Fred Hollows Foundation Eyes Impact Investing
13 January 2016 at 11:33 am
Ending avoidable blindness is an “ideal target” for impact investors looking for measureable social benefit as well as financial return, a report from the Fred Hollows Foundation and UK organisation Social Finance has found.
The report, titled Power of Impact Investment to Improve Vision, found that the ease and low-cost of treatments, social impact and the prospect of strong financial returns made eye health attractive for impact investors.
With more than 10 million people in developing countries estimated to be blind due to cataracts, the scale of the investment, both in social and economic impact, has the potential to be huge, the report said.
CEO of The Fred Hollows Foundation, Brian Doolan said the report provided new ideas about how eye health could be financed and outlined a number of opportunities for impact investors in the sector.
“Impact investing is profit with purpose. It’s about extending finance to entrepreneurs and enterprises you wouldn’t normally extend it to with the intention of targeting a social outcome while generating a financial return,” Doolan said.
“By bringing a market-based approach to help fund the essential services that people in low and middle income countries need, we can change the business as usual mode for international development NGOs.”
The report identified the treatment of cataracts, blurred vision and trachoma as being well suited to the impact investment model because they had clearly measurable and attributable indicators.
Innovative business models already have a track record in eye health, with 300 social enterprise hospitals providing free cataract treatment to the poor, subsidised through fees paid by other patients.
However, the report found that the start-up costs for hospitals looking at social enterprises were restrictive, hence the need for impact investment.
The Fred Hollows Foundation is also currently working on the creation of a development impact bond to address cataract blindness in Africa.