It’s the latest effort in a race with dozens of participants to measure so-called impact investing, a new asset class private-equity firms are developing to try to produce social and environmental change as well as profit. Y Analytics grew out of Rise, a $2 billion investment fund TPG and Bono co-founded.
“Math is music here,” Bono said in an interview. “If capitalism is to be a force for good we have to be able to measure when it’s doing good and when it’s doing harm,” he said. “Fuzzy thinking just won’t cut it. We need cold hard facts.”
Skeptics say impact investing is little more than an attempt to put private-equity firms in a positive light. For years, the firms have had to fend off criticism of asset-stripping, tax avoidance, burdening companies with debt and firing workers. TPG is raising $3 billion for its second Rise fund. It manages about $103 billion in total.
“I do believe it’s marketing,” Anand Giridharadas, a former analyst at U.S. management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. and author of “Winners Take All, The Elite Charade of Changing the World,” said in an interview. “The public hear ‘TPG, impact fund, Bono’ and that sounds good. It sells us on the idea that finance people are vital to help solving the problems of inequality, which obscures the way in which finance people are a big part of the cause of inequality and the social problems they are trying to solve.”
“I understand the cynicism,” Bono said. “There is banana skin all over the floor, I think. I am very conscious of it. We have had green-washing or purpose-washing with all manner of halos being offered up as fig leaves for companies who do bad things but then give money away and make up for it. I get that,” he said.