Jed Emerson is strategic advisor to family offices and wealth management firms executing diverse approaches to investing for financial returns with social and environmental impact.
Co-author of the first book on impact investing, as well as six other books on impact investing and social entrepreneurship, he has been active in both fields for nearly thirty years. He has served as founding director and board member of diverse social enterprises and impact investment groups.
Emerson is a Senior Research Fellow at University of Heidelberg’s Center on Social Investing and has held faculty appointments at Harvard, Stanford and Oxford business schools. He has taught social entrepreneurship at Kellogg Business School and NYU-Abu Dhabi in the U.A.E.
In the late 90s, Emerson coined the concept of Blended Value to describe the reality that the value we create in our lives and through our investing is a blend of social, environmental and economic elements. While the value we create is whole, we are asked to choose between doing well or doing good, making money or engaging in philanthropy and working in nonprofit or for-profit organizations. This dualism prevents us from capturing the full value and returns of not only our investments, but our lives and personal purpose. The Purpose of Capital: Elements of Impact, Financial Flows, and Natural Being explores how we may bridge the divide between how we think about doing well and doing good in order to optimize the overall impact of our lives and wealth.
In recent years, Emerson’s work has expanded to include consideration of not simply how to invest for more than money, but also how we might think about the deeper purpose of our wealth and lives—the Why. His latest offering, the eighth book he has produced, is The Purpose of Capital: Elements of Impact, Financial Flows and Natural Being and explores the broad and historic links and connections between how we think about money and investing and how we understand the total, integrated value of our lives and World.
Before becoming an internationally recognized leader in impact investing and social entrepreneurship, Emerson spent the first part of his career in social work, focusing on youth and community development. He was founding director of Larkin Street Services, a San Francisco-based nonprofit serving homeless and runaway youth. While he is proud to have served in that role and helped launch a program that over the years has engaged with thousands of homeless youth, he became frustrated with traditional approaches to philanthropy and nonprofit management. In 1989 he left Larkin Street to become founding director of the Homeless Economic Development Fund which later became the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund, or REDF, the second venture philanthropy fund in the United States and the first to fully document and disseminate its lessons through a wide variety of publications.