News & Updates

3 Leading Business Schools Collaborate on Groundbreaking Impact Investing Database

Chicago Booth’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, the Harvard Business School Impact Collaboratory, and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School have launched the Impact Finance Research Consortium (IFRC), a joint effort to collect comprehensive data on impact investing funds. The IFRC’s key initiative is to build a database on the financial performance, due diligence practices, investor relations, legal governance, strategy, and management of impact investing funds across the world. The resulting Impact Finance Database (IFD) will catalyze groundbreaking research on this young but rapidly expanding field.
This effort comes as impact investing is becoming an increasingly important part of the investment landscape, with individual and institutional investors seeking to combine private sector financing with the promise of achieving broader social and environmental aims. The upswell in impact investing is evident from allocations of large institutions, foundations, development finance institutions, and family offices, as well as the increase in funds focusing on private and publicly held securities that seek to achieve both financial and social returns.
At the same time, many questions remain. For example, many impact investors assert that social and environmental benefits can be achieved without sacrificing financial performance, but there is little independent research to support or refute this claim. In addition, the way impact investments are structured to maximize efficacy is an important but open issue.
The Impact Finance Database builds on the Wharton Impact Research and Evaluation Database (WIRED), which was originally launched in 2014 by the Wharton Social Impact Initiative under the guidance of Professor David Musto and Vice Dean Katherine Klein.
“At Wharton Social Impact, we’re focused on building the community and the evidence base for impact investing. Our partnership with Chicago Booth and Harvard Business School will expand and accelerate our efforts to do both. The data we collect will contribute to leading research on the intersection of finance and impact, while also demonstrating the value of collaboration among practitioners and academics,” said Klein.
“The field of impact investing is developing, and the accelerating growth of impact funds makes now the perfect time to collect data on the industry,” said Jessica Jeffers, assistant professor of finance at Chicago Booth. “This partnership has the potential to provide access to fund-level goals and other quantitative metrics. And with access to more data, we hope, will come new evidence-based practices to guide the future of impact investing.”
Harvard Business School finance professor Shawn Cole said, “We are pleased to collaborate with Wharton and Chicago Booth on this effort. Both schools bring considerable resources and talent to this project. Quality data and rigorous research—on both financial and social returns—will not only dramatically advance conceptual understanding but aid actual practice in this space.”
The IFRC is actively contacting impact investing firms, with hopes of building a large and representative sample of the sector within six months.

If you work with an impact investing fund manager and would like them included in the Impact Finance Database, please reach out to Michael Brown at [email protected] about making an introduction. Introducing the IFRC to impact investing GPs is an easy and effective way to advance this groundbreaking research.

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