ClearlySo ATLAS and the impact effect

ClearlySo ATLAS is a digital platform created to assess the social and environmental impact of businesses and investments. Shivvy Jervis talks to ClearlySo head of impact research and innovation Lindsay Smart about the importance of showing impact to investors.

For investors interested in seeing returns that go beyond bottom-line profit – like positive social and environmental change – understanding the impact of investments is something of a holy grail. If you can’t measure or at least understand the impact of that investment – good and bad – it can get harder to justify that financial backing.

Now impact investment bank ClearlySo is looking to do just that, with the arrival of its ClearlySo ATLAS platform. The platform, developed with support from Reason Digital, was created to assess the social and environmental impact of businesses and investment portfolios.

ClearlySo – which counts social investment bank Big Society Capital among its own backers – believes that investing in businesses with a positive impact leads to good returns on investments, and gives something back to society.

The organisation works by raising capital for high-impact business, and introducing them to institutional and individual investors who share their objectives and values. To date, its clients have raised £115m in impact investment. “It is our mission to bring impact as the third dimension into investing, where all investors consider risk, return and impact,” explains the organisation.

ClearlySo ATLAS was unveiled in December last year. ClearlySo spent 18 months working with industry experts, especially investors, to get the product right. London-based VC Octopus Ventures – which last year invested in ClearlySo itself –became the first investor to use the live product.

In March just gone, ClearlySo ATLAS was the winner of DigitalAgenda’s inaugural Impact Awards, under the investment category, for its ability to clearly articulate and present the impact of investment, and for the far-reaching potential for that clarity of information.

The product was created specifically for private equity and venture capital investors, to help guide them when committing money to companies creating a positive impact.

“ClearlySo has been on a long journey of trying to bring impact to investment,” says Lindsay Smart, head of impact innovation. “Through that journey we have a lot of conversations with investors who really feel that impact isn’t something that’s relevant to them.

“We’ve been able to say we think it is relevant, let us show you how. What we wanted to do was to be able to develop a way to be able to show them that there is impact in all investment. It might be positive, it might be negative.”

“If you can’t see what that is then you can’t move forward on it,” says Smart. “ClearlySo ATLAS is trying to provide them with a way that they can clearly see where there is positive impact and where is there negative impact and then they can look at how they move forward on that.”

The platform encourages more ethical and sustainable investment by making it easy to analyse and change investment strategies – for financial gain and the greater good. Its methodology draws on best practice and sustainable principles, alongside ClearlySo’s own expertise.

One of the key objectives of the ClearlySo ATLAS product is to get investors to start using it, on their own terms. “We didn’t want to preach at them,” says Smart. “We wanted to give them something they would actually use according to the way they make investments. We had to develop something that fits into that environment.”

ClearlySo has high ambitions for the platform moving forward. “We would love for it to be the tool that all private equity and venture capital use to demonstrate where their impact footprint is, throughout the industry,” says Smart.

Shivvy Jervis has worked as head of digital content at Telefonica, as well as on her own video and presentation projects. Her focus is on the technologies that are helping to transform lives and the world around us.

Video produced by Joe Madden at Paradigm Creative