Impact Investing: Building a Better World
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Impact Investing: Building a Better World

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The following content is sponsored by BlackRock.

Typically, an investor’s main objective revolves around building wealth and then turning that wealth into an income generator. As a result, financial returns are accepted as the default performance metric.

But what if investing could also address the world’s most pressing social and environmental problems?

More Than Investing

This infographic from BlackRock introduces the concept of impact investing and explains why it can be a force for good.

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BlackRock Impact Investing

What Does Positive Impact Look Like?

Impact investing is a sustainable investing approach that combines the intention to generate positive returns with positive, measurable social and environmental outcomes.

To understand what these outcomes actually look like, here are some highlights from the companies that the BlackRock Impact Team invests in.

  • 102,000 GWh of renewable energy generated
  • 11 million metric tons of food waste mitigated
  • 114 million individuals empowered with access to financial services
  • 99 million people given access to clean drinking water
  • 600,000 families given access to affordable housing
  • 1.8 billion patients given access to affordable healthcare

These outcomes were generated in 2020, and help to make our world a better place.

The Three Pillars of Additionality

For impact investing to be an effective strategy, investors must be able to accurately measure the positive outcomes their capital is helping to create. A company may claim to be aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but its actions may not be making a real world difference.

“Alignment to the SDGs is not enough to qualify as impact; we require that companies advance the SDGs by providing a solution that is additional, thereby creating genuine impact.”
-Quyen Tran, Director of Impact Investing at BlackRock

Below is an overview of the three pillars of additionality that BlackRock uses to measure impact. In this context, additionality means an outcome would not have occurred without the company’s contribution.

1. Additionality From the Investee (the company)

A company provides additionality if its products and services address a need that is unlikely to be fulfilled by others. The primary sources of company additionality are:

  • The application of leading technologies
  • The deployment of innovative business models
  • The delivery of products and services to underserved populations

Helping underserved populations is a powerful way to create impact. In 2017, for example, it was estimated that 1.7 billion adults did not have a bank account.

2. Additionality From the Investor

Investors can also provide additionality by empowering businesses to create positive impact. This can be done through five mechanisms:

  • Invest with a long-term ownership mindset
  • Engage with companies to help enhance their impact outcomes
  • Invest capital when an impact company needs to raise more capital
  • Bring much-needed visibility to undervalued impact companies
  • Create a better marketplace for impact companies looking to go public

The effects of these mechanisms are already being seen worldwide, especially as awareness of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors rises. According to a 2020 report by KPMG, 80% of companies now publish sustainability reports.

3. Additionality From the Asset Class

Even with the help of private investments, the world faces a multi-trillion-dollar shortfall in its quest to meet the UN SDGs by 2030. Public equities have the ability to shrink this gap by moving capital towards enterprises that are solving the world’s greatest challenges.

MarketValue
Private market impact investing$0.5T
Private markets$5.3T
Public equities$93.0T

Source: McKinsey & Co (2019), BlackRock (2020)

At $93 trillion in total value, public equities are roughly 20 times larger than private markets.

Building a Better World

Solving today’s greatest challenges often requires innovative solutions. Consider the fact that many regions suffer from a lack of doctors.

RegionDensity of Physicians
Europe1 for every 293 people
Americas1 for every 417 people
Southeast Asia1 for every 1,239 people
Africa1 for every 3,324 people

Source: World Health Organization (2021)

An impact investing strategy will seek out companies whose products or services can help to alleviate this shortage. For example, the BlackRock Impact Team has identified a medical software company whose platform lowers administrative costs and increases productivity.

Cybersecurity is another area where investors can help create positive change—according to McAfee, cybercrime has become a $1 trillion drag on the global economy.

This risk disproportionately affects small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) because they have limited resources to protect themselves. Cybersecurity companies that specialize in servicing SMEs can help protect this important part of the economy.

The Time is Now

Impact investing is not limited to a single theme. Around the world, various social and environmental issues are capturing the attention of governments and society. Ultimately, what’s needed are innovative solutions.

“If your savings can earn a strong return invested in companies that are doing good for the world, why would you invest any other way?”
—Eric Rice, Head of Active Equities Impact Investing at BlackRock

By directing capital to the right companies, investors have the potential to generate financial return while building a better world.

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A Breakdown of Americans’ Monthly Credit Card Spending

Do you know where your money goes? From travel to gas, we break down Americans’ monthly credit card spending by category.

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Credit Card Spending

Americans’ Monthly Credit Card Spending

If you were fortunate enough to keep your job during the pandemic, you probably noticed a financial benefit: you spent less. Amid restrictions, credit card spending on fun activities—like going out for dinner—became less frequent.

Looking ahead, the majority of Americans plan to continue at least one budget change post-pandemic, including eating out less (49%), buying fewer clothes and shoes (41%), and traveling less (37%). Of course, the first step in budgeting is tracking where your money is going.

In the above graphic from Personal Capital, we break down Americans’ monthly credit card spending by category. It’s the first in a three-part series that will explore the spending and saving of Americans.

Behind the Numbers

Credit card spending is based on anonymized data from Personal Capital users, who tend to have a higher-than-average net worth. For this particular subset of users, people had an average net worth of $1.3 million and a median net worth of $405,000. Therefore, the credit card spending amounts may be higher than those of the general U.S. population.

It’s also worth noting that the data reflects credit card spending only. It does not include expenses such as mortgage or rental payments, which are typically paid through other methods.

Credit Card Spending by Category

Here’s a breakdown of monthly credit card spending, based on averaged data from November 2020 to October 2021.

CategoryMonthly Spend% of Monthly Spend
Travel$82216.9%
General Merchandise$81516.7%
Restaurants$56711.6%
Groceries$56211.5%
Clothing/Shoes$52210.7%
Home Improvement$51910.7%
Healthcare$3587.4%
Online Services$3316.8%
Entertainment$2104.3%
Gas$1683.4%
Total$4,874100.0%

Users with no transactions in a particular category were excluded from the average spending amounts. Data is statistically weighted by age to ensure accurate and reliable representation of the total U.S. population, 20 years of age and older.

As border restrictions ease, Americans are spending the most on travel. In fact, 83% of Americans say they are excited to plan a trip in a post-pandemic world. The most popular merchant within travel is Airbnb, followed by airlines such as Delta and United as air travel recovers from its pandemic slump. However, this recovery could be in jeopardy amid fresh concerns over the Omicron variant.

Travel is closely followed by general merchandise, at places like Amazon, Costco, Walmart, and Target. Monthly spending in this category has averaged at $815 over the last year. Of course, this could climb even higher near year-end due to the holiday spending boom typically seen in the U.S. every year.

On the other hand, Americans spend the least on online services (such as Google and Facebook), entertainment, and gas. Though the average monthly spending on gas was the lowest of all categories, it increased by 60% from November 2020 to October 2021. This is likely due to gas being one of the categories hit hardest by inflation, along with increased travel.

Turning Reduced Spending Into Savings

With the swipe of a credit card, it can be easy to underestimate how quickly eating out and online shopping add up. However, by taking a closer look at your credit card spending, you can get a sense of where your money is going.

Like most Americans, you may also decide to carry over at least one budget change post-pandemic. What do Americans want to do with the extra cash? Over half plan to put it towards savings, and 16% aim to contribute more to retirement savings or investments.

In Part 2 of the Americans’ Spending and Saving series, we’ll break down Americans’ financial assets by age.

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Copper’s Essential Role in Protecting Public Health

Copper can kill up to 99.9% of bacteria on surfaces within two hours of exposure and slow the spread of diseases.

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Copper’s Essential Role in Protecting Public Health

Every day, high-touch surfaces present health risks to people in public spaces, and especially the most vulnerable in healthcare. In fact, of every 100 hospitalized patients at any given time, seven will get at least one healthcare-acquired or “hospital infection”.

With naturally antimicrobial properties, copper can kill up to 99.9% of bacteria on surfaces within two hours of exposure and slow the spread of diseases.

In this infographic from our sponsor Teck, we explore copper’s bacteria-fighting abilities and its crucial role in public health.

How Copper Kills Bacteria

Due to its powerful antimicrobial properties, copper kills bacteria in sequential steps:

  • First, copper ions on the surface are recognized by the bacteria as an essential nutrient and enter cell.
  • Then, a lethal dose of copper ions interferes with normal cell functions.
  • Finally, the copper binds to the enzymes, impeding the cell from breathing, eating, digesting, or creating energy.

This rapid killing mechanism prevents cells from replicating on copper surfaces and significantly reduces the amount of bacteria living on the surface.

Antimicrobial copper is effective against bacteria that causes common diseases like staph infections and E. coli that causes foodborne illness. The metal continuously kills bacteria and never wears out.

Besides bacteria, researchers are currently studying copper’s impacts on the virus that causes COVID-19. A previous study suggested that SARS-CoV-2 was completely destroyed within four hours on copper surfaces, as compared to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel. Pre-pandemic studies also demonstrated copper’s ability to kill other coronaviruses.

The Applications of Antimicrobial Copper

Institutions around the world have already deployed antimicrobial copper solutions relating to hospitals, fitness centers, mass transit systems, schools, professional sports teams, office buildings, restaurants, and more.

To date, antimicrobial copper has been installed in more than 300 healthcare facilities around the world. Taking the reduced costs of shorter patient stay and treatment into consideration, the payback time for installing copper fittings is only two months, according to an independent study by the University of York’s Health Economics Consortium.

In Canada, Teck has worked with its partners to install antimicrobial copper coatings on high-touch surfaces in hospitals, educational buildings and transit.

The Stanley Cup champions Los Angeles Kings have installed antimicrobial copper surfaces in their strength and training facility in California. Furthermore, over 50 water bottle filling stations made from antimicrobial copper can also be found throughout the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

Copper’s Role in Public Health

While many hospitals and other institutions are already using copper fittings, others are still not aware of its impactful properties.

As awareness increases, copper can become a simple but effective material to help control the spread of infections.

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