• Description

In March 2006, The World Economic Forum published Blended Value Investing: Capital Opportunities for Social and Environmental Impact. That paper, written by Jed Emerson and Joshua Spitzer, presented and explored the notion that between market-rate financial investments and philanthropy lie investment opportunities that intentionally create both financial returns and environmental and social value. These investment instruments seek not simply to balance extra-financial value with financial value, to avoid doing harm, or to add token social responsibility to financial investing (as is true of many 'double bottom line' funds); rather they pursue a sustained blending of value creation -- in financial, environmental and other dimensions. That paper presented 12 case studies of funds and investment instruments in this blended value investing category with a focus on global economic and social value creation more than environmental value creation. In the autumn of 2006, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation funded a new exploration of blended value, this time focused more specifically on the area of environmental and conservation finance. Many innovations are advancing the field of environmental finance, many of these strategies have been well documented in a variety of articles, books and websites. Nevertheless, for many asset owners and managers, creating blended financial and environmental returns still remains a difficult goal to attain. These actors continue to ask questions regarding the types of investment option before them, the degree (if any) to which they carry a financial penalty, and the nature of the environmental value created (among other questions). Accordingly, this paper offers a broad overview of various real estate-based investment instruments and funds that are structured to generate financial returns while simultaneously advancing environmental value. The specific audience for this paper includes foundation executives seeking to move beyond traditional grantmaking, as well as high-net-worth individuals and other asset trustees working to understand options for pursuing full, blended value investments -- namely, those that create a defined level of economic value combined with environmental impact. This inquiry introduces frameworks for approaching blended value investments, and it raises a series of questions potential investors will probably ask. While the authors believe these investments will ultimately prove viable and efficient, this inquiry stops short of comparing these blended value investments to more traditional alternatives. In the absence of further data, the authors cannot assert that these investments are superior to traditional strategies. The inquiry's conclusion suggests future studies that might bring more data to the ongoing discussion.