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Financial Standard - Impact investing delivers wide reaching return

Impact investments are not only positively impacting the lives of tens of thousands of people but are also delivering strong returns to investors, according to a new report from Impact Investing Australia.

The first data-set of Australian impact investments was released in the "Benchmarking Impact: Australian Impact Investment Activity and Performance Report 2016" launched at the Impact Investment Summit Asia Pacific.

The data shows a steady increase in the number of impact investments over the last five years, with the majority of FY15 investment transactions comprising debt finance to social enterprises, with green bonds issued by major Australian banks dominating the increase in dollar value of investment in FY15.

"The data reveals a diversity of investment activity, that is meeting financial expectation and touching the lives of thousands of people," co-author of the report and chair of Impact Investing Australia and the Australian Advisory Board on Impact Investing, Rosemary Addis said.

"This provides a concrete baseline for the robust data that is needed to encourage those who remain on the side lines to enter the impact investment market."

Investments have made impacts across a diverse range of social and environment outcome areas, with more than 60,000 beneficiaries. Positive impacts include: 126 schools supported, 319 jobs created, 1072 people with disabilities supported, 669 mental health sessions delivered and 11501 MWh of renewable energy generated.

The report hopes to provide insights for people considering making investments, seeking investment or who would like to better understand how the impact investment market is developing.

The report is also a key step in the development of global impact performance benchmarking.

"This type of report and market intelligence will play an important role in the development of impact performance measurement standards," chief executive of the Global Impact Investing Network, Amit Bouri said.

"Achieving a more sophisticated and rigorous approach to impact measurement is central to growing the market for impact investing. The better wecan impact and agree what constitutes success, the more effective we can be at directing investments to areas and issues of greatest need." He added.