Social Impact Day 2020


Keynote Speech: “Rethinking the Value of Money: The Future of Social Impact Management” (Summary)

・Mr. Jed Emerson, Founder, Blended Value
・Ms. Miyuki Zeniya, Head of Sustainable Finance, The Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company, Ltd.

・Mr. Ken Ito, Executive Director, Social Impact Management Initiative / Executive Director, Social Value Japan

The Keynote Presentation was given by Mr. Jed Emerson, who founded Blended Value, and in the 1990s was behind the concept of Social Return on Investment (SROI). Emerson cautioned against the recent surge in the impact investing market, which has focused too much on the “how” of methodologies and products. Instead, he stresses the importance of asking the more essential question of “why.”

As the concept of ESG has entered the mainstream of finance, the market is expanding on a massive scale, and there is confusion that the size of the fund is equal to the size of the impact. However, what impact investing should be aiming for is not to be accepted by mainstream finance, but to challenge mainstream finance with capital, and to challenge the premise that the purpose of capital is simply to generate more capital. Instead of measuring our value by how much money we make, we need to ask more difficult, deeper questions about the nature of value and what we are actually trying to create in our careers and lives. Mr. Emerson also pointed out the importance of seeing our impact as something that deeply affects us through dialogue, conversation, and mutual exploration, instead of as something we “give” to others.

Ms. Miyuki Zeniya, Head of Sustainable Finance at Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company, stressed that the company incorporated ESG factors into all of its products in 2020. The traditional Japanese value of “sampo yoshi (good in three ways: for sellers, buyers and society)” is central to the value that financial institutions should be a supporter of companies as well as building social infrastructure that sustains social, and economic activities. Working on ESG integration in Japan means considering corporate sustainability. Different from the US, where finance and profit-making for shareholders sits at the center of business, it is important to acknowledge that Japan may have a different mindset about capitalism, which might have something to do with the fact that Japan has the largest number of long-lived companies in the world.

International discussions on the current state of impact measurement are underway among various experts. However, given the fact that financial indicators were established over a long period of time, more time is still needed to establish accepted norms and practice of impact measurement. The importance of re-thinking the purpose of capital, and listening to and learning from experiences of others was highlighted as we are faced with this historical moment of working on the evolution of the concept and practice of capitalism.