Power of Ideas

Investing in Safe Water Allows Opportunities to Flow

By Matt Damon and Gary White

H ere we are in 2018. From artificial intelligence and self-driving cars to breakthroughs in medicine and space exploration, the human capacity to transform the world is infinite. Our collective imagination, ingenuity, and resolve are formidable fuel to propel us forward.

So how is it that, in 2018, there are still more than 2.4 billion people—six times the U.S. population—without access to safe water or the basic human dignity of a toilet? Why does a child have to die every 90 seconds from a water-related disease… and why are women and girls spending six hours a day collecting water? And all of this costs the global economy $300 billion each year.

It’s tragic, it’s unconscionable—and it’s totally unnecessary.

But there’s good reason for optimism. Like the technological advances changing the world, impact investing is an innovation that is changing how we connect the world’s greatest resources to foster enduring solutions to the world’s greatest challenges. 

Matt Damon Gary White WaterEquity field2

The power of impact investing is why we believe we’re now standing on the brink of the solution to finally end the global water crisis. Securing the fundamental human need for safe water and sanitation is the critical foundation required to break what has been a perpetual cycle of poverty and disease. By ensuring access to safe water, we spark a catalytic cycle of health, education, and economic opportunity.

To solve the global water crisis, it would take donations of an estimated $200 billion a year for the next five years. Annual aid amounts to $8 billion. That’s a big gap. But we know the resources—private and commercial capital—are out there. Currently, more than $250 trillion in private capital is sitting in global financial markets, according to Credit Suisse. 

That’s why we created WaterEquity, the first impact investment manager with an exclusive focus on raising and deploying capital to water and sanitation businesses throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Through WaterEquity, we’re aligning the world’s extraordinary capital resources with its most pressing challenges. And, we’re providing investors the unique opportunity to drive positive social change while also securing positive financial returns. Put simply, WaterEquity directs capital to create a better, more sustainable world. 

We launched our inaugural impact investment fund—an $11 million fund—to provide loan capital at slightly concessionary rates to microfinance institutions in India to scale their water and sanitation loan portfolios for the poor. In just one year, this fund ended the water crisis for 225,000 people and it’s well on its way to reaching one million people over its seven-year term. Investors are not only gaining a financial return, they are paving the way for a better world. We believe this is a strong value proposition for values-based investing.

Now it’s time to accelerate—and capital is the fuel. The more investment, the more people we can reach. The more people we reach, the closer we get to a world where everyone, by 2030, has safe water—and all the opportunity that flows from it. Let’s be the generation to make it happen.

Our first fund has already returned capital to owners in 2017. These results, alongside a $12 billion market demand among underserved families to participate financially to meet their water needs, have built a strong runway for us to launch our second, $50M Fund in April 2017. Investing in high-growth and socially-minded businesses in India, Indonesia, Cambodia, and the Philippines, this Fund will impact the lives of 4.6 million people over a seven-year term, while generating a projected 3.5 percent return for investors. 

The positive response to WaterEquity is gaining momentum. Forward-thinking corporations, foundations, financial institutions, entrepreneurs, and socially conscious individuals are leading the way as WaterEquity investors and have already committed $32 million. From corporations like the Niagara Bottling Company to financial institutions including Bank of America and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to the Skoll Foundation and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, we’ve heard the engine catch and it’s picking up speed. These investors are signaling a shift in the mindset about the power of impact investing to unlock the capital required to match the scale of the water crisis.

Now it’s time to accelerate—and capital is the fuel. The more investment, the more people we can reach. The more people we reach, the closer we get to a world where everyone, by 2030, has safe water—and all the opportunity that flows from it. Let’s be the generation to make it happen.

Let's be the generation to make it happen.

Written By:

Matt Damon and Gary White

Co-Founders, WaterEquity and Water.org


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