Centre for Impact Investing

What is the Centre for Impact Investing?

Opening in late 2011, the Centre for Impact Investing provides a national hub to increase the awareness and effectiveness of social finance to catalyze new capital, talent and initiatives dedicated to tackling social and environmental problems in Canada. The Centre builds on the foundational work of MaRS and Social Innovation Generation (SiG), including the landmark report by the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance. The Centre will connect Canada with other hubs and initiatives around the world engaged in the emerging field of impact investing. Delivering educational programs focused on research and policy as well as market and product development, the Centre aims to strengthen our collective ability to mobilize private capital toward public good.

What is impact investing?

Impact investing seeks to solve social or environmental challenges while generating financial returns. This includes investments that may produce a return of principal capital or investments that offer market-rate, or even market-beating, financial returns.

Leading initiatives

Leading initiatives at the Centre include:

  • SocialFinance.ca, a platform providing analysis, community engagement, dialogue and information-sharing for investors, entrepreneurs and enablers.
  • SVX, a local, impact-first market connecting social ventures, impact funds and impact investors. Its goal is to catalyze new debt and equity investment capital for ventures that have demonstrable social and/or environmental impact, including non-profits, co-operatives, and for-profit corporations.
  • B Corporations—the Centre acts as a local hub for B Corporations, a new type of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.

Why create the Centre for Impact Investing?

From persistent poverty to climate change, we face entrenched social and environmental problems. Fortunately, a growing number of charities, non-profits, co-ops and for-profit companies are building business models to tackle these problems. They are turning to investors for the financing to launch and grow innovative new programs, in order to become sustainable and stimulate economic growth. As a result, new investment opportunities are emerging to offer investors positive financial returns in addition to social and environmental impacts. And an expanding base of interested and talented youth and mainstream finance leaders seek to support this work. However, there is currently limited coordination and no clear entry point for the emerging impact investing industry in Canada.

At the Centre, our main challenge will be to strengthen an emerging marketplace by mobilizing capital and establishing frameworks to more efficiently connect people and their innovative ideas to private capital, so that they can tackle complex societal problems, create jobs and foster communities.

The opportunity to advance impact investing is significant:

  • A shift in thinking is taking place. In recent years, leading Canadian foundations and investors have grown far more engaged in and supportive of impact investing.
  • Canada boasts a large target investor market. Currently, Canada has more than 30 impact funds that hold over $200 million in total assets and a combined portfolio of over 150 individual deals. Today, the Canadian impact investing market is $2 billion. In 10 years, it is projected to grow to $30 billion.
  • Social ventures have unmet demand for capital. A growing number of social ventures turn to investors to help launch and scale innovative enterprises. Research involving 250 social ventures indicates $170 million in capital demand, with over 70% of respondents reporting that access to capital presents a major barrier.

Foundation for success

MaRS has proven leadership in impact investing. As a platform for the Centre for Impact Investing, it offers:

  • A solid resource and research base recognized nationally as a knowledge centre and well-connected through partner networks.
  • Capital expertise and networks through angel and venture capital relationships, and active engagement in new fund formation.
  • Strong relationships with leading corporations and foundations as well as public-sector leaders.
  • The use of global infrastructure (e.g., GIIRS, IRIS) to advance local efforts.
  • Access to consolidated resources including deal-design templates, educational workshops, and strategic data.
  • Connections to investment-ready ventures and seasoned entrepreneurs—and the tools, advisors and programs to support them.
  • A community of experts and emerging talent built through MaRS networks, programs and services.

Founding partners

Founding partners in the Centre for Impact Investing include the Rockefeller Foundation and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.


Your Guide to Social Finance
Report of the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance, December 2010
An Overview of Impact Investing, Phillips, Hager and North, November 2010
Investing for Social and Environmental Impact: A Design for Catalyzing an Emerging Industry, Monitor Institute, January 2009


For more details or to find out how you can support the work of the Centre for Impact Investing, contact us at cii@marsdd.com or 416-673-8186.

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