Tina Savic is the Program Director of the Andan Foundation, Switzerland.
While wealth and charity have historical roots, the innovative concept of harnessing private wealth creatively, purposefully, and methodically to address humanity's fundamental challenges is a recent development. Centi-millionaires are now increasingly considering how their investments can go beyond financial returns to improve pressing global challenges and create positive impacts on society, marking a notable shift in the priorities of the super-rich.
The concept of philanthropy has been practiced around the world for ages in several communities. For instance, as the National Philanthropic Trust explains, in the East, benevolence was highly esteemed in Chinese classical philosophy, and Hindu scriptures emphasized the obligation of giving. In Sub-Saharan African societies, reciprocity and kindness towards others were and continue to be engrained as values of utmost importance. Similarly, in the West, among the ancient Greeks, philanthropy played a pivotal role in the concept of democracy. Further West, Native Americans embraced the practice of giving to foster equilibrium and unity. Meanwhile, in religious practices, the Tanakh, the Christian Bible, and the Qur’an all enjoined their followers to care for those in need.
In the 21st century, the influence of philanthropy has endured and shaped a new era of giving. In this contemporary landscape, influential figures such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, and others who are simultaneously prominent in the business world and recognized for their impactful philanthropic efforts, have pledged to donate at least half of their fortunes to confront humanity's most pressing challenges.
Although traditional philanthropy remains a cornerstone of charitable giving among the super-rich, a remarkable transformation is unfolding — an increasingly prevalent trend towards impact investing. This shift reflects the dynamic evolution of philanthropy as it continually adapts to address the ever-evolving global landscape of critical issues.
Impact investing represents a combination of philanthropy and finance, where individuals donate and invest in ventures and projects that tackle systemic issues such as climate change, poverty, migration, and educational inequality. In doing so, they seek to address the root causes of societal problems while still achieving financial growth.
A prominent example of this trend is Warren Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway, which has emerged as a major player in the field of impact investing. According to Bloomberg, Berkshire Hathaway has made substantial investments in renewable energy projects. These investments in solar and wind energy companies not only seek to provide attractive financial returns for shareholders but also make significant contributions to reducing carbon emissions and advancing the transition to clean energy.
Another compelling example emerges from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative founded by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan. Beyond their substantial financial commitments, they have chosen to invest in EdTech startups focused on improving education access and quality. This strategic investment approach ensures that their wealth funds educational initiatives and also drives innovation in the field, potentially revolutionizing the way education is delivered globally.
These examples represent just a couple of instances in the realm of impact investing that enable wealthy people to align their personal interests with the greater good, fostering innovation and sustainable solutions that benefit society as a whole. This shift underscores a growing societal understanding of the intricate nature of global challenges and the crucial role that wealth can play in addressing them. At the forefront of these challenges lies one of the most pressing humanitarian issues of our time — the global refugee and migration crisis.
While foreign assistance and humanitarian aid are vital in mitigating the immediate consequences of displacement, the scale of this issue demands innovative solutions that go beyond traditional philanthropy. In this context, the concept of impact investing takes center stage as it offers a powerful means through which centi-millionaires can address the complexity of global forced displacement and contribute to sustainable solutions that not only alleviate the immediate suffering of displaced populations but also empower them to rebuild their lives and communities over the long term.
One innovative approach to support displaced persons is to invest in businesses and initiatives led by refugees themselves that provide economic opportunities to and empower displaced individuals to re-establish their lives. A notable figure who has championed this approach is George Soros, a Hungarian-American entrepreneur and philanthropist — himself a refugee — renowned for his leadership as the founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundations. According to Forbes, in 2016, Soros made an announcement that had significant implications for the philanthropic and impact investing sectors. He pledged a substantial commitment, dedicating up to USD 500 million to support not only established companies but also startups and other enterprises launched by migrants and refugees. Similarly, investments in education and skills development programs can offer refugees and displaced persons the chance to acquire valuable skills, enhancing their prospects for future employment and self-sufficiency.
As we move forward, it is essential to recognize the power that can be unleashed when refugees and other migrants are given an opportunity to thrive. One such groundbreaking project we envisage to implement at the Andan Foundation is the establishment of a new Global City, a visionary initiative aimed at establishing a green, sustainable city where refugees and migrants can start their businesses and rebuild their lives. Andan Global City would offer private investors a unique opportunity to make a meaningful impact on a macro level through mission-driven investing. This project embodies the core principles of impact investing, where social progress and financial success go hand in hand. By participating in Andan Global City, investors have the chance to align their capital with a purpose-driven, globally impactful initiative that supports refugees and migrants, fosters economic growth and development, and minimizes its environmental footprint. All this is achieved while creating shared value, promoting sustainability, and leaving a lasting legacy of positive change.