This so-called sustainable investing market has grown almost 25% since 2014, and now represents $23 trillion in assets globally, including over 25% of all professionally managed assets. Many large asset managers (e.g., Goldman Sachs, Bain Capital, TPG, Blackrock, State Street) are establishing impact investment practices and products to meet the demands of capital owners, including pension funds, endowments, and family offices.

The promise of “doing well by doing good” is seductive and has garnered significant attention by mainstream media, government, and financial institutions. Many have made bold claims about the potential for investment to solve global problems, while earning returns that are competitive or better. Skeptics argue a focus on social impact may distract from and reduce returns, or even shift funding away from worthy philanthropic causes.

Through teaching, research and engagement with practioners and alumni, we are critically examining questions such as: What is the purpose of impact investing? What return profiles are realistic? Does impact investing actually create social value? How is and how should social value be defined and measured? What does it mean in practice to be an impact investor?

An active community of faculty are teaching on and researching these topics from various perspectives, including Shawn Cole, Vikram Gandhi, Michael Chu, Kash Rangan, George Serafeim, Julie Battilana, and others.

Our alumni are shaping, accelerating and leading investing for impact across the globe– from BlackRock, to Root Capital, to Social Finance, to Omidyar Network to Wellington Asset Management.



The Impact CoLaboratory (Impact CoLab) is a multi-faculty effort to advance knowledge and practice in the rapidly growing field of investing for impact and scaling for impact.


Research Forum

  • May 2014
  • Forum Report

Business for Social Impact Forum

The Forum examined how businesses can have a social impact through innovative business models and impact investing, and debated the definition of success in the area of social impact.

Featured Research

  • Feb 2017
  • Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series

Why and How Investors Use ESG Information: Evidence from a Global Survey

by Amir Amel-Zadeh and George Serafeim
  • November 2016
  • Accounting Review Article

Corporate Sustainability: First Evidence on Materiality

by Mozaffar Khan, George Serafeim and Aaron Yoon
  • November 1 2015
  • Standford Social Innovation Review

The Payoff of Pay-for-Success

  • Fall 2015
  • Stanford Social Innovation Review

The Payoff of Pay-for-Success

by V. Kasturi Rangan and Lisa Chase
  • Jun 2013
  • Harvard Business Publishing

Venture Philanthropy: Its Evolution & Its Future

by Allen S. Grossman, Sarah Appleby & Caitlin Reimers
Subjects covered include: nonprofit organizations and philanthropies.
  • January 17, 2013
  • Harvard Business Review

Social Impact Investing Will Be the New Venture Capital

by Sir Ronald Cohen and William A. Sahlman
  • Jan 2013
  • Harvard Business Review Blog

Social Impact Investing Will Be the New Venture Capital

by Sir Ronald Cohen & William A. Sahlman
  • May 2012
  • Harvard Business School Technical Note 312-091

Frameworks for Dialogue & Research about Social Impact Investing

Subjects covered include: balanced scorecard, development stage enterprises, entrepreneurial finance, entrepreneurial management, entrepreneurs, financial instruments, and performance measurement.
  • Feb 2012
  • Harvard Business School Background Note 512-045

The Promise of Impact Investing

by V. Kasturi Rangan, Sarah Appleby & Laura Moon
(Revised July 2012.) Subjects covered include: social enterprise.
  • Oct 2010
  • Harvard Business Review 88, No. 10

The Emerging Capital Market for Nonprofits

  • Dec 2003
  • Harvard Business Review 81, No. 12

Profit Globally, Give Globally

  • Dec 2002
  • Harvard Business Review

The Competitive Advantage of Corporate Philanthropy

by Michael E. Porter & Mark R. Kramer
  • Mar 2001
  • Chronicle of Philanthropy

The E-Philanthropy Revolution Is Here to Stay

  • Nov—Dec 1999
  • Harvard Business Review 77, No. 6

Philanthropy's New Agenda: Creating Value

by Michael E. Porter & Mark R. Kramer
  • Apr 1996
  • Harvard Business Publishing

Social Enterprise Spectrum: Philanthropy to Commerce

by J. Gregory Dees
Subjects covered include: social responsibility and social services.

Classic Cases

  • March 2017
  • Supplement | HBS Case Collection

Microfinance in India 2010-2016: Crisis and Recovery

by Shawn Cole, Vikram Gandhi, Caitlin Reimers and Yannick Saleman
  • March 2017
  • Case

Acumen Fund: Lean Data in 2017

by Shawn A. Cole and Tony L He
  • March 2017
  • Case

SKS Microfinance (Abridged)

by Shawn Cole and Theresa Chen
  • January 2017
  • Case | HBS Case Collection

Vox Capital: Pioneering Impact Investing in Brazil

by Julie Battilana, Marissa Kimsey, Falko Paetzold and Priscilla Zogbi
  • September 2016
  • Case | HBS Case Collection

Pi Investments

by Vikram Gandhi and Tony L. He
  • April 2016
  • Case | HBS Case Collection

Dan Gilbert, Crazy or Crazy Like a Fox?

  • March 2016
  • Technical Note | HBS Case Collection

ESG Metrics: Reshaping Capitalism

by George Serafeim and Jody Grewal
  • 2013
  • Case

Omidyar Network: Pioneering Impact Investment

by Michael Chu & Lauren Barley
Subjects covered include: social enterprise.
  • 2013
  • Case

Bridges Ventures

by V. Kasturi Rangan & Sarah Appleby
Subjects covered include: social enterprise, marketing, and financial management.
  • 2011
  • Case

Social Finance, Inc.

by Shawn Cole, Rawia Abdel Samad, Matt Berner & Raluca Dragusanu
Subjects covered include: entrepreneurial finance, financial instruments, investment management, investments, nonprofit accounting, performance measurement, philanthropies, and social services.
  • 2010
  • Case

Equitas Microfinance: The Fastest-Growing MFI on the Planet

Subjects covered include: growth strategy, leadership, microfinance, social enterprise, and social responsibility.
  • 2010
  • Case

The Robin Hood Foundation

by Alnoor Ebrahim & Catherine Ross
Subjects covered include: nonprofit organizations.
  • 2009
  • Case

Acumen Fund: Measurement in Impact Investing (A)

Subjects covered include: philanthropies.
  • 2009
  • Case

Mibanco: Meeting the Mainstreaming of Microfinance

by Michael Chu & Gustavo A. Herrero
Subjects covered include: competitive environment, developing countries, emerging markets, international banking, and microfinance.
  • 2009
  • Case

Root Capital

by V. Kasturi Rangan & Katharine Lee
Subjects covered include: fund raising and growth strategy.
  • 2009
  • Case

United Way

by Allen S. Grossman & Catherine Ross
Subjects covered include: social enterprise and social issues.
  • 2008
  • Case

Absolute Return for Kids

by Herman B. Leonard, Marc J. Epstein & Melissa Tritter
Subjects covered include: nonprofit organizations, philanthropies, and strategy.
  • 2007
  • Case

Omidyar-Tufts Microfinance Fund: Striving to Reshape the Social Enterprise Capital Markets

by Michael Chu & Jean Steege Hazell
Subjects covered include: microfinance, philanthropies, and trusts.
  • 2002
  • Case

EMCF: A New Approach at an Old Foundation

by Allen S. Grossman & Daniel F. Curran
Subjects covered include: leadership, organizational change, and philanthropies.
  • 2000
  • Case

New Profit, Inc

by James L. Heskett, J. Gregory Dees & Jaan Elias
Subjects covered include: balanced scorecard, performance measurement, and philanthropies.