The 4th annual Zug Impact Summit is coming up 16-17 September, this year with a particular focus on ocean, health and consumption. We took the opportunity to talk to SIIA Board Member, Michael Mosimann, abut the Swiss Impact Investment Association (SIIA) and the upcoming summit. In the context of our recently published whitepaper, we were also interested to hear Michael’s view on the future needs of the Swiss impact investing sector.
Board Member of SIIA
Counsel at Prager Dreifuss Ltd.
SIIA seeks to empower investors and companies. What does this mean in practice, what are your activities and offers?
SIIA’s overarching goal is raising awareness about impact investing. Besides networking and organizing the event to educate people, SIIA also strives to present showcases, i.e. business solutions to ecological and social challenges. We always invite entrepreneurs who intend to positively impact the world to present their business to connect them to potential investors, thereby helping their business to grow. We are also working on an online platform in order to promote showcases.
At the Impact Summit in Zug you set the topics ocean, health and consumption. What were the considerations that led to this focus?
After having discussed Earth & Finance, we wanted to draw the attention to the fragile ecosystems in our oceans that are endangered by pollution and global warming. Part of the reasons for this is our modern consumption behavior. Nearly everything is wrapped in plastic in grocery stores, also food (in particular take away food). Plastic is everywhere, but not recycled enough or disposed properly, which is why a lot ends up in our oceans. With this edition of the Impact Summit, we wanted to highlight these problems, but also projects or service providers addressing these challenges. Consequently, we will do our utmost to limit the use of plastic at our event to a minimum and to ensure that any plastic used will be recycled.
After having discussed Earth & Finance, we wanted to draw the attention to the fragile ecosystems in our oceans that are endangered by pollution and global warming.
Who are the driving forces behind SIIA?
SIIA is a private initiative founded originally by Klaus-Michael Christensen and Ben Banerjee with the intention to raise awareness about impact investing and to make it more-mainstream. Still nowadays, with approximately 170 private members compared to 3 corporate members, the membership base is dominated by individuals with an interest in the space. Hence, SIIA is still independent and not controlled by any governmental or private entity or group of entities. We are primarily funded by membership fees and donations.
What do you think the impact investing sector in Switzerland needs to grow substantially?
It needs to grow everywhere, not only in Switzerland. Funding to achieve the UN SDGs is missing, so every single dollar put to work is necessary, not only on the philanthropic side, but also on the business side. In Switzerland, we have a particular chance to contribute since we have very promising young entrepreneurs with a socially and ecologically conscious mind-set coming from ETH and other Universities and the capital to fund them. However, they are not really linked. There is still a widespread misperception that social and ecological businesses require an investor to accept a lower financial yield, but this is not true. We now need to link these entrepreneurs with the available capital and make the entire financial sector aware of its power to contribute.
In Switzerland, we have a particular chance to contribute since we have very promising young entrepreneurs with a socially and ecologically conscious mind-set coming from ETH and other Universities and the capital to fund them. However, they are not really linked.
SEIF has been working with impact driven startups and social businesses in their growth phase for eight years. More recently, it has become increasingly apparent that many promising young companies have difficulties finding financial support in the range of one to three million CHF in a first investment round.
Our recently published whitepaper Small Sized Impact Investing Fund – Challenges and Opportunities presents the results of a broader applied research and publishes interviews with key actors in and around the Swiss impact investing ecosystem. The aim of this whitepaper is to encourage concrete solutions and to contribute to closing this financing gap as one of the prerequisites for strong growth in the impact venture sector in Switzerland.