Shooting for Mars

Limits. We confront them on an individual and organizational level every day. They often obstruct our greatest dreams and aspirations. But, isn’t it true that limits are based on our perception of them? Evidence suggests that limits can be transcended with determination and imagination. Consider, for instance, the quintessential metaphor for limits: outer space. Just recently, a private company, SpaceX, successfully navigated a spacecraft to the international space station and back to Earth. Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, boldly predicts that the private sector will take humans to Mars in just 10 years.

This prediction has me thinking, what is our “Mars” in the impact investing industry? Last week, I was thrilled to attend the Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling Impact, where we contemplated what we might accomplish in the absence of limits. At Calvert Foundation we recently published a report entitled Gateways to Impact, which identifies a $650 billion market opportunity among financial advisors and their clients for sustainable and impact investments.

When we began our work 17 years ago, it was extremely unorthodox to think that investment capital could be used for good. Since that time, we’ve made great strides, but the urgency of the social problems we face today requires even more significant focus, determination, and imagination. With increasing budgetary pressures on nonprofit organizations, our work as an intermediary building infrastructure to support impact investing has never been more important. Now it’s time to set our eyes on scale, making it possible for every investor to be an impact investor. This is our Mars.

We have always been challenged by the imposition of limits as we’ve built a market for which there is no precedent. But, it’s in our nature to be inspired by these challenges rather than be intimidated by them. Calvert Foundation has one of the most comprehensive platforms for raising and deploying impact capital in the financial marketplace today. Our investors include individuals who have invested just $20 and institutions that have invested more than $20 million. We’ve seen our portfolio grow tremendously across domestic and international impact sectors like affordable housing and microfinance.

Today, in the spirit of our impressive colleagues and partners at the Social Impact Exchange, we are emboldened by the challenges we expect to confront in the coming years. We recognize that we will need to embrace audacity to grow our portfolio from millions to billions. We will need to innovate new models and replicate our work in new impact sectors like healthcare, sustainable agriculture, education, technology, and more. We will need to attract new sources of impact capital including many thousands of individual and institutional investors. Audacious goals require audacious actions.

I am excited and hopeful about the years ahead. I dream of the day when every investor is an impact investor, contributing to a financial system that is characterized by mutuality, opportunity, dignity, and justice. I implore us not just to shoot for the moon, but to shoot for Mars.

Lisa Hall is President and CEO of Calvert Foundation.