Impact of social finance

Tuesday 11 October 2022 16:40

ESSILOR VISION, VIETNAM, MYANMAR, GLASSES, EYES, CHILDREN, INTERVIEWS Essilor vision foundation eye exams in Hue, Vietnam. March 16, 2018. (Photo by Claire Eggers ©2018)

join a mission

I joined Standard Chartered Bank as a summer intern at just 18 years old. When I joined as a graduate, I settled into the fast-paced world of capital markets sales. After four years, I made the leap to pursue a mission-driven career in Sustainable Finance, where I now lead a team that focuses on new product innovation. I have been fortunate to be involved in the Bank’s sustainability work for the past 8 years, in particular its landmark contribution to preventable blindness, Seeing is Believing. With my inspiring friend and former colleague David Fein as president, surrounded by an amazing team, between 2003 and 2020, my colleagues raised more than $104 million to prevent and cure blindness for 250 million people in our footprint.

A problem in sight

Investing in eye health is one of the most effective and proven solutions to unlocking human potential. More than a billion people live with vision problems that could be corrected today. Poor vision is linked to lower educational attainment, lower general health and well-being, a higher number of traffic accidents, and lower productivity. All of these can be fixed with something as simple as a pair of glasses, and this can really unlock a person’s future potential.

The case for supporting eye health is clear. It is also clear that philanthropy alone cannot meet the need. That’s why my Standard Chartered is spending time developing products that not only fund solutions for eye health and other global issues, but deliver financial returns to investors.

A new approach

Thanks to Seeing is Believing and the incredible work of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, the Vision Catalyst Fund (VCF) was established. Standard Chartered is a founding partner along with other major players including EssilorLuxottica.

The Vision Catalyst Fund’s goal is to raise millions of dollars of new money to provide permanent access to eye health for all, bringing together the private sector, governments, NGOs and non-eye health actors to achieve scale. We will use finance differently, raising new resources through co-investments and innovative financial tools.

Social Impact Guarantee

The first example of this innovation at work is the Vision Catalyst Fund’s partnership with Tri-Sector Associates, the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and Santen Pharmaceuticals to develop a new financial product: a social impact guarantee for eye health to raise $25 million for health programs in Asia and Africa.

A Social Impact Guarantee works like insurance. Donors pay premiums to a guarantor who backs the investment in case program results are not achieved. We will launch multiple Social Impact Guarantees, pooling premiums to fund additional programs.

The pilot will focus on a school-based eye health program in Vietnam, with Santen as the founding guarantor. As trustee, I bring Standard Chartered’s technical expertise to the project.

be part of the movement

I think it’s important to say that social finance is a means to an end, with the goal of bringing the vision to over a billion people in one generation. The Social Impact Guarantee and other similar products are only of value if they can improve the lives of as many people as possible through access to eye care.

The VCF’s ambition is also to provide another proof point of the role of social finance in solving the world’s biggest problems. This means engaging in learning, not as an end in itself, but to drive behavior change across the entire sustainability ecosystem.

The challenge of achieving universal eye health demands extensive experience and perspectives. This includes non-traditional participants. If you think you could be part of this, we appreciate your collaboration.

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