Net Impact Lecture Series – “Impact Investing: The Next Generation”
Jul 13, 2020

This year, the student association Net Impact@Tsinghua partnered with SynTao, a Chinese social and environmental consultancy, to bring guest speakers to Tsinghua University to discuss topics on creating a positive impact in society.


On April 23, Mr. Wayne Silby kindly accepted our invitation to come and share his thoughts about impact investment.  Impact investments are investments in companies, organizations and funds that have the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return. Silby is widely regarded as a pioneer of social investing. He co-founded a mutual fund firm, the Calvert Group (now called Calvert Investments) in 1976. In 1982, Silby started the Calvert Social Investment Fund, one of the earliest mutual funds dedicated to socially responsible investments, which has since grown to a $15 billion investment management group. In addition, Siby is one of the founders of the Social Venture Network, the chairman of SynTao in China, and also one of the main supporters of the creation of Net Impact in San Francisco. Indeed, he was very happy to see Net Impact at Tsinghua University.


Social Responsible Investment (SRI) has evolved throughout the years, and now comprises of four key areas: sustainable research, social venture capital, shareholder advocacy, and community investing. Through SRI, it is possible for businesses or investors to use market-based mechanisms to contribute to a better society. Silby illustrated dozens of examples, including: the Calvert Women’s Principles, the first global code of corporate conduct focused exclusively on empowering, advancing, and investing in women worldwide; the China Social Entrepreneur Foundation, which focuses on venture philanthropy and impact investing; Lumni, which provides loans for students who will be able to repay their loans only if they are successful in their lives; LeapFrog Investments, which developed the world’s first micro-insurance fund providing medical insurance to HIV people. As Wayne Silby explained, similar to any other investment funds, not all investments are successful, but on average the fund has brought a very good return for its investors.


The topic of impact investing is growing in China, and it was great to see the room full of students and from the general public highly engaged. One of Silby’s key messages was the need to build a new paradigm: one in which businesses operate to create profit and create a positive social impact at the same time. Businesses can be used to make the lives of everybody better, including the bottom of the society pyramid. Wayne Silby has been doing this for more than 40 years, now it is up to all of us to make the world an even better place!


The Net Impact club at Tsinghua is a club for like-minded people who want to make a difference. Net Impact is a community of 60,000 students and professionals creating positive social and environmental change in the workplace and the world. Our mission is to develop and promote top leaders who aim to use business to drive social and environmental change by developing and implementing best practices in corporate social responsibility (CSR), sustainable development, impact investment, and non-profit organizations.  Come join us and make a difference!

From Paulo Lopes, GMBA Class of 2016

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