Superannuation funds including Australian Ethical Super, Christian Super, First State Super and UniSuper are presenting at a summit designed to help find ways to get risk adjusted returns in impact investing.

The inaugural Impact Investing Summit, due to be held next week at Dolton House, Sydney, is bringing together 70 leading organisations from around the world to showcase strategies and ways of measuring success in this space.

It is estimated the market for impact investing will reach $32 billion domestically, and US$500 billion to $1 trillion globally, but there are still barriers to overcome before this can be realised.

Peter Murphy, chief executive of Christian Super, said the conference would help industry leaders to discuss the realities of impact investing, the philosophy behind it, and how to get risk adjusted return in an investable structure. Another benefit would be understanding the different skill set required to achieve those returns.

“Impact investing is clearly going to be a way for superannuation to look at a developing asset class,” Murphy said. “It’s not a new asset class, but it looks and smells a little bit different, and the conference will help super funds start to come to grips with the reality of this new form.”

Phil Vernon, managing director and chief executive of Australian Ethical Super, said chief investment officers would be able to explore the issues, view the showcase, and enter into the dialogue.

“Impact investing is really focused on trying to fill the gap in terms of providing capital to environmental and social outcomes, but still being based and retaining the benefit of enterprise and return,” Vernon said.

Vernon’s session ‘Impact investing on the listed market and the role of large corporates’ will explore several areas: the behaviour of corporates; investor expectations; and corporate and investor philanthropy.

“The theme comes from the fact that global capital, effectively embodied by the corporation, is the dominant global force these days and it was never really designed that way.

“So a lot of the movement over the last few years is how to build in the environmental and social considerations into corporate behaviour” he said.