The Financial Performance of Real Assets Impact Investments

The Financial Performance of Real Assets Impact Investments

Financial returns on so-called real asset impact investments funds focused on real estate, timber, and infrastructure are comparable to returns on conventional real asset funds, a report from the Global Impact Investing Network finds. The report, The Financial Performance of Real Assets Impact Investments (34 pages, PDF), analyzed fifty-five impact funds created between 1997 and 2014 and found that through June 2016, funds focused on timber — including sustainable timber production, land conservation, and biodiversity conservation — generated a pooled net internal rate of return (IRR) of 5.9 percent, with a range of between 1.2 percent and 17.1 percent, well above the 3.3 percent IRR for conventional funds (which returned between -0.7 percent and 11 percent over the same period). Impact funds focused on real estate — including "green" real estate, affordable housing, and community services — had an IRR of 0.8 percent, compared with 4.9 percent for conventional funds. And returns from impact funds focused on infrastructure — including climate change mitigation and water management — varied widely, with three of the seventeen funds reporting negative returns of more than -15 percent, pushing down the pooled net IRR to 0.3 percent, while the top fund generated returns of nearly 30 percent. The report concludes that although variations at the individual fund level underscore the importance of manager selection, overall the financial performance of real asset impact funds is comparable to that of conventional funds.