The Japan Impact Investing Network (J-IIN) was founded as a place to bring people together who are interested in having a positive impact on society and the environment through business and investment. At J-IIN we aim to develop a platform for business owners, investors, and supporting service providers, to develop a common understanding of the concept of Business with Impact. After all, it is only through a common understanding that successful impact partnerships can be built.
Unsurprisingly, at a webinar I attended last month, a colleague from a large corporation mentioned to me that the biggest problem is that investors do not understand that businesses can turn their impact into both a competitive advantage and commercial returns. She wanted to learn how to explain to investors what impact her business has created and how this impact has benefited her business. But she simply did not know how to convey this to investors. This conversation really brought home to me the fact that communication about impact between business and investors needs to be strengthened, so that they can “speak the same language”.
There are many great businesses around the world that have a strong vision and their impact strategy is a core part of their business strategy. One excellent example is Milk Mantra from Odisha, India. This dairy start-up was founded in 2009 and is said to be India’s first ever VC-backed agricultural start-up. I was deeply impressed with the company’s business innovations as well as its deep commitment to impact. On the business side they have developed innovative products and high-tech packaging, new delivery systems and responsive customer service. For Milk Mantra, however, their over 40,000 small dairy farmers are not simply their milk suppliers – they are partners with a shared vision. Milk Mantra has developed an award-winning “Ethical Milk Sourcing Programme” that sets their dairy farmers firmly as partners and offering fair milk prices. Developing the local dairy industry is a core part of Milk Mantra business planning – with KPIs that include veterinarian training, refrigeration access, dairy cow feed improvement, farmer education, access to financial services and other extension services.
Globally we have seen more and more investors becoming interested in the idea of impact and how to measure and monitor the impact of the businesses they invest in. In Japan too we see a growing number of investors and businesses interested in the concept of Business with Impact. And yet because of the lack of opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors to share experiences with each other casually and off-the-record, a common vocabulary about impact is missing.
At J-IIN we are committed to sharing the experiences, voices and cases of businesses and investors from around the world with our Japanese community. We want to highlight their successes, challenges and failures. We want to share examples of how impact is defined, measured and communicated.
J-IIN is eager to facilitate dialogue that allows both investors and business to “speak the same language” and we are keen to support the development of Business with Impact in and from Japan.