Stichting Netherlands Advisory Board on impact investing (NAB) is a non-profit organisation aiming to accelerate the growth and improve the effectiveness of the impact investing market.
Scroll down to read Laure’s story.
The NAB is devoted to catalysing Dutch impact-driven stakeholders to achieve the SDGs. By raising awareness on impact investing, addressing its barriers and co-creating solutions, and engaging with a broad range of stakeholders, the NAB thrives to mobilize impact capital where it is needed. The NAB is part of a global network of similar organizations – national advisory boards (NABs), grouped together under the Global Steering Group for impact investment (GSG).
The NAB plays a key role in creating cohesion and coordination among the Dutch impact investing ecosystem and liaising with public and private stakeholders, to build a common understanding of the opportunities created by an efficient impact investment ecosystem.
The NAB is action-oriented, collaborative and transformative, and aspires to become the prime Dutch platform supporting the impact investment industry and to be recognized as a leading centre of expertise in the sector.
Meet the Impact Community – Laure Wessemius – Chibrac
How would you introduce yourself when meeting a new person?
I’m Laure, 48 years old from France, married to a fantastic Dutch guy and a mother to 3 wonderful children. I’m also a reformed banker, after graduating in 1995 I started working in a bank (BNP Paribas) in Paris and then moved to London where I worked on equity capital market transactions for ABN AMRO Rothschild.
I had a big shift in mindset in 2004, after the birth of my first child, when I realized that profit and finance was not the only purpose in life. I also discovered that I was working way too much, I was seeing my child only during the weekend. Therefore, I decided to leave banking, moved to The Netherlands and decided to work on my legacy focusing on sustainability. After a few years, I started working for Cordaid, an INGO based in The Hague, as director of their investments unit. Here I had the opportunity to connect my purpose with my expertise, meaning sustainability and impact with finance.
After 5 years I realized that even though I really enjoyed my work, the world needed scale to solve its most pressing problems and I felt that I could help better by building bridges between the financial and the impact sector. I was lucky to meet a group of leading institutional and impact investors who were looking to establish a community with this purpose. After the feasibility study of the NAB which was conducted with the financial support of ImpactCity and DOEN Foundation, we found out that although the Dutch impact investing sector was advanced compared to other countries, yet it was very fragmented and lacked coordination as an ecosystem. Consequently, the NAB was established, with the purpose of creating a community that will work together to develop more efficiency and address the barriers to scale the impact investing ecosystem.
What motivated you to become an impact entrepreneur?
The motivation was not becoming an entrepreneur in the first place, it was more of a side product of what I do. My passion is really making impact investment the norm. I believe that every single action that we take has either a positive or a negative impact. The year I left ABN AMRO in London in 2005, the bank generated in the world indirectly by their financing more CO2 emissions than the whole of The Netherlands. This made me realize that money has enormous power. It is a great tool, but also a great force. Why not use it for good?
My absolute conviction is that if you use the financial systems for good, then you can trigger a lot of positive change. My fundamental motivation is making financial institutions (and if needed policymakers and regulators) acknowledge that every single transaction they make has an impact and strive towards making that impact a positive one. Besides that, I also like the challenge of transformation for good and progress. It gives me a purpose in life and makes me jump out of my bed every morning.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
I think growing the NAB community is a big achievement in many ways. First of all, if people join you it means that they trust and believe in you so that as an ecosystem we have found a common ground to work on a solution. Secondly, it means that the awareness and the drive for sustainability and impact are growing, so that’s a positive sign for society as a whole. Thirdly, the number of our community members is on the rise, and that ultimately makes us a financially sustainable organization, which is not only important for any entrepreneur but also enables us to ensure the continuity of our mission.
What do you do on a daily basis to grow as an entrepreneur?
Like many entrepreneurs, I have a tendency to work too many hours during the week. I have had to learn to work in a very focused way during the week and to try not to pollute my resting moments in the evening and weekends. In the end, you also have to accept that you can’t do everything. Part of my personal development experience has been accepting that I’m not irreplaceable (haha) and that some things can wait without me having to deal with them on the spot.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
The best thing I learned in my life is to express my empathy. As a young professional, I was always overachieving, stemming from the sector I was working in, where mistakes were not allowed. I learned to be empathetic later when I had children. It is the one element that allows you to create deep and meaningful connections with any other human being that you meet in your life through understanding their life, their challenges, and their emotions. Empathy means taking the time to understand and feel for people, which ultimately makes you a better partner, manager, stakeholder, client or supplier.
What are you recently up to?
There are three aspects I focus on right now in terms of the development of the NAB’s activity.
The first is growing our community. We need to “de-fragment” the market and we do it by engaging stakeholders. The more institutions participate, the better our solutions will be. Therefore, a large part of my work is establishing partnerships and engaging with all the other stakeholders, including policy-makers.
Secondly, it is organizing our activities. We’re a start-up organization which means that we are not short of ideas for projects, so I have to prioritize. In the coming weeks, we’re starting a mapping exercise, which will be a report on the state of the impact investment sector in the Netherlands. The outcome will not only measure the size of the sector but also ask to establish a diagnostic of the challenges the Netherlands is facing to increase the scale of impact investments.
Thirdly, we’re starting a number of working groups, with different members of our community depending on what is at stake globally. We’re engaging with different participants in the Netherlands and exchanging knowledge: some of the first ones will focus on the EU taxonomy, another on capital requirements for impact investments: we are not short of challenges to tackle!