Headlines about the numerous environmental and social challenges that are threatening the planet often make for scary reading. Climate change, an ageing population and food sustainability are just a few of the global issues that urgently need tackling, with big brands and smaller companies increasingly waking up to these problems and the different ways they can address them.

Investors often want to ‘do good’ in the world too, but at the same time don’t want to sacrifice returns. That’s why growing numbers are turning to impact investing which aims to protect and grow wealth, whilst supporting the environmental and social causes that are important.

Our research found that two thirds of investors find the idea of impact investing appealing. It’s not hard to see why, with this approach seeking to provide investors with the best of both worlds – considering the impact on society and the environment as part of the investment process, without compromising on long-term returns.

When investing for impact, companies are assessed both in terms of how they operate and the goods and services they provide. Their impact can be wide-ranging; from reducing plastic waste, increasing clean energy production, to improving healthcare, or the efficiency and safety of public transportation.

Whilst impact investments may have an additional aim, it’s important to keep in mind that this doesn’t necessarily have to come at a cost. Impact investments often focus on companies that are well placed to benefit from long-term trends, such as the move towards renewable energy.

In fact, academic and industry research shows that companies which put impact at the heart of their business may have an edge which can reap rewards for investors. One of the foremost studies paired companies with similar characteristics but one key difference – whether they had embedded sustainability into their business model and operating practices.

When compared over an 18-year period, companies which embraced sustainable practices significantly outperformed those that didn’t, both in share price and accounting terms. The overall conclusion of the study was that sustainability can be a source of long-term competitive advantage.

If you want your investments to make a positive contribution to the world, you have options both in the types of funds available, and their investment strategies. Some fund managers consider environmental, social and governance factors when deciding where to invest, or they’ll look more broadly at social and/or environmental trends for investment opportunities. Others identify a specific societal or environmental challenge and look for investments that address it.

Read the rest of Claire McCombe’s article at The Irish News