The Brief | November 1, 2018

Boston’s impact party, mainstreaming gender equality, screening out dark money, MicroVest’s liquidity play, #PoweringJobs in energy access

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Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

Boston is a growing hub of global – and local – impact investing. Boston has a well-known history for challenging the status quo and for inventing new ways to connect and engage (patents for the telephone and the algorithm behind Facebook). The city now claims a growing number of global investors and community leaders modeling new ways to put finance to use for the greater good. The roster includes the $1.4 billion BlueHub Capital, formerly Boston Community Capital, a leading community development finance institution. The $2.8 trillion asset manager State Street Global Advisors has leveraged its shareholder muscle to influence public companies on gender equity. Private equity heavyweight Bain Capital’s $390 million nationally-focused Double Impact fund is headed by former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. Liesel Pritzker Simmons and Ian Simmons’ Blue Haven Initiative has committed nearly 100% of its more than $500 million assets to impact and sustainable investments. Social Finance is a pioneer of social impact bonds, while Boston Impact Initiative focuses on local economic justice.

“Each of these organizations is finding their niche and carving it up and bringing new capital to the sector,” says Jessica Brooks of solar investment firm Sunwealth, located just outside Boston in Somerville. “Boston is full of different organizations doing this work.” One we’re watching: Boston’s Ujima Project, which works in underserved neighborhoods like Dorchester and Mattapan to promote community cohesion and investments in local businesses and problem-solving.

Read, ”Boston is a growing hub of global – and local – impact investing,” by Jessica Pothering on ImpactAlpha.

ImpactAlpha Series: Beyond Aid

A strategy for unlocking an investment’s full gender – and financial – potential. Good gender-lens investment strategies add a gender screen to investment options. Great gender-lens approaches unlock unrealized value in achieving gender-parity. In the latest post in ImpactAlpha’s Beyond Aid series, MEDA’s Carolyn Burns and Devon Krainer introduce the organization’s “gender mainstreaming” approach and Gender Equality Mainstreaming framework. The strategy uses gender-based data to influence a business’ performance across its operations “to drive gender equality and business growth,” write Burns and Krainer. Such analysis, they say, “surfaces opportunities for women as suppliers, employees, leaders and consumers at any company.” MEDA has supported seven investment funds and 12 business leaders to adopt the GEM approach. Read, “A strategy for unlocking an investment’s gender – and financial – potential,” by Carolyn Burns and Devon Krainer on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

OpenInvest adds “dark money” screen to bring political spending to light. The ethical robo-advisor launched a “Divest From Dark Money” investing category to enable investors to automatically divest from companies that fail to disclose political and lobbying spending and invest in firms that do. The firm will determine companies’ policies and disclosure practices on political spending using the Center for Political Accountability Zicklin Index annual report, which in 2018 showed only 11% of S&P 500 companies fully disclose their political spending. Other OpenInvest screens allow investors to back companies supportive of refugees and gender equality and that fight human trafficking. The details.

MicroVest closes $20 million credit facility with Metlife to boost financial inclusion. Bethesda, MD-based MicroVest has closed a $20 million, five-year credit facility with MetLife Investment Management to provide liquidity for limited partners in MicroVest’s impact investment fund. MicroVest, which backs microfinance institutions in emerging markets, says the facility will allow it to deploy capital “more capital, more quickly,” to its microfinance-institution clients. The investment marks MetLife Investment Management’s largest community investment to date. Dig in.

NEoT Offgrid Africa takes over micro-utility in Nigeria. Paris-based NEoT Offgrid Africa has invested an undisclosed sum in Sabon Gari Energy, a micro-utility project of Lagos-based Rensource Energy. The investment will help extend distributed solar energy solutions to micro and small-and-medium enterprises in Kano, Nigeria’s second-largest city. NEoT Offgrid Africa, backed by France’s electric utility Electricite de France Group and infrastructure developer Meridiam, will take control of Sabon Gari Energy Solutions’ board, joining existing investors Rensource, Solar Power Holdings, Sissli, and System Trade Services. More.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Larry Cook, ex- of Intel Capital, is the new head of operations for the financial inclusion initiative at Omidyar Network… Power for All launched the #PoweringJobs campaign to create an “employment-ready workforce to scale distributed renewable energy solutions in emerging economies in Asia and Africa,” with a focus on women and youth… Impact Hub San Francisco is looking for a general manager… Acumen’s Lean Data team is hiring a full-stack developer in London and an East Africa manager in Nairobi.

November 1, 2018.