By questioning the purpose of wealth, and the link between philanthropy and investing, Suzanne Biegel has become a passionate social investor, and a collaborative-woman- whirlwind catalysing social investment across the globe. “Beyond funding your lifestyle and deciding what is enough for you, I think you can say ‘what is it I am going to do through my work, philanthropy, investments,- everything I am a part of - that can fund the world in which I want to live,” says Biegel.
The native New Yorker began her journey to 100% impact in 2000, when she and her partner sold their e-learning and communications business and she set up a fund at the Liberty Hill Foundation whose board she later joined. At that time she was called ‘overly ambitious’ for her ideas on mission-related investment, and so began a quest to find fellow travellers “using both sides of their brain” when investing. Fifteen years on and Biegel has continually found those fellow travellers; she is currently one of a group of 40 or so investing for 100% impact, whose total portfolios across all asset classes are invested to create positive social change. Along the way Biegel has co-founded and spearheaded organisations across the world that challenge traditional investment thinking.
After moving to the UK five years ago, she joined ClearlySo, and set up Clearly Social Angels (CSA) – the UK’s first (and still largest) angel impact investing network. Under Biegel’s leadership, over £3.3m has been raised through CSA for 21 companies focused on social or environmental change – from Aduna, a superfood brand creating sustainable livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa, to Insane Logic, which provides apps and games for people with learning and communications difficulties.
One of the organisations on whose boards she sits is Confluence Philanthropy, a membership organisation for foundations and trusts moving to mission-related investing. It has grown to several hundred members from across the US. Biegel co-founded the Values Based Investment group of Women Donors Network, in the US, and also founded Women in Social Finance in London. Biegel’s own impact investing history is particularly focused on investing in women and girls, environmental sustainability and combating climate change. She speaks of ‘The Women Effect’ – the premium impact of investing in women and investment by women.
“This is not just about women and girls. It’s about diversity, and the evidence that diversity, whether it be on teams or inside portfolios, drives outperformance in portfolios,” says Biegel. “Whether you are using investment as a tool for social change, or just want to align your investments with your values, there are a lot of ways to engage. “
Her investment activities have given her a unique position in inspiring other philanthropists and investors to follow her lead. She is in demand globally as a speaker and writer on why and how impact is part of her criteria in her portfolio, and why she wants to recycle her money to do more good.