GSTF: Infrastructure investment is key to addressing social inequalities

Investment in the sector can create a more inclusive and equitable post-covid world, say Ethan Hall, CIO, and Anita Bhatia, investment director, at Guy’s & St Thomas’ Foundation

What role do infrastructure and impact play in GSTF’s investment strategy?

Ethan Hall

Infrastructure plays a critical role in our assets. A large part of our endowment is comprised of buildings in densely populated urban environments. As a foundation investing in a healthier society, we are committed to managing these spaces with impact goals at the heart, constantly learning and evolving our approach in pursuit of our dual objectives of financial return and health impact.

In our impact investments, some specifically aim to support housing for disadvantaged people. We also target investment opportunities that improve community infrastructure, healthcare services and our environment, because we recognise that all those dimensions play a part in people’s health and wellbeing.

What is the key to success with impact investing?

Impact investing in infrastructure requires patient capital and considerable collaborative engagement. Local communities and other stakeholders need to be part of the conversations about the design and build of what essentially will be their living and workspaces, their amenities and facilities. Engagement can be resource-intensive, and reaching a balanced decision is not always a smooth process. However, the impact delivered in the end can be highly effective and engagement is key to integrate the voices of those whose needs you are working to meet.

Anita Bhatia

Has the pandemic changed the outlook for impact investment?

We are acutely aware of the health inequalities that are prevalent in our society today. The pandemic has accentuated such inequalities, but it has also put the spotlight on infrastructure. Investors are increasingly recognising the importance of strengthening our infrastructure for economic growth, for levelling up and addressing inequalities. So we do believe that more investment capital will flow into this sector, not purely for financial gains but also to create a healthier, more inclusive and equitable post-covid world.

How does GSTF track and measure impact?

We regularly monitor both the financial and impact performance of our investments to ensure that our expectations are on track. For impact, we developed our own impact assessment methodology, integrating tools such as the Impact Management Project’s five dimensions of impact. With each investment, it’s key for us to understand what is going to change as a result of the investment, which groups of the population are expected to be impacted, and the number of people that are likely to benefit as a result.

What are your infrastructure impact aspirations?

We are directing more capital to investments that target improvements in our buildings, public services and facilities. We are committed to high standards in our practice and the opportunities we pursue, particularly around diversity and inclusion, ESG considerations and net-zero targets. Most critically, we are developing two of our major property holdings into lab-enabled, life sciences-targeted commercial developments. These will help build an ecosystem for healthcare innovation that will benefit all in our community. In doing this, we strive to improve quality of living and health and well-being.