides an excellent summary of the gaps of existing investment rating systems. This research project seeks to contribute to filling those gaps by working with a multi-disciplinary team of practitioners representing private investors, and non-profit organizations including Reinventure Capital, Boston Common Asset ManagementCalvert FoundationRegenesis GroupStockholm Resilience Center, First Peoples WorldwideFirst Nations Development InstituteInternational Funders for Indigenous Peoples, and Transform Finance.

Additional Resources

Shaun Paul's Presentation at TuftsInvesting in Sustainable Well-Being
GDAE Research Fellow Shaun Paul gave this presentation at GDAE in January 22, 2015 at Tufts University on investing in sustainable well-being. (November 6, 2013)

Shaun Paul's Presentation on SuperfoodsInvesting in superfoods: Sustainable Solution or Passing Fad?
GDAE Research Fellow Shaun Paul gave this presentation at GDAE in November 2013. It covers the emerging trends of superfoods with considerations for building sustainable international agricultural supply chains using the examples of coffee and chia. (November 6, 2013)

Business Paradigms and Transitions: A Panel Discussion, Langscape, Winter 2013, p. 72-85
Bio-cultural Resilience Tool, a blog from Shaun Paul, Kevin Jones, Johanna MacTaggart, and Per Olsen


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