Interview with keynote-speaker Dr. Tillmann Lang on Impact Investing

by Benita Dreesen and Adeline Choo
Dr. Tillmann Lang

With a fresh new team put together, GreenBuzz Bern revitalises itself to continue promoting global sustainability. Focusing on Sustainable Finance and Sustainable Regulation, the goal is to help innovation in business and industry.

Join us on 22 Oct 2020 for our launch event, with high profile speakers discussing Circular Economy transition, future regulatory changes and economic impacts. In the run-up to this event, we caught up with keynote-speaker Dr. Tillmann Lang, Co-Founder and CEO at Yova Impact Investing.

Dear Dr. Tillmann, according to your definition, what does ‘impact investing’ exactly mean?

At Yova, we adopted the definition by The GIIN (Global Impact Investing Network, the world’s leading authority on impact investing):

“Impact investments are investments made with the intention to generate positive, measurable, social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.”

This duality is what defines an impact investment. It should make you money but it should also make the world a better place.

Why does impact investment matter?

Because every investment has an impact. Even the money on your bank account finances something. It could be a hospital – or a new oil drilling site in the arctic. The problem is that you probably will never know. The difference between an impact investment and a conventional investment is that you make sure that the impact is a good one.

How do you define sustainable companies, i.e. companies that Yova deems appropriate to invest in? What are the criteria and is the circular aspect of a company one of the criteria you look at?

We identify the companies that put the world on a track to a sustainable future. We do this by analyzing their handprint and their footprint. The handprint is the impact that a company’s products have once they are out in the world. Because, of course, it’s a big difference whether you produce wind turbines or gas turbines. Both have a handprint that unfolds throughout decades. The footprint entails all impacts from production and the supply chain. 

We look at footprint and handprint for a range of dimensions, from climate change to education, gender equality and biodiversity. Our customers then decide for themselves what they care most about. And we make sure their portfolio entails the companies that match their value.

The number of available sustainable investing funds has more than tripled since 2008. What is driving this growth?

People care. They understand that climate change is real – and coming quick. Just imagine: If you have a child today, it’s very likely that it will experience the year 2100. But for us, even 2030 or 2050 seems distant. People understand much better how important sustainability challenges are than politicians and businesses give them credit for. Their desires – and hence investor demand – are a large driver of growth for sustainable investing. Regulation is a driver, too.

How do you see the future of impact investing?

Impact investing will become the standard way of investing. Not only because it’s the right thing today. But also because it’s financially sound and simply the preferable approach for a society and economy that has become very disconnected for its financial industry. 

About Dr. Tillman Lang

Dr. Tillmann Lang is an expert in technology-driven innovation for sustainability and finance. He is the CEO and a co-founder of Yova Impact Investing, the leading digital platform for investments with a sustainability impact. Before founding Yova, Tillmann was an Engagement Manager with McKinsey & Company, where he worked with global organizations on sustainability innovation and energy-transition strategies. Tillmann also served as the CFO of Benefiit Impact Investing and was the founding director of the Sustainability-in-Business Lab at ETH Zurich. He is a TEDx speaker and keynote speaker in subjects such as entrepreneurship, innovation, technology and sustainability. As a computer scientist and mathematician, Tillmann holds a PhD from ETH Zurich and studied in Heidelberg and Santiago de Chile. Tillmann lives with his family in Zurich and likes to spend as much time as possible with his feet in hiking or skiing boots.