Gun Denhart talks impact investing
By Andy Giegerich
Business Journal staff writer
Gun Denhart says awareness of impact investing is on the rise.
For years, the terms “sound investments” and “sustainability” seemed mutually exclusive.
The thinking went something like this: Investors can put their money into companies that either deliver good returns or espouse responsible operating practices. They can’t, however, do both.
The notion is dead wrong, said Gun Denhart, the Hanna Andersson Corp. co-founder. Denhart, whose clothing company was an early sustainability adopter, is now leading the “impact investing” brigade. The concept simply means putting one’s money where it can both make a difference while yielding solid financial results.
The option has boomed in the last decade-plus. In 1995, about $600 billion was steered toward “socially responsible” investments. In 2010, the figure exceeded $3 trillion worldwide.
Some 70 more foundations around the world also fall into the impact investing category by financially backing earth-friendly causes.
“A lot of investment advisers didn’t even know what impact investing was in 1995, and now, awareness of socially responsible investing continues to increase,” said Denhart, who lives in Portland some ten years after she and her husband Tom sold Hanna Andersson.
Denhart views impact investing as a way to positively affect one’s own portfolio while also performing acts that might be considered as philanthropy. That way, if there’s no financial return, investors can at least get a good feeling about how their money is used.
There is, of course, no easy way to quantify a “good feeling,” Denhart concedes.
“If you’re putting money into a renewable energy company, you can look to see how much energy’s being used and quantify it that way,” Denhart said. “Or if they’re using certified wood, they might specify how much they’re using.”
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