Do impact investing opportunities exist in public equity? An empirical examination

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Søs Elisabeth Hansen ORCID logo, Throstur Olaf Sigurjonsson ORCID logo

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Even though impact investing increasingly establishes a presence in public equity, research confirming that this asset class is feasible for impact investments is lacking (Phillips & Johnson, 2021). This has resulted in queries about unrealistic assumptions of achieving positive social and environmental impact, alongside financial returns, in a public equity setting (Bernal et al., 2021; Boscia et al., 2019). Resultingly, the public equity approach to impact investing has been accused of being the first step towards a total dilution of the industry’s original mission of attaining goals that are not feasible through neither pure philanthropic grants nor conventional investments. Aimed at bridging the current research gap, within the literature of impact investing, this paper examines whether impact investing opportunities exist in public equity. Based on an empirical foundation of 163 publicly listed companies, which are the target of impact investments made through impact funds, it is found that impact investing opportunities exist in public equity when evaluated based on long term measures of shareholder value creation. Theoretical implications suggest that the concept of impact investing does not need to be refined in a public equity setting and that the field could advance from discussing the fundamental assumptions to start defining the boundaries of impact investing in public equity.

Keywords: Impact Investments, Public Equity, Shareholder Value Creation, Creating Shared Value, Socially Responsible Investment

Authors’ individual contribution: Conceptualization — S.E.H. and T.O.S.; Methodology — S.E.H.; Investigation — S.E.H. and T.O.S.; Resources — S.E.H. and T.O.S.; Writing — S.E.H. and T.O.S.; Supervision — T.O.S.

Declaration of conflicting interests: The Authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

JEL Classification: G3, G34, Q56, M14, G11

Received: 02.05.2023
Accepted: 12.01.2024
Published online: 17.01.2024

How to cite this paper: Hansen, S. E., & Sigurjonsson, T. O. (2024). Do impact investing opportunities exist in public equity? An empirical examination. Journal of Governance & Regulation, 13(1), 83–95.