Inside Asia Podcast

Steve Okun: Impact Investing & Social Enterprise

July 12, 2017

This episode our focus is on impact investing—investments made with the aim of generating both financial return and social or environmental impact.

The reasons for corporations wandering into philanthropy vary. Oil companies might want to change public perception. Hedge funds might be averting criticisms of greed. Brands looking to boost sales want to find ways of connecting themselves with programs that appeal to their socially conscious customers.

And yes, there are CEOs who simply want to make the world a better place.

Impact investment sounds simple. Find a good thing and throw money at it. But it’s not that easy. There have been literally thousands of attempts to try to marry for-profit with non-profit. More often than not, good intentions fall flat. Projects may help employees feel better about their employer but in many cases the experiment is short-lived and the results are simply one-offs.

Creating sustainable value requires more planning and involvement than was evidenced during the last wave of so-called corporate social responsibility, or CSR. Impact investing – as we just learned – shows promise of being longer lasting and even self-propagating.

My guest this episode is Steve Okun, a remarkable executive whose work with Bali Cashews shows what thoughtful intentional philanthropic investment is capable of, and that it needs to be closely integrated into ongoing business practices if it is really going to improve a situation.

Steve is a government and public affairs expert and most recently, a senior member of the Asia division of global private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, or KKR. A former member of the Clinton Administration—he served as Deputy General Counsel of the Department of Transportation—he also did a stint at UPS as Vice President of Public Affairs in Asia.

Thanks for listening and let’s continue the conversation. What other impact investing initiatives are you aware of? What are some of the challenges they face. Take a second and tell us about what social enterprise ventures you’ve seen which could use some backing or organizational expertise.