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Making
the Mark

Five years of Making the Mark

When we published our first Making the Mark report in 2020, we wrote about “the need to rethink the role private capital can play in shaping a better world and building a more sustainable and inclusive society for when we emerge on the other side of this crisis.”

The crisis we were referring to was, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. Five years later, amidst ongoing global challenges, the need for innovative solutions remains, and investors continue to play a crucial role in financing them.

Although a growing number of investors are embracing sustainable and impact investing, many still lack a complete understanding of what it means in practice to measure and manage a portfolio of investments with the goal of generating positive impacts. In response, “Making the Mark V” aims to provide more information on the “how” of impact investing, while unlocking new insights and providing greater clarity into best practices.

“Notably, several impact management practices that were considered pioneering or had limited adoption five years ago are now considered table stakes. This pace of change is inspiring and fuels our conviction about the value of verification as a tool for continuous learning and improvement.”

Christina Leijonhufvud

CEO, BlueMark

Making the Mark 2024

111
verifications
FOR INVESTORs
managing
a combined
$ 234 B
IMPACT AUM

Market segment discoveries

A new addition to Making the Mark, our Practice Comparisons showcase the variability in adoption of eight essential impact practices across different segments of the market.

INVESTOR TYPE
ASSET CLASS
TARGET GEOGRAPHY

IMPACT PRACTICE

implementation rate

Create a theory of change with supporting evidence

67%

60%

Link staff incentive systems to impact performance

33%

34%

Assess investor contributions to the impact of each investment

88%

71%

Assess impact risks related to each investment

54%

67%

Actively engage and manage ESG issues with investees

79%

51%

100%

Monitor impact data against expectations or a target

54%

59%

Have an approach to sustaining impact at exit

63%

64%

Review unintended impacts to refine strategy/approach

13%

10%

ASSET ALLOCATORS n=24

asset managers n=83

IMPACT PRACTICE

implementation rate

Create a theory of change with supporting evidence

50%

75%

Link staff incentive systems to impact performance

34%

25%

Assess investor contributions to the impact of each investment

66%

88%

Assess impact risks related to each investment

66%

75%

Actively engage and manage ESG issues with investees

44%

75%

100%

Monitor impact data against expectations or a target

56%

50%

Have an approach to sustaining impact at exit

63%

50%

Review unintended impacts to refine strategy/approach

13%

13%

Private Equity investors n=32

private debt investors N=8

equivalent implementation rates demonstrated by both peer groups

IMPACT PRACTICE

implementation rate

Create a theory of change with supporting evidence

61%

63%

Link staff incentive systems to impact performance

34%

40%

Assess investor contributions to the impact of each investment

66%

74%

Assess impact risks related to each investment

52%

71%

Actively engage and manage ESG issues with investees

61%

34%

100%

Monitor impact data against expectations or a target

54%

59%

Have an approach to sustaining impact at exit

57%

57%

Review unintended impacts to refine strategy/approach

16%

9%

developed markets n=35

Emerging markets N=44

equivalent implementation rates demonstrated by both peer groups

Impact review and learning

In another new addition to Making the Mark, we look at the learnings from clients who have had their systems re-verified. Repeat verifications afford clients the opportunity to gauge the quality of the improvements they’ve made to strengthen their practices over time.

PRACTICE AREA
MEDIAN (PREVIOUS)
MEDIAN (CURRENT)
% OF CLIENTS WITH IMPROVEMENTS IN RATINGS
Impact Objectives
ADVANCED
ADVANCED
%
Portfolio-level Impact Management
high
ADVANCED
%
Investor Contribution
high
ADVANCED
%
Impact Due Diligence
ADVANCED
ADVANCED
%
ESG Risk Management
high
ADVANCED
%
Impact Monitoring
high
HIGH
%
Impact at Exit
moderate
HIGH
%
Impact Review
moderate
ADVANCED
%
0%
25%
50%

The BlueMark Practice Benchmark

The BlueMark Practice Benchmark categorizes practice ratings by quartile, providing a mechanism for investors to compare themselves to the current state of practice in the market.

LEARNING
PRACTICE

Learning Practice represents the bottom quartile of our sample (25th percentile and below)

MEDIAN
PRACTICE

Median Practice reflects the impact management practices of the median impact investor in our sample (50th percentile).

LEADING
PRACTICE

Leading Practice represents the top quartile of our sample (75th percentile and above).

Practice areas
Principle 1 1.Impact objectives
Principle 2 2.Impact management
Principle 3 3.Investor contribution
Principle 4 4.Impact due diligence
Principle 5 5.ESG risk management
Principle 6 6.Impact monitoring
Principle 7 7.Impact at exit
Principle 8 8.Impact review

Leaderboard of investors

The BlueMark Practice Leaderboard was created as a way to highlight those impact investors with best-in class impact management systems and practices. To earn a spot on the Leaderboard, verified investors must have ratings that score in the top quartile or above for each practice area.

In this edition of the Leaderboard, there was one change to the criteria for inclusion—the top quartile rating for the Impact Monitoring practice area shifted from a High to an Advanced, which means verified investors must now receive an Advanced rating on four practice areas and a rating of High or above on the remaining four.

*In order for a verification to be eligible for inclusion, clients must have been practice verified within two years of the Making the Mark sample deadline to ensure that their systems are assessed against the present state of the market.

Bain Capital Double Impact
VERIFIED April 2023 ASSET CLASS Private Equity IMPACT THEMES
  • Education & Workforce Development
  • Health & Wellness
  • Sustainability
BlueOrchard
VERIFIED February 2024 ASSET CLASS Private and Public Debt, Private Equity, Real Assets IMPACT THEMES
  • Multi-theme
Calvert Impact Capital
VERIFIED April 2023 ASSET CLASS Private Debt IMPACT THEMES
  • Access to Community Services
  • Climate Change
  • Financial Inclusion
Circulate Capital
VERIFIED April 2024 ASSET CLASS Private Debt, Private Equity IMPACT THEMES
  • Climate Adaptation & Resilience
  • Climate Change Mitigation
Developing World Markets
VERIFIED March 2024 ASSET CLASS Private Debt, Private Equity IMPACT THEMES
  • Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience
  • Financial Inclusion
  • Gender Equality
Finance in Motion
VERIFIED October 2023 ASSET CLASS Private Debt, Private Equity IMPACT THEMES
  • Green Economy
  • Climate Finance
  • Entrepreneurship & Livelihoods
  • Financial Inclusion
LeapFrog Investments
VERIFIED January 2023 ASSET CLASS Private Equity IMPACT THEMES
  • Financial Inclusion
  • Healthcare
  • Climate Solutions
Nuveen Private Equity Impact Investing
VERIFIED June 2022 ASSET CLASS Private Equity IMPACT THEMES
  • Resource Efficiency
  • Inclusive Growth
Schroders
VERIFIED September 2023 ASSET CLASS Private Equity, Public Debt, Public Equity IMPACT THEMES
  • Multi-theme
Trill Impact
VERIFIED October 2023 ASSET CLASS Private Equity, Private Debt IMPACT THEMES
  • Multi-theme (SDG-aligned impact)

Key practice insights

See which impact management practices are most common among investors, and which practices still present a challenge for the field.

 

 

35 %
SOLICIT DATA FROM END-STAKEHOLDERS

Advanced impact performance monitoring and review practices are on the rise, evidenced by the growing proportion of verified investors that solicit data from stakeholders about the outcomes they are experiencing. The prevalence of this practice increased from 11% in 2021 to 35% in this year’s report—the largest increase of any practice during this time period. A larger proportion of verified investors are using learnings from their impact performance data to refine and improve their strategies (up from 39% in 2023). These shifts suggest investors are becoming more sophisticated in their ability to collect and use impact data and, at the same time, reflect the industry’s emerging expectations for impact reports that include complete and contextualized results data.

55 %
ACTIVELY MANAGE ESG ISSUES

Impact investors are adopting more robust practices to measure and manage ESG risks, which is underscored by the BlueMark Practice Median for ESG Risk Management shifting from a High to an Advanced rating for the first time. Underpinning this shift is the increase in the proportion of verified investors that actively engage and manage ESG issues with their investees (up from 43% in 2021 to 55% in 2024). This development is likely driven by emerging regulations (i.e., SFDR) and increased expectations for ESG data from LPs, which have led fund managers to place more emphasis on routine monitoring of ESG risks post-investment.

42 %
ESTABLISH IMPACT TARGETS

Impact due diligence practices are maturing, with the prevalence of investors' pre-investment assessment of impact risks (i.e., negative impacts and/or the probability of impact not occuring) increasing from 55% in 2023 to 65% in this year's report. Similarly, 75% of verified investors now regularly assess their potential investor contribution to impact prior to making an investment (up from 68% in 2023). In the past year, we began tracking other due diligence practices and have found that 42% of our clients establish impact targets at the time of investment and 32% have defined impact-focused eligibility criteria for their portfolios. The prevalence of these practices amongst our clients suggests that investors are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their upfront impact screening and analysis efforts.

64 %
have an approach to sustaining impact at exit

While Impact at Exit remains the practice area with the largest proportion of Low scores, there have been improvements in the underlying practices over the past three years. Notably, the percentage of verified investors that have a policy or framework to sustain impact at exit has increased from 57% in 2021 to 64% this year. Additionally, the proportion of investors that identify potential actions they can take during their investment period to promote sustained impact has risen from 17% in 2021 to 29% this year. Increased adoption of these practices since 2021 is a reflection of heightened importance of sustainable exits, in large part due to the Operating Principles for Impact Management launched in 2019.

2024 cohort details

This year’s Making the Mark report is based on 111 verifications for impact investors managing a combined $234 billion in impact-oriented assets under management.

Investor Type

How investors identify themselves (%)

38 32 17 13
  • Asset Managers (Impact-only)
  • Asset Managers (Diversified)
  • Other (e.g., Family Office, Foundation, Wealth Manager)
  • Development Finance Institutions (DFI)

Asset Class

Target asset classes for investors (%)

  • Private Equity (Growth)
  • Private Debt
  • Private Equity (Venture Capital)
  • Private Equity (Buyout)
  • Real Assets
  • Other
  • Public Markets
28
19
16
14
10
7
6
28
19
16
14
10
7
6

Geography

Where investors are deploying their capital (%)

45

42

55

10

0

44

36

Making the Mark 2024

See more data and insights about impact investing best practices, trends, and challenges in the full report.