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#Philanthropy — 21.12.2017

Case Study: The Cordes Foundation

The Cordes Foundation is a family-owned and -run foundation, focused on alleviating global poverty and empowering women and girls to fully participate in the development of their communities.


Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2016, the foundation was an early adopter of purpose investing and currently commits 100% of its balance sheet to a diverse portfolio of impact investments.

In 2014 Stephanie Cordes, a millennial philanthropist, brought her passion for ethical fashion to the role of vice-chair of the foundation, which was founded by her parents, former investment manager Ron Cordes and his wife Marty.

One example of the Cordes Foundation’s private debt and private equity holdings is Soko, an ethical fashion brand that connects marginalised artisans in Kenya with global consumers and international retailers.

Limited to local sales, millions of talented artisans are trapped in micro-economies and locked out of global demand by inaccessible traditional supply chains.

93% of millennials believe social impact is fundamental to their investing decision (1)

“Non-profit and foundation boards’ fiduciary duty is to make as much money as possible to ensure thev endowment continues in perpetuity. We’re saying, you can do it in a smarter way with purpose investing, achieving comparable financial returns while mirroring your organisation’s values, vision and mission.”

Julie Shafer

Head of Strategic Philanthropy & Purpose Investments at Bank of the West

Soko measures its social impact cross the following factors, through a combination of survey data, in-person interviews and data collected through the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) system on its mobile platform (2):

Soko’s virtual resource planning system manages its distributed workforce, matching demand to production capacity in real time, reducing costs and improving the commercial offering. Using production data to create artisan performance and behaviour profiles, Soko says it has created the first reliable production and capacity models within an informal and previously invisible sector.

“We specifically wanted investors like the Cordes Foundation which saw Soko as a for-profit business that does good rather than as a philanthropic initiative. The business model inherently makes a positive impact on people and the planet, so the financial metrics take precedent.”

Karelli Cabral

Chief of Staff at Soko


This infographic accompanies the 2017 BNP Paribas Individual Philanthropy report “Passing the torch: Next-generation philanthropists”, written by The Economist Intelligence Unit.

(1) U.S. Trust, 2016, via The ImPACT: http://theimpact.org/

(2) The Cordes Foundation’s social key performance indicators (KPIs) for Soko relate to job creation in the artisan sector of Kenya and economic empowerment, particularly of women. It does not demand additional social impact KPIs, considering this too cumbersome and impractical for businesses.