Danny Almagor on Jed Emerson
Everything we do, every decision we make has an impact. That includes where we put our money. Impact investing is an investment philosophy that seeks to maximise the positive impact we have—on the environment, on society— while still bringing in the bucks. It is, as Jed Emerson describes it, a matter of aligning your investment decisions with your values.
And Jed should know. In 2011 he wrote the original book on impact investing with colleague Antony Bugg-Levine, Impact Investing: Transforming How We Make Money While Making a Difference. It defines and charts the growth of the industry for people on all sides of the equation—investors, funders and social entrepreneurs—and puts a lot of the ideas he’s been exploring since the early ’90s into context.
Although the term “impact investing” is relatively new, the movement is not, and Jed has been one of the pioneers of this thinking for more than 20 years, having coined the term “blended value” while immersed in the business side of social work. He started his career working with troubled youths and has ended up advising some of the wealthiest families in the world about how to invest their money for positive change. In the end, he sees all of it—business, investment, advocacy—as the same type of work. It’s just about helping people express and fulfil their best selves.
I first met Jed a couple of years ago when he was touring Australia talking about impact investing to bankers, investors, philanthropists and politicians, and his philosophy was like a shining light for me. It validated so many of the ideas I had about integrating the things I care about with the work I do and where I put my money. I realised that if we viewed business and money, which are such powerful forces, through a new lens—if we applied a moral filter to them—we could change the world for the better in a massive way. That philosophy and many of Jed’s ideas still guide my work today.
Not long ago I was lucky enough to visit Jed at his home in the Colorado Rockies, and see him in his natural environment. Propped up next to his books and articles about impact and social justice was his collection of guitars and a photo of a young Jed Emerson with long hair, rocking it out on his electric guitar. We feasted on some American ribs before heading out on a long hike through the mountains where we discussed the Gross National Happiness Index in Bhutan. Who would ever guess this down to earth guy is responsible for moving billions of dollars into businesses that are changing the world?