IMPACT Awards 2022

Personality of the year: Maria de Perlinghi, Norselab

"Impact should permeate all investing activities and become embedded in the global financial system," believes Maria de Perlinghi, partner and chief impact and communications officer at Norselab.

Since 2020, de Perlinghi has built the Oslo-based investor's impact investment approach, which she describes as the "future" of investment opportunities.

Maria de PerlinghiDe Perlinghi said that in 2023, it is "definitely a priority" for Norselab to "move further into other asset classes, beyond venture and credit". Norselab, she said, is "a group aiming to prove that impact investing is the future – no matter the asset class".

In 2022, de Perlinghi led the integration of impact in Norselab's investment process by creating 'the Meaningfulness Memo'. It contains the investor's impact assessment results and narrated insights, with a view to improving transparency.

Using the approach, she helped Norselab launch its first actively managed high yield fund: the Meaningful Impact High Yield fund, which she says is the first impact and Article 9 credit fund launched in the region.

The fund currently manages NOK 500 million ($51 million) in assets with a target to reach NOK 2 billion by the end of 2023. It invests in companies that contribute to sustainability.

De Perlinghi told Environmental Finance that Norselab plans to launch a second credit fund next year, as well as a fund in an undisclosed, different asset class by the end of next year.

In the past year, the 24-strong team at Norselab has appointed two additional personnel dedicated to impact, including de Perlinghi who heads the team. It plans to hire two more specialists at the beginning of next year.

De Perlinghi commented: "We started in the venture space, which is a slightly easier place to do impact. But we also have a goal to use our Meaningfulness frameworks to prove impact in other asset classes.

"If you want to invest impactfully in credit, you just have to be willing to invest the time and resources needed to create a robust research-based and data-driven framework.

"We see too many asset managers trying to do impact without dedicated resources and are just throwing excel sheets at companies. We don't believe in that approach at all."

She continued: "The new EU regulations coming into force are a real wake-up call to investors about how they should be making a difference with their capital, and a positive backdrop to the impact space.

"People are discovering that a lot of these top-rated ESG [environmental, social and governance] companies are not doing good at all or have products that are doing harm to people or the planet.

"They are discovering that just applying an ESG lens does not necessarily tell you whether a company is doing good in the world.

"You have to look at the revenue-generating products of a company to understand whether it is a company that is driving our world in the right direction.

"I only expect this to be reinforced over the coming year. I also expect a lot more funds to be downgraded from Article 9 to Article 8."

Article 9 funds are considered "dark green" under the EU's Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation.

Article 8 financial products promote sustainability in their investment objectives, among other characteristics, and are described as "light green", whereas Article 9 funds have sustainable investment as their target.

According to de Perlinghi, the following criteria are key to impact investing:

  • If you want to make an impact, focus on the company's revenue-generating products or services;
  • Be clear on your definition of "sustainability";
  • Account for both positive and negative impacts, throughout the value chain;
  • Apply a multi-lens approach;
  • If you can't prove it, don't claim it; and,
  • Invest in sustainability competence.

Before moving to Norselab, de Perlinghi worked at the Norwegian Seafood Council and Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.