News and analysis
January 05, 2016

Liesel Pritzker Simmons: All In on Impacting Investing

Nana Kofi Acquah

Liesel Pritzker Simmons, 31
Co-founder and Principal, Blue Haven Initiative

Liesel Pritzker Simmons doesn’t just talk about impact investing. She backs up her excitement with action.

Raised in a wealthy civic-minded family, Ms. Simmons developed an early sense that social challenges are too big to be solved by only giving. She set up Blue Haven Initiative as a laboratory to answer the question: What happens if a family office — the company a wealthy family sets up to manage its holdings — invests all its assets prudently to optimize their social and environmental impact?

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With no skeptical board to persuade, she has the autonomy to experiment and learn by doing, an approach well suited to her action-oriented instincts. And she is working to ensure that these lessons ease the way for others.

This year, she helped launch The ImPact, a nonprofit that aims to speed the spread of impact investment through a peer- learning network. Ms. Simmons brings a winning wonkiness to the work: Ask about her most exciting investment and she’s just as likely to talk about the yields on bonds she bought from a large corporation because of its commitment to transparent reporting as the celebrated solar-power start-up bringing lighting to rural Kenya.

Mr. Bugg-Levine is chief executive of the Nonprofit Finance Fund.