The 2021 Asia Pacific Social Innovation Summit will be held on April 10th and 11th at the Hilton Taipei Sinban Hotel. The theme of the Summit this year is “Invest Asia: Building A Sustainable Resilient Future.” All of those who are interested in social innovation are welcomed to share the experiences of how enterprises implement sustainable development goals while looking into the prospects of economic development in the Asia-Pacific region and Taiwan.

The reason why we choose “Investment” as the theme can be traced back to the sustainable development goals set by the United Nations in 2015, when a clear consensus was reached: Human beings ought not and will not only pursue short-term rewards at the expense of long-term benefits. There are many ways to implement sustainability, and many social innovation organizations with a strong sense of commitment have already created various innovative and practical solutions. The greatest challenge, however, lies in how to sustain the solutions. “Impact investment,” with the original intent of sustainable development, is one of the ways in which social innovation organizations can continue to contribute.

Impact investment is an investment strategy that aims to generate positive influence and financial gains by investing funds in a specific environmental or social mission. Impact investments may take the form of various asset classes, spanning from stocks to bonds and others. The crucial point here is its requirement to generate financial gains, or at least to recoup the investment. This is the main difference between impact investment and traditional charitable donations.

According to a social investment report by the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) in 2019, awareness of social innovation and commitment in Taiwan has continuously improved. Advantages such as widespread digital insfrastructure, mature human capital and charity donation habits make Taiwan a highly potential market for impact investment.

Taiwan’s Social Enterprise Revolving Trust (SERT) is a noteworthy case. In 2015, private individuals in Taiwan initiated SERT to assist the development of social innovation organizations through specific investments and network connections. As of 2020, more than NT$13,000,000 has been invested, benefiting a total of 19 social innovation organizations, including “One-Forty,” an orginazation dedidated to assisting Southeast Asian migrants and workers to self-cultivate, and “Social Enterprise Insights,” the largest social enterprise media in the Chinese-speaking world.

Over the past few years, Taiwan’s government has also continuously strived to make the social innovation ecosystem more comprehensive, thereby expanding the foundation for impact investment. In 2018, the “Social Innovation Action Plan” was launched to link various government agencies together, providing the most complete support for social innovation organizations through policy linkage in various aspects such as value cultivation, regulatory adjustments, and international connections.

Furthermore, in view of the fact that sustainable development goals have long been the focus of corporate governance of listed companies, the Financial Supervisory Commission has planned a three-year “Corporate Governance 3.0-Sustainable Development Blueprint” starting from 2021. It not only strengthens the environmental, social, and governance accountabilities of enterprises, but also emphasizes on the promotion of sustainable development related products such as sustainable development bonds, social responsibility bonds and green bonds, while guiding capital investment into sustainable development under market mechanism.

At this year’s Asia Pacific Social Innovation Summit, attendees will get a glimpse into the progress of Taiwan’s impact development. VIPs including Jeffery Sachs, Chairman of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and Cliff Prior, CEO of The Global Steering Group for Impact Investment (GSG), are also invited to share their insights into the current status of impact investment around the world. Faced with the onging COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s summit will be an integration of virtual and physical activities. Those who physically attend the Summit will be able to interact with one another on the spot and review video recordings afterwards. Those who are unable to visit Taiwan will be able to take part through live-streaming.

For investors, impact investment is a kind of “patient capital.” It is often necessary to provide other services to the investment target in addition to funds, and while the investment time is long, the profit is meager. However, it takes concerted efforts to achieve sustainable development goals. If we are willing to sow the seeds now, future generations will be able to see an entire forest. We welcome more people to join the Asia Pacific Social Innovation Summit. Let’s work together to create greater impact for sustainable development.