Doing good while doing well. That is the mission of impact businesses and investors, who combine the desire to address a social problem with wealth creation.
The Impact Economy is a new market force underpinned by public and private companies, entrepreneurs and investors that strive to achieve an intimate connection between profit and purpose. Well-established, large-scale businesses - including many existing Womble Bond Dickinson clients - are increasingly seeing the connection between financial success and social responsibility. New enterprises are also pursuing business opportunities that will both generate profit and address endemic social problems. With a rapidly expanding market and an increasing number of participants, the idea of “impact” as an economic force has hit the mainstream.
Increasing amounts of capital are flowing into the Impact Economy. The current size of the impact investing market is estimated to be between $50 billion and $70 billion. By 2020, an estimated $400 billion to $1 trillion globally is expected to be directed toward Impact Economy investing. Womble Bond Dickinson has formed a dedicated Impact Team because we are committed to fostering the growth of the Impact Economy by championing Impact-focused businesses and investors.
Our Impact Team serves clients from many sectors, including public and private companies seeking to increase their impact within their existing structure, as well as those seeking to expand into the burgeoning Impact Economy. We believe that Impact-focused businesses can be most effective when they engage trusted advisors to help them creatively respond to the unique challenges presented by the business of addressing seemingly insoluble social problems.
Womble Bond Dickinson’s Impact Team strives to provide strategic and advisory services to our Impact clients in addition to legal services. The team guides companies and entrepreneurs in establishing sound organizational and operating principles that are tailored to their business models. We also work closely with businesses and investors to structure transactions that will provide the necessary access to, and effectively deploy, capital in support of sustainable, profitable and socially responsible operations.
Impact Business Group - Powering Commerce in the Impact Economy
We make Impact and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) make sense. Chances are, if you’re reading this, someone or something has piqued your interest in Impact, ESG, or both. Whether it’s a shareholder or a stakeholder, one of your kids or colleagues, regulations or a realization, you or your organization have hit the Impact tipping point. It’s time to act. But first, you’ve got some questions....
What is Impact? Simply put, Impact is the intersection of doing good and doing well. It is a combination of strategies and tactics that are designed to harness the positive power of business to both generate revenue and address endemic social issues. Impact can be pursued by for-profit, non-profit, or government entities (or combinations of all of these). And, to be most effective, Impact must be employed using rigorous management practices.
Where is Impact? Impact is everywhere. It’s all around us. Whether sustainability or good job creation, affordable housing or accessible healthcare, quality education or clean water, or a host of other areas, Impact (and opportunities for Impact) are everywhere we look, and often are hidden in plain sight. We just need to know what we’re looking for. This broad set of activities underpins the Impact Economy – a growing phenomenon of the broader economy – and there’s lots going on.
Where Does ESG Fit? ESG is a part of the Impact Economy. For large organizations, especially publicly traded companies and institutional investors, ESG is the vanguard of Impact. Increasingly, evaluation and integration of ESG factors has become a business imperative and a board-level issue. Significant data now makes clear that organizations integrating ESG factors into their operational decision-making and management approach are more sustainably profitable over a longer period of time, enabling them to outperform their peers. Of equal import, this data also highlights the short-and-long-term risks that come from ignoring ESG factors, which makes ESG a critical consideration in corporate governance for business leaders.
This is where Womble Bond Dickinson’s Impact Business Group comes in: We power commerce in the Impact Economy and help our clients grow their competitive advantage with Impact. How?
Strategies: We help our clients define, and refine, their pathways to Impact and ESG, and we help them maximize the value of Impact opportunities by integrating Impact/ESG into the core business activities of their organizations. The way we see it, the closer to the heart of the enterprise Impact is embedded, the more enduring, and beneficial it becomes. We’ve developed a series of proprietary frameworks and processes to help you evaluate, analyze, and operationalize Impact opportunities, and enable you communicate the value you generate through those opportunities, including:
- The Simple Vetting Process: This powerful tool is a consistent, replicable, and customizable framework we have developed to help guide senior executives through the Impact-focused decision-making process. Designed to save time, clarify complex scenarios, and drive Impact/ESG to the core of an enterprise, the SVP enables you to lead your business to better and faster decisions in evaluating Impact opportunities.
- The Impact Playbook: One of the places initiatives often fail is the chasm between idea and implementation. Each Impact Playbook that we develop is a customized, concrete, clarifying guide to help you operationalize your organization’s Impact/ESG. The Playbook provides an easy reference source for senior executives, highlighting the key components of an operational Impact plan curated for your business (and why they’re key), so that you don’t get stuck talking about having Impact, but can get down to doing Impact.
- The Impact Dashboard: We get it. Impact can be tough, confusing, and even ethereal. We understand the importance of having a way to measure Impact, monitor Impact, manage for Impact, and understand an organization’s Impact - at a glance. So we built it. Utilizing the power of the firm’s data and process management Case Management Facility (CMF), we’ve created a real-time, graphically-based dashboard tool to help you track, quantify and improve your Impact.
Legal: We intentionally built our Impact Business Group on the platform of a major law firm, realizing that there’s hardly a transaction that takes place without lawyers involved at some point. We knew that if we built a team of attorneys, across practice areas, each of who were committed to the power and values of the Impact Economy, we could play a significant role in helping our clients grow their competitive advantage with Impact. To date, more than 35 attorneys have joined our Impact Team. They come from practice areas as diverse as capital markets and corporate, real estate and energy, economic development and intellectual property, and many more.
Product Development: One of the most compelling reasons for us to build our Impact Business Group on top of a law firm platform was the unique ability it afforded us to pull from multiple professional skill sets in pursuit of Impact. The synergies of this approach are reflected in the work we do to take ideas, structure and document them, and turn them into fully-formed, market-ready products. This includes our SVP and Impact Dashboard products. Another example is Performance Aligned Stock. This new transaction structure, of flexible, debt-like equity, was conceived of by an Impact Investor as a way to provide opportunities for Impact Entrepreneurs to maintain long-term control of their companies, while enabling investors to generate a predictable return. We were engaged by a group of investors and entrepreneurs to clarify the idea, shape the structure, and document the deal...the world’s first Performance Aligned Stock offering.
By creating the first fully integrated Impact group at a major US law firm, we’ve harnessed the power of our platform to become the Transactional Finance Firm for Impact. Since 2016, the attorneys on our team have facilitated more than $1 Billion in Impact-focused transactions for nearly every type of entity, at nearly every stage of development, deploying nearly every type of capital.
Why are we committed to Impact? We believe in the power of the Impact Economy to solve challenging social problems by combining business and purpose. We are driven by the idea that Impact will be the defining economic framework of this era, and we are compelled to use our professional skills to help make that happen.
Want to learn more? Have a question or vexing business issue? In search of a compelling opportunity? We’d love to help. Send us an email or give us a call. And in the meantime, here’s a bit of homework. It’s a question we’ve asked ourselves, and a question we ask of everyone who asks us about opportunities for Impact: Which aspect of Impact resonates most deeply with you?
We look forward to hearing from you.
Articles & Publications
- What if Entrepreneurship Isn't the (Only) Answer?, Mark Newberg, Huffington Post
- Union Kitchen: A Case Study On The Best Legal Structure For Local Businesses Looking To Go National, Pamela Rothenberg, Forbes
- From Margins to Mainstream, World Economic Forum, September 2013
- Impact Investing 2.0 The Way Forward, Pacific Community Ventures, November 2013
- Hidden in Plain Sight, Mark Newberg, Huffington Post Article
- Keys To Running An Impact-Driven Business: Lessons From Instant Ramen, Chobani And Genentech, Mark Newberg, Forbes
- What Entrepreneurs Evaluating Venture Capitalists Can Learn From The Way We Evaluate Baseball Players, Mark Newberg, Forbes
- I Want a Horse, Not a Unicorn, Mark Newberg, Huffington Post
- VIDEO: SOCAP17 - 10 Years Later: How Far We've Come, and Where We Actually Are