As the saying goes “the more things change the more they stay the same”. This is true when we look at the history of how societies evolve over time.
Since the beginning of time, history favours the prepared societies that invest in their future. Our world is no exception, or the past 100 years our region in general and the Arabian Gulf countries in particular witnessed an existential paradigm shift.
Since the 1920s our societies witnessed a transformation from pre-industrial revolutions ways of living, including depending on agriculture, fisheries, animal herding and pearl diving, to embracing the current 4IR in this decade.
In this series of articles, I invite you to explore with me how we can invest better in responding to global paradigm shifts through investing our Environment, Social, and Governance assets, or the ESG and Impact Investing.
What are the three ways in which societies respond to paradigm shifts?
Societies handle these inevitable life cycles and paradigm shifts in three main different approaches, according to their cultures. A number of societies merely respond re-actively to global and local governance, economic, social and environmental changes, whereas other societies choose to proactively prepare and harness these changes to stay ahead of the curve.
The third approach is for societies that freeze in the face of global changes and these societies tend to weather away with time. I would argue that here lies the significance of “impact investing” as the most suitable strategic intent for a society to be proactive and fulfil its destiny to offer a safe, decent, and sustainable life to its people.
What is impact investing?
Impact Investing or II as its sometimes called means “investments made into companies, organisations, and funds with the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return,” according the Global Impact Investing Network - GIIN.
By linking sustainability to financial return impact investing offers a reasonable to manage the ever on-going debate between focusing on the profit or the planet by calling for a balance between both and adding investing in people to the equation.
Where did impact investing come from?
Humans have always been investing in themselves to varying degrees, however as societies the long-term collective, sustainable investment took a back seat.
Leaders and historians alike focused on power and “tangible” resource-gains and rarely documented how societies invested in its own governance, environment and people.
Islam, along with major faiths made the struggle to invest in ESG a virtue and a priority. Thanks to this influence we see today the fruits of endowments, science and principles that were stimulated by the faith-linked patronage to arts and sciences. However, the more our societies became complex the more we need to innovate new ways to stimulate sustainable ways of investing in our future.
What could be a roadmap forward?
As humanity struggles to get back on its feet and “build back better,” we realise that the causes are rooted in a deeper struggle, namely in our chronic struggle to deduce the right lessons from history that we see clearly today in the cycles of economic, health and climate change crises.
To decisively plant the seeds of the intent to embrace impact investing we must start today by being role models for future generations that will learn more from who we are and what we do, than from what we say.
Starting from investing our time in understanding notions of good governance and not ending with investing all types of capital in a safe and thriving planet.
The writer is an entrepreneur and innovation advisor