How Balloon Ventures is (cost-effectively) banking the “missing middle” in East Africa. Big businesses can access credit from commercial banks. Micro- and informal businesses can get tiny loans from microfinance institutions or a growing number of fintech and enterprise tech startups (for context, see, “How technology is disrupting small-business financing in emerging markets – in a good way”). Across much of Africa, however, locally-owned small and mid-sized businesses – the kinds with five to 100 employees – "are massively ignored," says Josh Bicknell of Balloon Ventures. The U.K.-based small business lender cuts checks of around $25,000 to Africa's small businesses, a step above the $1,000 to $2,000 checks from most fintech companies. Balloon’s model: Bundle capital and business support services into a cost-effective loan product that can be replicated and scaled across business sectors and markets. “If we can make it work, then that unlocks a multi-billion dollar market, which people should be interested in,” Bicknell tells ImpactAlpha.
Dealflow: Food Waste
Afresh rakes in $115 million to help grocers reduce food waste. The San Francisco-based company developed an AI-based system to help grocery store owners manage fresh food inventory and sales to reduce waste. Afresh says more than 3,000 grocery stores in the U.S., including Albertsons, Cub Foods and Save Mart, use the product to cut waste by at least one-quarter. Afresh aims to reach 10% of all supermarkets in the country and plans to expand to Europe as well as other food categories. About 40% of all food produced in the U.S. is thrown away, and most ends up in landfills. Afresh says by year’s end, it will help its customers save 34 million pounds of food waste going into landfills.
Impact Voices: Net Zero
How four institutional investors use climate action plans to map their paths to net zero. Two years ago, the New York State Common Retirement Fund set a goal to zero-out greenhouse gas emissions across its portfolio by 2040. Helping it get there: a climate action plan created in 2019. New York Common is one of a small but growing number of pension funds and asset owners and managers adopting such plans to guide their net-zero journeys. “Investment, engagement, policy advocacy and disclosure are critical pillars of robust investor climate actions,” Ceres’ Kirsten Spalding writes in a guest post on ImpactAlpha. Ceres is a founding partner of The Investor Agenda, which also includes CDP, Institutional Investors Groupon Climate Change, and Principles for Responsible Investment. The group’s Investor Climate Action Plans Expectations Ladder sets expectations for investors looking to implement comprehensive climate action plans.
Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent
RMI’s Climate Intelligence Program is hiring a carbon markets manager in Boulder, Colo… New Story is looking for an impact investment senior manager in Mexico City… Chanelseeks a head of global sustainability transformation in London… Human Rights Watchis hiring a researcher of climate displacement in New York… The Estée Lauder Companies is recruiting a manager of sustainability and climate action in New York.
Editor’s note: This article is sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Impact Ventures, which supports ImpactAlpha’s Investing in Health coverage. In partnership with J&J Impact Ventures, ImpactAlpha is exploring the …