Dr. Cornelius Walter is an impact investor focusing on climate change, green infrastructure as well as industry innovators. He invests in and serves on the boards of early and later-stage companies with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals and sustainable business models.
Cornelius is also an advisor at Lightrock a leading global impact investing platform backed by the Liechtenstein family. At Lightrock, he spends a significant portion of his time predominantly focusing on energy transition and how to further scale the platform overall.
Prior to embarking on his journey as an impact investor, board member and advisor, Cornelius was a Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company, where he advised financial institutions, energy companies, public-sector organizations, and clients in a broad range of other industries on growth strategies and large-scale transformations.
What motivated you to become an impact investor? How did you start this journey?
After around 25 years with McKinsey and turning 50 about two years ago, I was planning to renew my value proposition and start a second chapter in my professional life.
„Having spent a significant part of my life in “learn” and “earn”, impact investing provides me with the opportunity to finally also start some kind of “return” pursuing a higher purpose.”
I strongly believe that the world’s key challenges with regard to our people and the overall environment can best be resolved through sustainable and social capitalism. Within this context, impact investing is all about driving towards this end.
How do you think impact investing evolved in the last few decades?
I came across impact investing the first time in the late 2000s when first investors emerged who focused on backing founder teams with a more holistic impact aspiration than just financial value creation.
This development has luckily accelerated since the UN issued its sustainable development goals in 2015 followed by the establishment of some pioneering impact investing funds such as Generation in 2015, Summa Equity in 2016 or TPG Rise in 2017.
By now, there is very strong demand for impact investing both among private as well as institutional investors. And Europe plays a frontrunner role in this space with according to a recent Market Pulse survey, 42% of European LPs by now considering a dedicated allocation to impact, compared to 28% in the US.
What are the main criterias you consider when deciding on an investment?
Usually, I am looking across 5 dimensions when assessing an investment:
- Vision: What is the founder team/company up to in terms of holistic impact aspiration, both ESG-related and financial? What do they believe that is not visible (yet) to others? And what happens if they are right and can deliver – how big can this be, again both in ESG and financial terms?
- Team: What is distinctive about the team? Why them? Do I share their values? What makes me believe they can execute and adjust in an agile way?
- IP/Product: Do they have strong product/technology & operations? What is the underlying customer acquisition and revenue model?
- Timing and competition: Why is it the right time now? How fast is the market moving? What are threats from competition including potential copycats?
- Exit and fit: What is the long-term aspiration? Why me as an investor/how can I help and contribute?
But despite all due diligence, it’s very much about my overall excitement regarding the investment, its envisaged impact and the people involved.
Do you have any favourite investments?
The three ventures in my investment portfolio, which truly stand out, are (i) South Pole, a Zurich-based global market leader for voluntary carbon offset, (ii) FarmWorks, a hub and spoke concept for farming in Kenya supporting smallholders on inputs and outputs as well as (iii) Tan90, an upcoming edTech venture in India trying to provide access to math tutorials for the lower middle class.
What advice would you give to a social entrepreneur looking for an investment?
Don’t compromise between ESG impact and financial returns. Both typically go hand in hand and a non-economically viable company will not deliver the envisaged impact in the long-term to make our world a better place.
Join us for the 6th Hungarian Impact Day on the 14th October 2021, in Budapest at the Radisson Blu Béke Hotel – where Dr. Cornelius Walter will be one of our speakers!
Our main aim with this year’s conference is for the participants to gain an insight into the world of ESG funds and impact investments, their relationship, their similarities and differences, and their impact and its possible measurement. True to our mission, with this conference, we strive to stimulate the impact ecosystem, increasing the number of social impact investments in Hungary and its region.
How does ESG differ from impact investment, how do they correlate, when do they go hand in hand and how do they help each other out? How can ESGs remain credible, how can we avoid impact/greenwashing? How can we reach out to more and more investors to reach impact investment? Are ESGs a tool? We strive to find answers to these questions and many more from actors of the financial world.
More info about the 6th Hungarian Impact Day: http://thbe.hu/konferencia/
Get your tickets here: https://impact-design.typeform.com/to/o6q6RZPd#ref=web