8 Virtuous Investment Options

Hidden deep inside the layered mystery of how markets work and the marketplace allocates resources, capitalism innovates to generate jobs making faster computers and deadly cigarettes. Innovation brings us the electric car and bigger bombs. It brings us progress and it brings us poverty.

"We are on the verge of a global [social] capital convergence, a coming together of parts into what promises to be a new, more powerful Whole," prophesies Jed Emerson, a leading scholar, thinker and social impact cheerleader. "[Let's not miss] the opportunity to catapult our work from the level of our individual collective to that of a new, shared capital commons."

"Our philosophy is that to solve the world's toughest problems we need exponentially more resources than can be provided through just traditional philanthropy," says Ron D. Cordes in a Forbes.com interview this week. "Impact investing offers an opportunity to tap a giant new capital source to create sustainable, scalable solutions..." Cordes is the founder of Impact Assets, president of the Cordes Foundation and co-chairman of Genworth Financial Wealth Management.

A less contemporary bit of social impact investing wisdom comes from the ancient Greeks: "First secure an independent income, then practice virtue." If you are halfway there and ready now to practice a bit of virtue, 2011 Opportunity Collaboration Delegates working to "solve poverty" and create virtue with your capital are:

  • Calvert Foundation: an industry-leading nonprofit investing in a diversified mix of domestic and international organizations, including affordable housing, microfinance, small business development, charter schools, daycare centers and rehabilitation clinics.

  • Eleos Foundation: a foundation making early-stage, very high-impact grants and investments in market-based solutions in the sectors of health and education in geographical areas of extreme poverty.
  • ImpactAssets: a nonprofit financial services company aggregating and investing assets to solve the world's toughest problems by catalyzing investment capital for maximum environmental, social and financial impact.
  • MicroCredit Enterprises: a nonprofit microfinance funder who utilizes the financial capital and good credit of high-net-worth individuals, foundations, companies and other institutions to guarantee microloans around the world.
  • Mission Markets: a comprehensive marketplace created for buyers, sellers and other stakeholders within the impact sector who gain access to a secure online network, where they can discover information, assess opportunities, attract capital and transact across the social and environmental markets spectrum.
  • Root Capital: a nonprofit social investment fund for grassroots businesses in rural areas of developing countries which provides capital, delivers financial training and strengthens market connections for small and growing businesses that build sustainable livelihoods and transform rural communities in poor, environmentally vulnerable places.
  • Sarona Asset Management: an impact-investment asset manager whose latest fund, the Sarona Frontier Markets Fund, is a private equity fund-of-funds, investing in small- to mid-market companies with strong growth potential.
  • ShoreBank International: advisor to financial institutions throughout the world to promote asset building resulting in improved living conditions, greater economic growth rates globally and improved political stability.