Michael Etzel, Greg Nantz, Emma Garcia-Canga, and Mike Belinsky
Private credit has generated some of the earliest innovations in impact investing – such as microfinance, which helped extend credit to previously unbanked individuals and served nearly 140 million people worldwide as of 2018. The use of community development financial institution notes for investment in affordable housing and community development is another example. More recently, credit has driven innovations in impact investing, such as the invention of green bonds – fixed-income financial instruments that fund projects with positive environmental benefits.
Although the launch of private-equity impact investing funds by some of the largest global asset managers has captured headlines over the past five years, private credit is actually the largest impact investing asset class: according to the most recent annual GIIN survey of impact investors, it accounted for 61% of impact investments made in 2019, with $17 billion deployed. Yet $2.5 trillion per year is still needed to close the UN Sustainable Development Goals funding gap. Given that private, market-rate credit assets under management have nearly doubled from 2014, and are soon expected to exceed $1 trillion, there is an important opportunity for private credit investors to sharpen their focus on impact.
This opportunity can be approached via two different entry points: impact-focused instruments (across sectors); and a handful of high-impact sectors.