The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent social movements have heightened attention on the role of organizations in society, says the leader of a Canadian bank focused on the social impact economy.
Paul Allard, Co-Founder & CEO of Impak Finance, said the pandemic ushered in a larger focus on sustainable development and social impact because it showed how closely the economy, people, and the environment are linked.
“It’s as if the last year was a 10-year evolution,” he said. “Human beings are slow, but when it hurts, when it burns, when it floods, when it heats, we are really quick in changing. COVID-19 has created this common convergence in worldwide consciousness that we can’t go as business as usual.”
Allard was a keynote speaker at the recent Journey to Purpose event designed by Professor Oana Branzei as part of an annual full-day immersion experience for HBA Sustainability Certificate students, fellows, alumni, and faculty. The event was co-hosted by the HBA Sustainability Certificate and the Centre for Building Sustainable Value and included case discussions, panel sessions, and guest speakers.
Allard shared how his Montreal-based financial technology startup is driving the social impact economy through growth of its impact rating service. The product offers institutional investors and lenders a transparent, standardized, comparable and best-in-class impact statement of private and listed companies forming their portfolio. With accurate impact data in hand, the financial sector can make better business decisions in channeling capital towards Sustainable Development Goals’ objectives.
“Today, we are in a huge and exciting transformation of our economy from what I call the financial economy that is negative to animals and human beings to what I describe as the impact economy,” said Allard. “In the impact economy, economic actors’ decisions are not uniquely based on the financial statement, but equally on the impact statement of all organizations. It shows what they are doing to mitigate their negative impact and how they are generating a positive impact.”
Changing the social impact landscape
As part of the session, Branzei facilitated a panel focused on the rapid rise of purpose-driven organizations. Allard was interviewed by Andrew Newton, MBA ’20, who co-wrote a business case on Impak Finance, as well as two EMBA ’22 candidates from financial services: Devansh Bavishi and Sherry Jong. They discussed the role of the financial sector and future business leaders in driving the transformation to a social impact economy and how Canada can lead the charge. Here are some takeaways.
Creating systemic change
“The financial sector is the most powerful group to impulse this transformation. I believe in systemic changes that are impulsed by big players. We need to be huge believers that finance can transform our economies.”
Canada’s role in the impact economy
“Canada needs to be proactive. It has the potential to become a leader in the impact economy because it has water, land, intelligence and social economies that can influence the financial sector. The Canadian financial sector urgently needs to get in the game and be part of the international discussions around extra financial regulations, or else we will have regulations imposed on us that don’t necessarily take into account the specificities of the Canadian market.”
The birth of a movement
“This new generation needs to kick out the leaders holding on to old ‘mentalities and paradigms’ and move on and make drastic change. It’s not time for a smooth and nice transformation. It’s time for a revolution.”
Student takeaways from Journey to Purpose
James Yeretsian, an HBA ’22 candidate and Co-Director of Ivey Connects, shares what he learned about impact investing, Sustainable Development Goals, and the power of acting with purpose.