SALT LAKE CITY (September 3, 2013) – The James Lee Sorenson Global Impact Investing Center (SGII Center) at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business today announced results from their partnership with the Sorenson Impact Foundation (SIF) to facilitate five early-stage program-related investments totaling approximately $2 million. Completed in the first half of the year, the targeted impact investments will help early-stage entrepreneurs grow their social enterprises in industries ranging from solar energy and SME financing to affordable housing and fair trade clothing manufacturing.
“We are pleased with the progress the foundation has made in making program-related investments,” said Jim Sorenson, founder and chairman of the board of directors of the SIF. “For a variety of reasons, there are limited amounts of risk capital going to support companies of social impact to bridge the gap between purely philanthropic and commercially oriented capital. The SGII Center has played a catalytic role in helping to address such issues and facilitate these program-related investments.”
Created in January 2013, the SGII Center helps facilitate participation in the growing field of impact investing by training students through experiential learning to work directly with clients that include social enterprises, corporations, family offices, impact funds and private family foundations. The recent impact investments selected by SIF were sourced, screened, vetted and structured by teams of students focusing on each of the companies’ potential to produce sustainable and scalable social impact.
“These investments will serve to close funding gaps, helping social enterprises to prove out their businesses, with the additional benefit of cultivating impact investing expertise in students,” Sorenson said. “I hope that our efforts will accelerate the growth of the sector at-large and help lead to improved societal change on a global scale.”
SGII Center students work to address both the supply and demand barriers to impact investing through a broad range of services offered. Students often travel to locations around the world to help prime businesses for capital infusion by providing early-stage services, as well as continued post investment support and assistance in measurement and monitoring of social impact. The SGII Center is focused on providing early stage resources to the sector at a time when there is growing demand yet very few options available to help early stage social enterprises.
“With these investments, we have shown the ability to provide the infrastructure support for investors and enterprises to help lower hurdles and allow for engagement from foundations and impact investors across a range of sectors. We were in a unique position to help SIF reach a broader investment base and execute investments at a pace that most others in the space are not able to achieve,” said Lewis Hower, director of the SGII Center. “Our key focus as a center is to increase the engagement of foundations and early stage impact investors to facilitate scalable and sustainable impact investments in promising social enterprises while providing students a unique and rewarding experiential education and career path.”
The following companies received investments from the Sorenson Impact Foundation:
Copia – Kenya-basedconsumer catalog and rural distribution company
Kinara Capital – India-based financing company for micro and small enterprises
Liberty & Justice – Fair-trade apparel manufacturing company with offices in Liberia and Ghana
Simpa Networks – India-based pay-as-you-go solar financing company
World Haus – India-based affordable housing construction company
“These funds will prove instrumental in advancing our mission to transform the apparel supply chain in Africa from worker exploitation and environmental degradation to partnership and sustainability,” said Chid Liberty, CEO and co-founder of Liberty & Justice. “With this show of faith by SIF, we can train and employ more women in the garment industry and help them become truly self-sufficient in these poverty-stricken nations.”
“The opportunity to play an active role in combating these crucial societal issues is very rewarding,” said Brandon Koch, a student studying finance and computer science at the David Eccles School of Business who spent three months in India working for Kinara Capital. “The hands-on experience I gained at the SGII Center has been invaluable, and I look forward to continuing to apply these skills in the real world to create sustainable change.”