The ESG Initiative at the Wharton School


The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Harvard Business School, and University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School Collaborate on Impact Investing Data Collection

New joint effort will advance both research and practice in impact investing

wsii rustandy and hbs collaboratory logos

PHILADELPHIA, October 28, 2020 – Chicago Booth’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, the Harvard Business School Impact Collaboratory, and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School announced today the launch of the Impact Finance Research Consortium (IFRC), a joint effort to collect comprehensive data on impact investing funds. The IFRC’s key initiative is to build a database on the financial performance, due diligence practices, investor relations, legal governance, strategy, and management of impact investing funds across the world. The resulting Impact Finance Database (IFD) will catalyze groundbreaking research on this young but rapidly expanding field.

This effort comes as impact investing is becoming an increasingly important part of the investment landscape, with individual and institutional investors seeking to combine private sector financing with the promise of achieving broader social and environmental aims. The upswell in impact investing is evident from allocations of large institutions, foundations, development finance institutions, and family offices, as well as the increase in funds focusing on private and publicly held securities that seek to achieve both financial and social returns.

At the same time, many questions remain. For example, many impact investors assert that social and environmental benefits can be achieved without sacrificing financial performance, but there is little independent research to support or refute this claim. In addition, the way impact investments are structured to maximize efficacy is an important but open issue.

The Impact Finance Database builds on the Wharton Impact Research and Evaluation Database (WIRED), which was originally launched in 2014 by the Wharton Social Impact Initiative under the guidance of Professor David Musto and Vice Dean Katherine Klein.

“At Wharton Social Impact, we’re focused on building the community and the evidence base for impact investing. Our partnership with Chicago Booth and Harvard Business School will expand and accelerate our efforts to do both. The data we collect will contribute to leading research on the intersection of finance and impact, while also demonstrating the value of collaboration among practitioners and academics,” said Klein.

“The field of impact investing is developing, and the accelerating growth of impact funds makes now the perfect time to collect data on the industry,” said Jessica Jeffers, assistant professor of finance at Chicago Booth. “This partnership has the potential to provide access to fund-level goals and other quantitative metrics. And with access to more data, we hope, will come new evidence-based practices to guide the future of impact investing.”

Harvard Business School finance professor Shawn Cole said, “We are pleased to collaborate with Wharton and Chicago Booth on this effort. Both schools bring considerable resources and talent to this project. Quality data and rigorous research—on both financial and social returns—will not only dramatically advance conceptual understanding but aid actual practice in this space.”

The IFRC is actively contacting impact investing firms, with hopes of building a large and representative sample of the sector within six months.

About Harvard Business School and the Harvard Business School Impact Collaboratory

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 200 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and doctoral degrees, as well as more than 70 open enrollment Executive Education programs and 55 custom programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, HBS faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching to educate leaders who make a difference in the world, shaping the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.

Led by Harvard Business School professors Shawn Cole (Finance) and V. Kasturi Rangan (Social Enterprise), the HBS Impact Collaboratory is a research-led effort to advance the understanding and practice of impact investing by developing world-class educational offerings, supporting rigorous academic research, and engaging with industry to accelerate practice.

About the Wharton School and Wharton Social Impact Initiative

Founded in 1881 as the world’s first collegiate business school, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is shaping the future of business by incubating ideas, driving insights, and creating leaders who change the world. With a faculty of more than 235 renowned professors, Wharton has 5,000 undergraduateMBAexecutive MBA, and doctoral students. Each year 13,000 professionals from around the world advance their careers through Wharton Executive Education’s individual, company-customized, and online programs. More than 99,000 Wharton alumni form a powerful global network of leaders who transform business every day. For more information, visit

The Wharton Social Impact Initiative (WSII) is Wharton’s cross-disciplinary center for research, training, and outreach to advance business-based solutions to social and environmental challenges. Our mission is to strengthen the role of business in creating a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable global economy.

About Chicago Booth and the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation

The University of Chicago Booth School of Business is the second-oldest business school in the United States and the first to teach executives. As an intellectual destination, Chicago Booth draws scholars and students from around the world to its campuses in Chicago (Hyde Park, downtown), London and Hong Kong.  Booth consistently ranks among the top business schools in the world, and its graduates include dozens of notable business leaders across the U.S. and worldwide. Nine faculty members have been named Nobel Prize winners, three of whom currently teach at Booth.

The Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation is the destination at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business for people committed to tackling complex social and environmental problems. As Chicago Booth’s social impact hub, the Rustandy Center offers hands-on learning opportunities, supports innovative courses, and pursues research—all with the goal of developing people and practices with the potential to solve the world’s biggest problems.