On September 15th, the Vermont Community Loan Fund hosted our first Community Gathering, with an open invitation to all to address the theme of “Trends in Impact Investing."
The panel discussion, followed by an open ‘Q & A’ session, took place at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, with panelists including Clean Yield Asset Management Impact and Community Investment Analyst (and VCLF Board Member) Karin Chamberlain, Castanea Foundation Executive Director Tim Storrow and VCLF investor Deborah Messing.
The discussion was moderated by VCLF Executive Director Will Belongia. Opening the discussion, Will recalled first exploring issues of social and economic justice while a student at the University of Notre Dame. “I developed a fundamental appreciation for some core Catholic beliefs around service to those left behind by our economic system,” he said.
He recounted following that emerging interest to a career at the Loan Fund, where he was introduced to the concept of socially responsible investing, “which has now given rise to the term ‘impact investing,’ incorporating themes of sustainability and environmental justice, sustainable agriculture, forestry and planet health.”
Karin Chamberlain spoke about her early interest in social and economic justice, which took her on a path from Peace Corps farm aide in Ecuador to Boston-based socially responsible asset management firm Trillium Asset Management, and finally to Vermont’s own Clean Yield Asset Management where she describes her work in impact investing as “helping clients meet their long-term financial goals while making a positive difference in the world.”
“Many investors, disillusioned by Wall Street, look to invest their money closer to home where they can actually witness impact of investment on the local economy and community,” Karin said. “Impact investing and community investing are trending, driven by new state legislation and by the JOBS Act, which opened up doors for mainstream investors to invest in areas previously only available to high-net-worth investors,” she added.
Commenting on VCLF’s long record of financial and social impact results, Karin noted that Clean Yield strongly recommends investing in the Loan Fund. “When we talk to our clients about the Loan Fund, we talk about capital preservation,” she said.
Deborah Messing brought an investor’s perspective to the discussion. “I began to divest from any mutual funds that had fossil fuel holdings and invest in VCLF. Obviously when folks are able to divest, in part or all the way, they need to re-invest. For me, that’s where the Loan Fund comes in. Frankly, there aren’t that many places where you can earn a safe, fixed return, but the Loan Fund’s definitely one of them.”
The panel fielded questions from investors and prospects, along with testimonials to VCLF’s work, strengthening Vermont communities through impact investing.