Truckee Business Models 'Social Impact Investing'

Nov 21, 2017

With housing in high demand throughout northern Nevada and eastern California, several property managers are charging higher rents to potential tenants.

But some companies are trying something different to increase value.

Gino Borges is a partner at OpenPath Investments, a Truckee-based real estate company that focuses on building shared, public spaces and communities, in typically isolated apartment complexes.

Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick spoke with Borges about this school of economic thought called “social impact investing.”

KUNR: What is social impact investing, and how did you come across that idea?

Borges: Social impact investing is when you focus on social and environmental returns alongside financial returns. My journey with social impact investing began in my early 20s when I had a very conventional finance job, where we focused primarily on spreadsheets and profits only.

At that time, I knew something was off; I just didn’t know what. And that set me off onto a journey into human inquiry and to wonder what else is out there in life. So I went and got my PhD in philosophy of all things, which inevitably came full-circle and I became attracted to who are working intentionally in the space of money and investing. And now that space is called impact investing.

For the number crunchers out there, is there metric we can use to measure social impact that then can be included in the overall economic package?

More and more data are actually coming out on companies that are focusing on social issues, environmental issues, alongside profit. Who started this was essentially Patagonia, a long time ago, essentially says, “Hey, it’s not enough to be a clothing company, but we also need to be responsible for the Earth that we are sending you out into with our new tents and our new gear.”

So eventually they began to understand themselves as an enterprise that’s responsible for stewardship. We’re beginning to see that more and more because millennials are now requiring it. They actually support businesses that are clear with social and environmental impact.

How do you convince the business community to look at social impact investing?

To treat people properly and to treat the environment properly is actually going to cost you less from a financial perspective than it would to do otherwise.

At OpenPath Investments for instance, when we treat our residents well who live in our community, they stay longer; they treat the property better. And in essence, occupancy rates are higher, turnovers are less.

When you approach it more from a holistic perspective, you start seeing, “Wow, life is all connected.”

We’re starting to see the impacts of this sharing economy, from the likes of AirBnb, Uber and other companies like that. Do you think social impact investing fits into this idea of a sharing economy?

Yeah, for sure. I do believe it because from an environmental perspective, one, there’s no reason for all of us to own two power drills a piece, when we’re only using them for five minutes a year. I think that’s what the average a power drill is being used.

It makes more sense for us to actually borrow what we need, because essentially we don’t want or need the actual material object. What we need is the output, it’s effect. I need the hole that the drill drills, not the drill itself.

The second part about it is when you share, you actually create social connection. When I don’t have something, and it requires me to go over to my next-door neighbor’s and borrow it, essentially that’s going to create a spontaneous connection.

What does the future of social impact investing look like? Is there interest in this sort of idea?

Wow, it’s just beginning, and I believe it will become the norm. Primarily because millennials and more and more people wanting to live with intention are requiring this. And as more and more of the wealth gets driven by intentionality, we will see more products and services and more infrastructure set up to make this much easier. For people to not only live intentionally, but to actually invest intentionally as well.

Gino Borges is a partner and Director of Impact at OpenPath Investments. He also speaks about social impact investing, including during last year’s Tedx event in Reno.