Impact investing is an emerging concept that every aspiring investor should grasp in detail. Whether you’re a business owner or investor, these books will help you adopt sustainable business techniques with confidence.
As the name suggests, impact investments are the types of investments that contribute towards positive social or environmental impact.
In the impact investing phenomena, driven investors contribute their funds to for-profit organizations and companies that work towards a cause they believe in.
While the concept is gaining popularity by the day, it is becoming more difficult to understand its core.
Concerns about specific impact criteria and their measurement are questions that worry beginners and seasoned investors hoping to step into the industry.
This led to an upheaval in the data, statistics, and discourses presented by companies and financial experts regarding the topic to help newbies grasp the concept properly.
But, you cannot possibly read all the content available, and you surely don’t want to waste your time on meaningless research.
That’s why I have listed some of the best impact investing books that can help you understand the what, why, and how regarding impact investing.
Table of Contents
Best Impact Investing Books – Must-Reads For Beginners and Pros
When it comes to social impact investing books or ESG investing books, one thing that turns readers off is the challenging financial language that makes a boring read.
That’s why most investors choose to hit the internet for simple knowledge about impact investing rather than going for canon books on impact investing written by pioneering researchers in the field.
Let me take you in on a secret; even I dropped the idea of reading professional impact investing content after the first few tries. However, what kept me going were some fantastic books that combine financial theories, strategies, and philosophies that form the impact investing concept easily and engagingly.
If you want to indulge in some exciting yet productive reading material, I have shortlisted the plethora of content available to make the journey easier for you. My list of the best impact investing books includes professional material for impact investors, organizations seeking impact, and companies seeking to measure their social impact.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
1. Sustainable Investing: The Art of Long Term Performance
If you only know the bare minimum about impact investing, you should probably start with some historical facts and figures before venturing into current events. In this case, Sustainable Investing by Cary Krosinky and Nick Robins is one of the best impact investing books to read.
Penned down back in 2008, the book highlights how socially responsible investments started as underperforming assets in the market and slowly became eligible for high revenue.
Today, it’s no news that impact investing opportunities are on the rise. What makes this book stand out is that it explains the strategies impact organizations can take to outperform other assets in the market and how few sustainable investment companies have achieved that goal in that time period.
These facts and figures are highly beneficial for small businesses targeting B Corp status in the future. That’s because it can help them devise proper business models to achieve a triple bottom line without compromising on financial gains.
2. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Socially Responsible Investing
This book is highly recommended for those of you who are easily bamboozled by complex stock market trends and investing strategies. In The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Socially Responsible Investing, Ken Little explains these concepts in an accessible and engaging way.
This way, if you’re hoping to venture into impact investing or want to target a social issue through your business campaign, you can learn how to devise a strategy and implement it at your respective level through this book.
Most importantly, it includes catchy anecdotes and philosophies that makes the read enjoyable as well as productive.
3. The SRI Advantage
If you have already conducted some reach on impact investing, you probably know that there are three facets to the concept. These facets are mainly known as ESG, environmental, social, and governance.
While environmental measures for impact began popular after the increasing effects of human behavior on the planet’s deterioration came into light, socially responsible investment concepts have been around longer.
From religious beliefs to moral limitations, socially responsible investments dominated the stock market exchange back in the 18th century. As an aspiring impact investor, socially responsible investing is something you should study individually to form a profitable investment portfolio for yourself.
The SRI Advantage by Peter Camejo effortlessly debunks the misconception about underperforming SRI assets. Written by an experienced financial advisor specializing in SRIs, the book effortlessly explains how SRIs financially outperform other asset classes.
Along with this explanation, the book maps out specific strategies and practices adopted by socially responsible organizations to mitigate risks for investors.
For investors concerned about receiving low returns by funding causes they believe in, this book provides a clear guide to invest in profitable SRIs.
4. Invest for Good: A Healthier World and a Wealthier You
A recent 2019 publication by Mobius, Hardenberg, and Konieczny, Invest For Good, depicts a modern take on impact investment. If you’re looking for a book that’s amusing and fun to read, along with being informative with practical guidelines, this is the ideal choice for you.
Not only have the writers done a great job at explaining complex concepts in easy language, but they also manage to tickle your funny bone in the process. This makes it a perfect weekend read to beat the blues of a tough work week while learning some productive investing ideas in the process.
The authors’ most explicit idea throughout the book is that socially responsible investments are the future of all investment techniques. So, if you’re motivated to invest for good and earn money while contributing to a cause you believe in, this book maps out the way for you.
5. The Triple Bottom Line
Even if you have conducted thorough research about impact investing, you might not know about the triple bottom line concept. While the bottom line shows the company’s net profit after subtracting the expenses from the profit, the triple bottom line shows profits in terms of environmental and social contributions.
Knowing this criterion can help investors determine the impact measurement of potential investment companies and allow organizations to devise profitable business models. No matter which category you belong to, The Triple Bottom Line by Andrew W. Savitz is an informative read for you.
Written by a consultant for sustainable businesses, the book starts by mapping out the potential benefits of sustainable businesses while showing how financial gains increase by increasing impact.
If you’re interested in understanding how this math works, this book is a must-read for you.
6. Beyond The Bottom Line: Putting Social Responsibility to Work for Your Business and the World
Another book explaining the bottom line concept for beginning impact investors is Beyond the Bottom Line by Joel Makower. This book is highly beneficial for business owners working on their strategies to enhance their presence in the ESG sector.
Built upon the idea that businesses work better when aiming to provide the best for their employees, customers, and suppliers, the book asses several businesses to prove the point. These include popular brands with impressive ESG strategies, such as The Body Shop and Reebok.
Describing each business individually, the book provides hands-on information for companies striving for the B Corp or benefit corporation status.
7. The Power of Impact Investing: Putting Markets to Work for Profit and Global Good
The Power of Impact Investing, written by Judith Rodin and Margot Brandenburg in 2014, is one of the first books to establish the concept in a modern light. Representing impact investing as an instrument for change, the book provides a clear definition of the concept.
Besides that, it works to outline its growth as a global movement highlighting the institutions that initially supported and worked using the concept. In a nutshell, if you want to know about impact investing as an emerging investment trend, this book is an engaging and informative resource.
The best part is, the authors outline the journey of the initial companies who adopted the concept in a story-like format which makes it easy to understand for beginners.
8. Impact: Reshaping Capitalism to Drive Real Change
If you’re looking for a one-stop solution to learn everything you need about the concept, this is one of the best books about impact investing. Written by the father of British venture capital, Sir Ronald Cohen, ‘Impact’ works to differentiate impact investing from ESG investing and establishes it as an individual investment trend.
The author highlights how impact investors strive for a positive change, rather than only eliminating the negative aspects. Similarly, he further describes the integral position of measurement and evaluation in businesses thriving for impact, which sets them apart from ESG investments.
Additionally, the book includes examples from the global impact investment market and their respective missions and techniques. Namely, the book describes companies’ impact strategies like Grameen Bank, Patagonia, and Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund.
9. Real Impact: The New Economics of Social Change
Real Impact, written by Morgan Simon in 2017, is one of the best impact investing books for political activists interested in getting a real insight into the subject. Written by a celebrated author and founder of a global impact asset network, the book is integrated into the course of Harvard Business School.
Moreover, the author gives the content her vibrant and engaging touch while establishing the relation between ESG, social justice, and political change. That’s why it is a must-read for students looking to explore multiple dimensions of the impact investing concept.
10. Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman — Including 10 More Years of Business Unusual
Even people with the slightest idea about impact investing have heard the name Patagonia as a leading company thriving for impact for decades. If you’re a fan of its socially responsible strategies, Let My People Go Surfing is one of the best impact investing books for you.
Penned down by the business owner himself, Yvon Chouinard, the book is a memoir that takes the reader through its entire journey from just a company producing outdoor equipment to a leading impact investment enterprise.
A must-read publication that combines information with storytelling starts with a detailed exploration of the author’s childhood and his love for preserving the outdoors. Highlighting his core values as a businessman, the book guides you through his triple bottom line business model that inspires companies worldwide.
Overall, it is an enlightening read you could recommend to a friend who doesn’t believe in the benefits of impact investing and watch him change his mind.
11. Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good
When it comes to impact investing, businesses do great while working with the concept until they fail to deliver financial profits and lose funding. Ann Mei Chang explores this concept in detail in her book Lean Impact.
Published in 2019, the book provides practical insight into the modern dynamics of impact investing. It explains how social innovation can help projects bring sustainable social change and keep investors hooked.
Initially working as an expert engineer at Google and recently becoming USAID’s Chief Innovation Officer, the author has a credible background that lets her map out clear guidelines for organizations targeting impact investment.
Rather than adding these concepts to the business model, Chang focuses on changing its culture to ensure recurring quadruple bottom line benefits.
12. Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist
Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth is an amusing yet resourceful narration that provides beneficial ideas for implementing impact for profit in the 21st century.
In her book, the renowned economist shares her thoughts on how society can achieve financial profits without exhausting its natural resources and ruining the planet. Her suggestions and ideas are backed by practical examples and statistics, which makes her work one of the most creative explanations of modern impact investing.
She uses the doughnut shape to signify the endless strive for balance and how humankind can achieve enough food, housing, and healthcare along with a stable climate and fertile land.
What I love about this book is the simple English used to describe complex economics concepts, in the end, promoting a new economic mindset to combat the upcoming environmental and social catastrophes.