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INVESTING FOR IMPACT

seedlings growing in compost
seedlings growing in compost

Foundation Scotland EQ Impact Portfolio

Since November 2020, Foundation Scotland has invested the funds we manage in a socially responsible way, enabling us to be true to our purpose as a community foundation.

Moving toward a stronger ethical position through investments means using our capital, not just the financial returns it generates for grantmaking, to achieve social and environmental good. We are taking a responsible approach to support people and planet, sustainably.

A focus on short term profit objectives has contributed to the social and economic inequalities affecting communities and societies throughout the world.  The thinking behind positive impact investment is that investments can be utilised to help solve these problems, by investing in companies that serve a useful social purpose as well as deliver a profit, and in companies that are run in a socially responsible way.  Our performance to date has shown this approach has not led to reduced financial returns.

Historically Foundation Scotland worked with a third party to manage investments.  However, once we moved to positive impact investing we appointed EQ Investors following a rigorous selection process. 

Our portfolio

At present, the Portfolio owns 15 impact-focused funds which, combined, hold stakes in approximately 400 companies.  Each fund has a particular focus, for example, one focuses on water and waste disposal, another on healthcare, and another on biotechnology.  As a result, the Portfolio is very diversified, limiting exposure to any one investment, with no individual company representing more than 2.5% of the total portfolio.

Unusually for a charity, we requested that equity funds only be included as we believe equities will be more likely to produce superior returns and provide a better hedge against inflation too. We also want our impact portfolio manager to be totally unconstrained in buying funds that have a truly global, or at least regional, perspective.  A vast majority of the world’s most impactful companies are not UK listed ones, and we were keen that performance would not suffer from a traditional local bias. 

Some examples of companies that these funds are invested in include:

  • Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) is India’s largest provider of mortgages to economically weaker and low-income groups
  • Beyond Meat provides plant-based patties and mince - designed to look, cook and taste like fresh ground beef. Beyond Burger generates 90% less greenhouse gas emissions, has over 99% less impact on water scarcity and 93% less impact on land use compared to a quarter pound of U.S. beef. 
  • WEG is a Brazilian manufacturer of energy-efficient electric motors, power and distribution transformers, and renewable energy solutions. They own electric vehicle charging stations – enabling electric-powered vehicle transport in Brazil’s urban environments.
  • Ceres Power is a UK-based fuel cell technology and engineering company. Ceres Power’s technology enables up to 60% energy efficiency gains.
  • Tesla is a global leader in electric vehicle manufacturing and battery technology.

Measuring performance

plants growing on moneyWe focus on comparator indices with an emphasis on the medium to longer-term (three to seven years) than on any shorter period.

We have chosen the MSCI ACWI All Cap Index to be our principal comparator index.  This covers approximately 99% of the global equity investment opportunity set and includes developing countries and smaller companies.  It matches most closely our intention to invest wherever the best impact companies in the world can be found regardless of geographical location. We also we have chosen the Consumer Price Index plus three per cent per annum as a second comparator.

Foundation Scotland has a specialist Investment Committee with highly experienced former investment managers which meets quarterly to examine the performance and make up of the Portfolio.  Once a year we have a formal meeting with EQ  however we engage informally with EQ frequently.

In terms of safeguards, all cash transactions to and from the fund are triply authorised and cash can only be returned to the main Foundation Scotland bank account.  In addition, all our funds are audited as part of our annual audit.  The Foundation is Cyber Essentials and UKCF accredited.

Associated risks

The risks for an impact fund are the same as with any mainstream stock market investments, although research suggests that companies focusing on positive impact mitigate some of these. 

The all-equity fund nature of the Foundation Scotland Impact Fund Portfolio is likely to result in significant short-term fluctuations in its value.  Therefore, holders must take a long-term view of performance.

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