43: Making good investment returns while doing social good | Emma Steele of Ascension

25 Jan 2022 / Podcast Tax Enhanced

Social impact investing is an area that sounds good in principle but is often not well understood by those not involved in it. We asked Emma Steele, who runs the social benefit funds at Ascension, to come on and discuss investing in this topical area. Emma defines a social benefit that is investible, with some examples. We talk about the twin objectives of profit and social benefit, how they conflict (spoiler: they don’t necessarily) and how to ensure companies don’t pivot away from providing a social benefit. We also talk about measurement.

Emma discusses the wider environment, how companies view impact investing and for-profit companies as instruments of societal change. We also talk about the investor perspective and how this area may develop going forward.

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Ascension https://www.ascension.vc/

Emma Steele on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/emma-steele-b7a98832/

Suggested reading

Lean Impact by Ann Mei Chang and Eric Ries

Emma Steele is Investment Director of Ascension. Emma heads up Ascension’s impact funds, immersed in sector verticals and business models with potential for both commercial and impact returns at scale. She manages fundraising, deployment and portfolio management for the Fair By Design and Good Food Funds across Fintech/Insurtech (improving financial inclusion), Energy (reducing costs), Transport and Food (helping healthy and affordable food environments to scale).

Prior to joining Ascension in January 2018, Emma spent some time in the charity sector at Eastside Primetimers, progressing the sustainability of charity revenue models and encouraging social investment in the sector (such as FSE’s debt deal into the Giving Machine). Prior to that, she spent five-and-a-half years in the corporate banking division of Santander UK as a Credit Partner in the Large Corporates team and Associate Director in the Healthcare Finance team. Emma holds an MSc in Development Economics from the University of Sussex and a BSc in Philosophy, Politics & Economics from the University of Warwick.