The revolutionary slogans on Occupy Wall Street’s website reminded me of my college days and a Valentine’s Day campaign to “break up with your bank and fall in love with the 99 percent.”
This sounded so romantic, and I was tempted. But as a middle-aged woman, I was a little skeptical. What kind of settlement would I get if I break up with my bank? Who will take care of my banking and investment needs? How can I show my love for the 99 percent, and will they love me back?
Why hasn’t capitalism worked for all? Is it too late for this to change? Can the system be tweaked so that the 99 percent will fall in love with it again?
More than a century ago, Henry Ford asserted that “a business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”
Sadly, the world is now overrun by “poor businesses,” where the headless pursuit of financial returns may produce happy management teams and shareholders but result in an unhappy planet for the businesses to operate in.
Yet companies that are building their organizations around the DNA of doing social good exist all over the globe (a majority in Asia). These social enterprises are either mission-driven, for-profit organizations or market-driven, non-profit groups. They all share the common goal of creating a positive social and environmental impact.
One may ask: Why not just give money to charity to show love for the 99 percent? Because philanthropic capital alone cannot meet all the needs of the world, and charities that depend on philanthropic giving and government funding are vulnerable to changes in the economic climate.
The 99 percent need sustainable love that can be achieved through impact investing. There are many ways to invest in this sustainable way: directly in the aforementioned social organizations; in a fund that invests in a social enterprise; or by buying shares in an exchange dedicated to social enterprises—through such intermediaries as BlueOrchard, one of the world’s largest microfinance investment managers, and the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network, which promotes investment-minded approaches to creating social good.
Through impact investing, perhaps we don’t have to break up with our bankers; instead, we can give them another chance to redeem themselves. It’s time to not just occupy Wall Street but to recreate it by adapting capitalism so that it benefits millions, not just the millionaires.
(Editor’s note: Durreen Shahnaz is founder of Impact Investment Exchange Asia, an exchange dedicated to social enterprises with more than $68 million in investment opportunities.)