Introducing our new member Trill Impact: “All companies can have good ESG performance but not all can deliver positive impact”

Trill Impact is a pioneering impact house, with the core purpose of implementing and furthering impact investing, that is, investing in goods or services that in addition to financial return generate actual positive and measurable societal and/or environmental effects.

Trill impact was founded in early 2019 by Jan Ståhlberg who was part of the initial team at the alternative investment firm EQT. Ståhlberg has a long experience from the private equity and venture capital industry, and he visioned to build an impact house as a force for positive change in the world, focusing solely on impact investing. In 2021 Trill impact closed its first €900 million buyout fund which targets well-positioned mid-sized companies with growth-potential and most importantly the element of impact. Trill Impact’s first portfolio company in Finland is Raksystems, a property wellbeing expert group. So far, in addition to Finland, the impact house has invested in companies in Germany, Sweden, and Austria and there is more to come.

All companies can have good ESG performance but not all can deliver positive impact. We see those two things as separate. Impact lies in the service or goods that the company provides, its influence on society, and ESG on the other hand has to do with how the company is internally run, like recycling and good management. Aspiring to a good ESG standard is definitely desirable, but we aim higher”, explains Annemari Kirppu, associate at Trill Impact Advisory.

Kirppu is currently the only Finn working for Trill Impact’s investment advisory team. The company’s diverse team includes 12 nationalities and consists of 22 investment professionals and 6 additional impact experts. The advisory team is today based in Stockholm and Munich and is growing quickly. The impact experts focus on measuring and analyzing the actual positive and negative impacts of companies, even before investment decision. Different metrics, developed by the experts, are used to continuously measure and report the net impact development of a portfolio company. The impact experts work side by side with the company’s management throughout the ownership to further grow the positive effects on environment or society.

Trill impact’s portfolio company, ILT Education, is an example with impact at its core.  The company initially didn’t have any data to prove how much their digital learning tools, directed at children with learning disabilities or from multilingual backgrounds, actually help in providing equal opportunities to all children. The impact expert team developed a metric to measure how big the impact exactly was. According to the data, 82% of teachers in Sweden and 70% teachers in Finland said that the tools remarkably improved language development among all children. Now Trill Impact’s goal during its ownership is to grow ILT in order to reach as many children internationally as possible while following how the learning results improve.

With ILT the societal impact core was already there, we helped to provide metrics and data to prove it and keep and improve that impact focus while supporting growth”, says Kirppu.

Impact and returns – equally important

In addition to its buyout strategy, Trill Impact has a microfinance strategy which advises on lending to entrepreneurs in developing countries who otherwise would not have the opportunity to scale their business. In 2021 the microfinance fund reached 5.4 million entrepreneurs globally, 74% being women.

With the microfinance fund we are starting at the very grassroot level and the loans provided to independent entrepreneurs give them the opportunity to grow, employ other people and pay for their children’s education for example. The social impact just spread”, Kirppu explains.

Kirppu however underscores that Trill Impact is not a charity organization, and neither are its investors. The investor group behind the buyout fund consists of pension funds and other parties with financial interests and expectations.

Trill Impacts vision for the future is to grow internationally as an Impact House – the company plans to open more advisory offices and have multiple investment strategies that all further the same impact values. Trill Impact also wants to act as a thought leader in the private investments industry and drive others in the same direction.

We hope that in the future more companies in the industry take environmental and societal net impact into account in their actions. We have already seen the industry move towards transparency due to increasing regulation. Eloquent words won’t cut it anymore and many have realized this but there is still a lot of work to do”, Kirppu concludes.

Read more on Trill Impact’s website.