Pioneering Impact: A Conversation with Wayne Silby

During the Impact Forum, the IIX and Shujog staff had the honor of spending time with Wayne Silby, a pioneer and giant in the space of inclusive investment, and a keynote speaker at this year’s Impact Forum. Despite his busy schedule, Wayne spent two full days at the event, attending panels and talking with countless friends, colleagues and actors in the space who have all followed in his footsteps and joined him on the long journey to inclusive growth. Participants had numerous questions for Wayne after he outlined his vision for the growth of Impact Investing, and his responses were insightful and thought-provoking.

As a pioneer in this space, Wayne Silby is, now more than ever, an advocate for “expressing your values in terms of how you use your money.” Very often, we hear him say that he and Calvert Group’s other co-founder John Guffey didn’t invent social investing, but that they turned the concept mainstream. In his keynote speech, Wayne promoted the idea of creating a cultural meme around social impact and building a movement incorporating all, not only the social entrepreneurs and the underserved, but a new generation of investors, policy makers and other stakeholders.

Throughout the Forum, Wayne advanced novel, elegant, and creative solutions to challenges facing the space. These included encouraging traditional investors to allocate small percentages of their portfolio to impact as a means to reducing risk and volatility, formally involving the community in exits, and urging a transition from thinking about beneficiaries as passive recipients of help to active participants in shaping their own destiny.

Wayne also stressed the importance of Asia, and China more specifically, in promoting sustainability given its global prominence. Having successfully launched the social investment movement in the US, he now spends much of his time traveling to China, principally working with Synato, the CSR consultancy he launched  in Beijing. His present work spans beyond the private sector to the creation of more systemic change, and he presently acts as an advisor to the policy arm of the Chongching government. When he is not in Asia or the US, Wayne focuses on Africa, an increasingly dynamic space for social entrepreneurs. Like many leaders and entrepreneurs, Wayne emphasizes future opportunities rather than stressing what he has already achieved, and he views Asia and Africa as regions with tremendous potential for impact investment. As he aptly put it: “If we don’t create a more inclusive society it is quite possible that the poor will start including the rich – and not in a good way.”


By Weina Li, Shujog Research Manager