For decades, Bangladesh has been leading a site of innovative development approaches, and it is now showing the signs that it is also ripe for impact investment. Some of the very first pioneers of impact investment made their mark in Bangladesh. For example, Muhammed Yunus’ grassroots microfinance movement and the Grameen Bank demonstrated the vast opportunities available in Bangladesh’s social impact sphere in the 1980s. Yunus’s award-winning microfinance scheme, which saw small loans lent to communities to help them commence or run their own businesses as an avenue out of poverty, paved the way for the evolution of modern impact investment opportunities. The Grameen Bank initiative also highlighted how Bangladesh’s government and communities were open to innovative ways of leveraging private capital for social impact.

With projections to become the 24th largest economy by 2033, and with a growing population of 170 million, today, Bangladesh has never been so ready for further business and investment. In fact, over the past decade, the key industries underpinning Bangladesh’s economy have boomed, driven largely by growth in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment sector. The sector’s current value is US$47 billion and is aiming to reach US$100 billion in value in 2030.

However, as Bangladesh’s market expands, so do calls for women’s rights and equality in the industry. A changing regulatory landscape in the context of instances of female worker exploitation have highlighted that Bangladesh is at a pivotal moment where it will need to balance economic growth with social development and inclusion. This is no simple task and Bangladesh’s civil society is working hard to achieve democratic progress whilst government, local, and international non-government initiatives are concurrently working to build stronger commitments to labour rights and ethical working practices. In this context, Bangladesh has become uniquely positioned for investors wanting to make a difference in the impact investment space.

Why Impact Investment? 

Contrary to standard forms of investment, impact investment concerns itself with social benefit as well as financial profit. The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) defines impact investing as ‘investments made with the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return’. When investing with the intention of generating impact, investors facilitate atmospheres of growth, security and sustainability for the people and communities they choose to invest in.  

Recently, large development organisations such as BRAC, have realised the ‘mutually reinforcing objectives’ of the investment-development nexus, with established investments in the sectors of sustainability, housing, technology, and employment. Through such investments, BRAC has succeeded in the ‘localisation’ of funds and enabled community and national organisations to drive Bangladesh’s social development progress, rather than allow this sector to be overshadowed by international entities. This localisation drives lasting and sustainable change.  

Additionally, establishment of the National Advisory Board for Impact Investment in Bangladesh (NAB), has seen both social and environmental advocacy joining Bangladesh’s foreign investment agenda. The NAB launched the Bangladesh Impact Investment Strategy and Action Plan (BIISAP) in 2022 to guide the Impact Investment Ecosystem development process in Bangladesh. Rather than ignoring social inequality and environmental damage, emerging impact investors in Bangladesh are supporting civil minorities by using their position to enable infrastructure projects that prioritise environmental sustainability.

Build Bangladesh

One entity that has been leading the Bangladesh impact investment scene since 2016 is Build Bangladesh. With close ties to XSPI, Build Bangladesh is an innovative organisation working to mainstream impact investment in the country. In 2017, Build Bangladesh identified that Bandarban, a regional community in Bangladesh, had limited access to safe drinking water. Women and girls were travelling a long distance to collect water, which was often contaminated with bacteria, and the community faced extreme water scarcity due to prolonged dry seasons. 

In response to this identified problem, Build Bangladesh commenced the Prokriti o Paani project a financial investment project with a compelling social outcome. The project utilized locally sourced resources and community groups to build sustainable water towers. This project increased the community’s access to clean water, saved over 61,000 collective hours that were previously spent on water collection, and empowered women and girls to access income and education opportunities.This project and others have established Build Bangladesh as an innovative financing mechanism with development progress integrated into its business model. 

Build Bangladesh is now one of many exciting impact investing organisations emphasising the untapped opportunities present in the Bangladesh impact investment market, and showcasing how investors can support social and environmental progress whilst simultaneously receiving economic returns.

PoP Tower at Provaat Para, Bandarban, Bangladesh

Moving forward

With the nation’s rapidly growing and diversifying economy and population, Bangladesh’s impact investment sector is on the precipice of expansion. Australian donors, investors, and those already focused on impact investing have an incredible opportunity to mobilise their financial investments in support of a positive social return for our Bangladeshi neighbours. To continue to facilitate social and environmental progress alongside economic growth, it is key that Bangladesh, alongside Australian impact investors, work together to expand this impact investment sector.


Lily Van Berkel

Lily is a Research Associate at the Cross Sector Development Partnerships Initiative (XSPI), specifically working with the initiative’s Bangladesh Working Group. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Law (Honours) and Global Studies (specialising in International Studies) at Monash University.



Nick Goryl

Nick is working to establish a social enterprise in the garment industry in Bangladesh – a clothing factory where people earn a fair wage, a share of profits and have a workplace that is inclusive, safe and dignified. Following 10 years of research, planning and a discovery trip to Bangladesh, Nick has established a detailed business plan and a broad network of influential leaders in the Bangladesh garment industry willing to support the venture. Nick comes at this endeavour with 15 years’ experience as a manager in the health industry, a Masters in International Development and a deep passion for working to address poverty and disadvantage.

XSPI (Cross Sector Development Partnerships Intiative) is a network of development and business sector professionals committed to catalysing social change through cross-sector collaboration and diverse in-country connections in Bangladesh as well as Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

Feature photo: Local women collecting drinking water from PoP Tower, Bangladesh/XPSI