Global Impact Initiative launches world’s first Gender Diversity Fund

From

Carol Schwartz

Global Impact Initiative (GII), Australia’s leading, independent impact investing business, has launched its Global Gender Equality Fund, the world’s first, actively managed, impact investment fund focused on Women and Girls.

The GII Global Gender Equality Fund will invest in a portfolio of carefully selected global companies which recognise and promote gender equality, to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future.  Leading global corporates are increasingly adopting and measuring themselves against these SDGs.

The GII Global Gender Equality Fund’s underlying fund manager is Robeco, a global fund manager whose focus in this portfolio will be investing in companies that actively encourage gender equality across board representation, workforce recruitment, management processes, remuneration and policies. Companies that promote gender equality have been shown to consistently outperform their peers and the broader index.

The Fund aims to outperform the broad MSCI World index (Developed and Emerging Markets).  In addition, GII has ensured that its own ESG screens safeguard against exposure to alcohol, gaming, tobacco, weapons, fossil fuels and adult entertainment companies in the portfolio.

GII has innovatively designed the product to give investors the option of taking the income generated in the portfolio or donating the income and/or capital gains to charities with specific programs focused on improving women and girls’ social and economic empowerment, education, health and nutrition.

The five charities chosen because of their exceptional work in this field are Grameen, Malala Fund, UN Women, UNICEF and World Vision. These charities will invest donations into programs such as maternal health, vaccination programs and girls’ education that will provide measurable social impact outcomes and enable the great work that these charities perform to be scaled and improved to maximise and accelerate social impact for women and girls.

The Fund will also make investments in social impact initiatives in Australia.  Gunesekera, having volunteered with Amnesty International for over 30 years, has been engaged personally in programs tackling domestic violence.  As a first generation Australian he also has personal and professional experience of discrimination and inequality.

Commenting on the Fund launch, GII’s founder and CEO, Giles Gunesekera, said: “This has been many years in the planning, and we are excited to be launching a Fund that offers investors the opportunity to have a significant impact on the lives and well-being of women and girls here in Australia and globally. The fact they can do so whilst also generating attractive returns from their investments will, we hope, encourage a swathe of investors into impact investing and more importantly into the area of gender equality.

“The advantage of a fund such as this is that the bigger it gets, the more social impact we can create.  We are not just donating to charities, we are collaborating with them to measure, map and monitor social impact to the UN SDGs. We will be able to drive and accelerate positive social change via granular, intentional and measurable reporting on the social impact achieved.”

The quantitative and qualitative strength of the UN SDGs will be the benchmark for improving social impact for women and girls.  Investors in the fund will receive annual reports detailing specific outcomes achieved through the year.

Professor Muhammad Yunus, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for founding the Grameen Bank and pioneering the concepts of microfinance, believes that women in poorer countries and disadvantaged situations are natural entrepreneurs as they have to innovate every day to survive. They remain disadvantaged because they do not have the opportunities to turn their creativity into sustainable income. The Grameen model of combining microfinance and hands on support empowers women in these situations to realise their own ambitions and to thrive:

“The impact of microfinance has resulted not only in increased household income and savings, but has also increased women’s empowerment, reduced maternal mortality, reduced child mortality, brought down family size, and ensured that millions of children have gone to school, creating a new generation very unlike the previous ones.

“The experience of Grameen Bank and social business is a microcosm of what can happen globally if we put women at the centre of our economic and social activity.”

Australia’s leading trustee company, Equity Trustees, has been appointed as responsible entity of the fund.

Equity Trustees’ Chair, Carol Schwartz AO, who was named Australia’s Leading Philanthropist of 2020, is the Chair of the Trawalla Foundation and Women’s Leadership Institute Australia and has played an integral role in the establishment of Pathways to Politics Program for Women, the Panel Pledge, and the Women for Media database.

“Having gender equality around decision making tables and integrated throughout an organisation is absolutely crucial to ensuring it’s a high performing one. A growing cohort of investors are recognising this, and so it’s fantastic we can offer this global fund opportunity via Equity Trustees.

The Australian fund feeds into the GII Global Gender Equality Fund, which was established in 2020 as a UCITs in Ireland by Equity Trustees and is marketed to investors in Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa.

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