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Besen Foundation Moves into Impact Investing

6 April 2016 at 10:09 pm
Lina Caneva
Leading Australian philanthropic fund the Besen Family Foundation has moved into impact investing, joining with National Australia Bank, to support a new fund that wants to raise $100 million to invest in water rights in the Southern Murray-Darling Basin.

Lina Caneva | 6 April 2016 at 10:09 pm


Besen Foundation Moves into Impact Investing
6 April 2016 at 10:09 pm

Leading Australian philanthropic fund, the Besen Family Foundation, has moved into impact investing joining with National Australia Bank to support a new fund that wants to raise $100 million to invest in water rights in the Southern Murray-Darling Basin.

The Besen Family Foundation is coordinating with the Nature Conservancy Australia, NAB and a number of other wealthy Australians in advancing the fund.

As Pro Bono Australia News reported late in 2015, the Murray-Darling Basin Balanced Water Fund raised $27 million late last year to buy and lease water rights while protecting culturally significant wetlands that support threatened species in the basin.

The fund now wants to raise a further $75 million from high-net-worth individuals, institutions and superannuation funds.

“The Besen Family Foundation has always applied an ethical screen to its investments to avoid those industries that have a negative impact on society. We see impact investing as an extension of this ethical mandate,” Terry Christofides, Managing Director of Highpoint Property Group Pty Ltd, a related entity to the Besen Family Foundation, told Pro Bono Australia News.

“The move into impact investing is a result of the shared knowledge, experience and enthusiasm of the trustees and the next generation of family members. So we see impact investing as more of an evolution than change in direction for the foundation.

“We have a clear mandate from the trustees to allocate a proportion of our corpus towards impact investing.

“We were attracted to water as an asset for its long-term capital growth, low correlation to other assets and its capacity to generate yield.”

Christofides said introducing water as a new asset class to the foundation balance sheet assisted with improving diversity to its investments and thereby reducing its concentration risk.

In offering advice about moving into impact investing by other philanthropic foundations Christofides had a positive outlook.

“Impact investing does not result in reduced financial returns,” he said.

“Comparable returns are available without compromising the risk/return equation for investing.  Patience however is required in finding these investment opportunities as they are less prevalent than the traditional mainstream options.”

The Nature Conservancy’s  Australian Country Director, Rich Gilmore, said the philanthropic dollar was becoming very important in being the catalyst to unlocking bigger, private investors as they were able to invest with the due diligence and confidence to help seed impact investing.

“This is the first time in the world where a water fund has been established to achieve the multiple objectives of providing secure water for agriculture, returns to investors and wetland restoration at scale,” Gilmore, said.

“We are delighted to have the Besen Foundation on board along with a number of high profile investors and other philanthropic organisations who have chosen to remain anonymous at this stage.”

The new water fund has been described as the first major social impact investment for conservation in Australia, where investors have sought both economic and social returns.

Gilmore said the Nature Conservancy Australia now had 25 full-time staff working on impact investments through conservation.

“We have dozens of impact investment projects globally and in Australia in the pipeline,” he said.

He said water was a natural opportunity for impact investing because the impact was easily measured.

The Besen Family Foundation was established to build on the philanthropic tradition which was started by Melbourne-based retailing billionaire Marc Besen and his wife Eva.

In the Australia Day honors in 2015 Marc Besen was named a Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia for his service to the visual and performing arts and contribution to a range of social welfare initiatives.

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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One comment

  • Robert Vincin says:

    The Murray Darling Basin Report (MDB)
    It is a sad day in Australia when we permit non-qualified Senators and MPs to make permanent decision on the life blood of Australia’s baseline asset water soil vegetation and in so doing change many lives for the worst. Such political appointments not understanding or researching the history and geography present their “report’ in keeping with the brief given by Prime Ministers, Cabinet, and MPs. The 2015-6 Senate MDB report the chair’s opening thoughts referred to the Riverina was based upon an 1814 extract based on Explorer John Oxley journal of the Peel River. The MDB report supports Government actin to buy back water rights granted to irrigators when in fact no water exists. This ignorance of addressing the problem accelerates the cause as the once surface flush annual flow of water that due to mass land clearing is now down to the ancient salt soils poisoning the water.
    The current government ignores all the land water experts and continue to follow the political line of holding annual Senate lead inquiries staving off expert input for another year.
    Fresh water floats on salt water! The cooled Earth bombarded with Ice asteroids washed across Earth’s surface and minerals. These salts charged the oceans and soils and over millions of years, rain water transported by transpiring vegetation to upper catchments meandered surface flush to lakes and seas. The fresh water rested on top of ancient salt water. Succeeding governments even today authorise/instruct mass land clearing breaking the conveyor belt transpiring rainfall. When wind driven rain occasional reaches upper catchment the free flowing gouges out the fresh water retention soil deep and very wide. The once potable fresh water across the Australia’s stable food bowl is now virtually stagnate toxic algae/salt. The soils forests vegetation from Queensland NSW now into the Southern Ocean!
    This prime example of Government 2016 assuming they are the “intelligenta” on all matters as exampled by The MDB Chair and Senators applies to a host of Senate committees. The 2016 Government has dismissed 300 from CSIRO working on core survival science for future generations.
    So April 18 2016 a joint siting of Parliament will discuss 0.0001% of critical issue to enhance the current government chances control of Parliament for 3/6 years. This drive for central control of government is one step short of a Republic (Cuba comes to mind).
    To loose independent Senators and indeed lower house members is to allow non-qualified people to allow further losses of out only assets soil water vegetation atmosphere bees.
    Listen to the assembly April 18 next and who discusses only the 0.001% of pressing matters and who stand to ask where is the future money to payout the mounting global debt create jobs and restore the base line assets of the historians of tomorrow! Your, and the kids’ futures rest on the model set in Canberra April 15-18 2016 and who is qualified to rebuild Australia!
    Without prejudice Robert Vincin
    Vincin over 25 yrs studies hand written journals First European Explorers and author There was no river system


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