Creating Impact during COVID-19


Creating impact during COVID-19

This is the first in a series of blogs of about being impactful during the COVID-19 pandemic. This week: investing in ways that sustainably meet basic needs.


April 20, 2020

In these last few weeks we all have seen the COVID-19 pandemic bring dramatic disruption to our economy, health systems and daily lives, and for some, much more disruption than others.

We’ve been pleased to see a strong philanthropic response to the pandemic. We believe there will be a strong impact investing response as well. Investing is a powerful tool that complements philanthropy and can have massive positive impact. Viewed through the lens of impact investing, we at Rally Assets are assessing how we and other impact investors can respond to the crisis in deliberate and positive ways.

The case for impact investing has been made stronger by this pandemic

Our first response has been to take stock. What does this pandemic remind us about the value of impact investing?

The system was already flawed

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on a system that was already under pressure, revealing how deep and significant the fissures were. It has magnified and exacerbated underlying problems that existed – like income inequality – but were not adequately addressed. It took a pandemic to highlight, the system and the people within that had no capacity to absorb an unexpected shock like COVID-19.

Investing for positive impact is the right action

While there is much to be concerned about, we remain optimistic about our collective resilience and the opportunities to achieve positive impact. Despite and perhaps because of the current disruptions, this is a moment when substantial progress can be made on key social and environmental problems. We have the opportunity right now to decide what we want the post-COVID-19 economy to look like and who we want it to serve and benefit.

The SDGs are a useful guide for measuring the impact of our actions

One way to measure progress is to use the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 SDGs set out a plan of action to strengthen peace, eradicate poverty and protect the planet through global sustainable development. At Rally we use the SDGs to frame our investment approach by grouping them into the following five investable themes, which are useful and practical when thinking about how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Sustainably Meeting Basic Needs
  • Empowering the Structurally Excluded
  • Addressing Climate Change
  • Sustainable Use of Natural Capital
  • Social Infrastructure

Sustainably meeting basic needs is about our most fundamental needs in order to survive: clean water, food, housing, healthcare and medical care. This theme encompasses five SDGs:

  • Goal 1: No Poverty
  • Goal 2: Zero Hunger
  • Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being
  • Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
  • Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

As investors we must support and defend access to these basic needs and human rights, beyond the interventions we will see from government and philanthropists.


How impact investors can help to sustainably meet basic needs during COVID-19

Invest time and energy

Some of the current advocacy actions we are seeing fall within basic needs, such as efforts to secure a new universal basic income system and the efforts to ensure that commercial and residential renters aren’t evicted. You may wish to advocate on such issues. Or to act on a more individual basis, such as by picking up groceries for family members or neighbours. We hope you make time to look after your own basic needs.

>Walking the talk: At Rally Assets, we have been using our networks to amplify the efforts of Save Small Business, which is advocating for immediate significant relief for the thousands of small businesses at risk of being decimated by the pandemic. We have also been supporting an initiative designed to provide access to ventilator capacity for front-line health care providers.

Make charitable donations

Many organizations are helping to sustainably address basic needs, and they can be helped by donations. Examples include food banks and shelters, health organizations working on the front lines and Human Concern International, which is putting together pandemic relief kits for low-income families.

Walking the talk: Staff at Rally are supporting Toronto Foundation’s Better Toronto Coalition Fund and Hamilton Community Foundation’s Pandemic Response Fund. Both foundations have identified numerous front-line agencies focusing on basic needs that need financial help. Individually too, we are responding. For example, Ammara (one of our senior consultants) is sending money to Pakistan to support and create packages which contain food for families of daily wage earners and others who cannot buy food due to loss of income from closure of businesses. Estelle (our marketing manager) is helping friends in Zambia, where food prices have doubled.

Invest in companies that are helping to sustainably meet basic needs

Charitable donations alone are not enough to deliver sustainable development. We both know that; it’s why we are impact investors and it’s why you are reading this newsletter :). Without making any specific company recommendations, we encourage you to consider investing in companies that are helping to sustainably meet basic needs during this pandemic, like those that are: 

  • Mobilizing health care professionals to meet medical needs
  • Ensuring the seamless flow of information among healthcare institutions such as transfer of electronic records
  • Producing sanitary products for individuals and institutions
  • Supplying healthy food

Whether it’s time, charitable dollars or invested capital that you are able to contribute, your agency matters. Acting today creates the better tomorrow that you want.

We’d love to hear what you think of our themes and our ideas.