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Impact Investments In Creative Manufacturing

Feb 09, 2022 | Dillon Gohil

The creative industries consist of a vast array of sub-sectors including architecture, fashion and handicrafts to name a few. It is one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the world economy with an annual growth of 9 per cent globally and 12 per cent in the developing world (Callanan, 2020). It comes as no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic brought many creative manufacturing and handmade businesses to a halt, affecting both consumption and distribution. Additionally, with the industry’s workforce being one of the world’s largest yet poorest, it’s important to know some of the opportunities for financial inclusion within this space (in this case, something called impact investing).

1. What role does the UN (United Nations) play?

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is an intergovernmental organisation in charge of formulating policies related to development in sectors such as technology, finance and the culture and creative industry. The UN recognises the creative economy as a force for social cohesion and economic development and also mentions creativity and culture as targets in four of the UN’S Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, there is yet to be an SDG devoted to creativity which is a potential reason why impact investors have been reluctant to prioritise the industry.

At the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in late 2019, the UN declared 2021 to be the ‘International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development’, acknowledging the sector’s criticality towards sustainable development and innovation as well as its contribution to cultural diversity and support of entrepreneurship. This proposal recognised the need to promote sustained and inclusive economic growth, foster innovation and support developing countries or countries in economic transition with diversifying production and exports within creative industries.


2. What are impact investments?

One solution proposed by the UN to shape the creative economy sector is impact investments. These are investments made with the intention to generate positive, measurable, social and environmental impact alongside financial return. The term ‘impact investing’ was only coined in 2007, although its idea of reducing the negative effects of business activity on the social environment have been around from much earlier. Impact investors consider a company's commitment to corporate social responsibility or the duty to positively serve society.

A vast amount of impact investing is done by hedge funds, private foundations, banks and pension funds, however another major venue is through microfinance loans which allow small-business owners in developing nations start-up or expansion capital.


3. Opportunities for impact investments in creative manufacturing

A 2020 Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) report showed that many impact investment leaders had been defining what is constituted under creative manufacturing too narrowly, i.e., some investors were indirectly active in the art and culture industry through their investments in other sectors such as housing or education. Similarly, while creative manufacturing was not a priority for a lot of the funds analysed, many of their portfolio companies were in the creative industries, hence showing a strong correlation between the creative economy and social and environmental impact (Callanan, 2020).

It is also important to understand that consumer concern regarding the production of the goods and foods they consume has grown marginally within recent years. Being both sustainable and ethical have become trends and the average consumer’s tastes are changing more rapidly than ever, through the internet and social media for example, with consumers wanting ‘more engaging, authentic and varied experiences and products’. This is therefore incentive for impact investors to get involved in the creative economy due to its scale, market opportunities and increasing consumer demand.


4. Examples of impact investment funds directly focused on the creative economy

·       Mirabaud Patrimoine Vivant (France) - a private equity fund at socially responsible Mirabaud Asset Management focused on European artisan and traditional craft businesses

·       HEVA Fund (East Africa) – finance, business support and knowledge with a focus on fashion, media and design, allowing special funds for women entrepreneurs.

·       Local Initiatives Support Corporation NYC Inclusive Creative Economy Fund (USA) - investing in affordable workspaces for creative economy businesses generating quality jobs for middle-skill workers, as part of a strategy focused on strengthening low-income communities.

·       The Arts and Culture Finance Fund (UK) - lending growth capital to non-profit arts organisations and social purpose businesses in the creative economy.

As the creative and culture sector grows in a post-pandemic world, so will the investments going into it.


Earlier this year, a platform for entrepreneurs, industry experts and academics named Creativity Culture & Capital came to fruition, which brings together international stakeholders who believe that art, design, culture, heritage and creativity can benefit people, communities and the planet; and that impact capital will be a vital tool to support the growth and development of the global creative economy. For more information visit



Callanan, Laura (2020), ‘Impact investing in the global creative economy’, Creativity Culture & Capital. Available at:

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