Having just published the latest edition of our Impact 30 list, we received some thoughtful feedback: that comparing a giant infrastructure-focused energy transition fund with, for example, a private equity strategy with a financial inclusion theme, is very much in “comparing apples with oranges” territory. Or as this particular contact put it: “like ranking a tennis player vs a soccer player vs a rower.”

It made us think about the ranking afresh: is there value in lining up managers who don’t compete for the same deals, don’t work towards the same impact outcomes and often don’t target the same rates of return? They frequently have entirely different LP bases: some dominated by corporates with strategic objectives, some by financially motivated public pensions. Subscribers can download a list of 203 LPs behind these funds in Excel and see for themselves here.

The Impact 30 list is calculated using the same long-standing methodology as those published by affiliate titles, such as the Infrastructure Investor 100 or PEI 300. However, in these asset class-specific rankings, the competitive element is clearer; firms may have differentiated strategies, but they arguably all answer the same investor need. They are not performance rankings, but topping one of these lists can be seen as achieving “best of breed” status when it comes to persuading investors to trust them with capital.

What unites the Impact 30 funds is not asset class; instead they each fit the definition of impact as outlined by GIIN. To over-simplify it: they all have explicit non-financial objectives, which they measure and report on to investors, alongside their financial return goals.

So, unlike our other rankings, the Impact 30 does not tell us clearly who is at the top of any particular competitive stack.

What does it tell us then?

For one thing, it tells us thematically where outcome-oriented capital is heading at scale (spoiler alert: it’s decarbonisation). Another – perhaps more important – use for the list is as a signpost for outcome-focused LPs, showing them where to find managers with the institutional set-up to accommodate large scale commitments.

As this market develops, so too will the ways we try to map it. We may start to slice the market by impact themes. Climate and the energy transition, for example, could well merit its own ranking or, as hinted at by EQT’s Christian Sinding this week, could become such a ubiquitous concern that it transcends all investment strategies. We would be interested to hear about priority areas from subscribers.

And in the here-and-now, “ranking” is probably the wrong word for the Impact 30; we’ll be calling it a list from now on.