The Reconstruction | September 29, 2021

How climate-tech investments can create health and wealth in Black and Brown communities

Dennis Price
ImpactAlpha Editor

Dennis Price

ImpactAlpha, Sept. 29 – Investors able to spot scalable and community-based solutions will have an advantage as climate justice takes center stage in global climate talks and the U.S. infrastructure rebuild.

Communities of color that too often bear the negative impacts of climate change also are uniquely positioned to identify and scale solutions. Climate-resilient infrastructure and the low-carbon retrofit offer a generational opportunity for health and wealth. 

In partnership with The Plug, ImpactAlpha’s Agents of Impact Call No. 32 will showcase entrepreneurs and investors gaining an edge with scalable and community-based solutions. Guests include Taj Eldridge of Include Ventures, SaLisa Berrien of COI Energy, Kameale Terry of ChargerHelp and Donnel Baird of BlocPower. 

“We need to have founders and investors who have relationships with the communities that will have the greatest impact of climate change,” says Eldridge, who with VC Include’s Bahiyah Robinson is spearheading a new Climate Justice Initiative to recruit and support historically underrepresented and diverse climate fund managers in the U.S. and Europe.

>>> Join The Plug and ImpactAlpha for Black tech, green solutions, Tuesday, Oct. 12 at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London.

Diversity in asset management

Despite the potential, people of color remain significantly underrepresented among fund managers deploying climate-tech capital.

VC Include, which connects diverse fund managers with limited partners, aims to change the math. The Climate Justice Initiative, backed by the Hewlett Foundation, is focusing on emerging managers raising their first, second or third funds. The bet: Increased diversity in climate-tech fund management will drive more climate solutions, green business ownership and workforce opportunities in climate-impacted Black and Brown communities.

“This is a market signal,” says Robinson. The initiative is creating a pipeline of historically underrepresented fund managers that “bring an understanding of communities most affected by climate change and an understanding of founders that are creating solutions that address those challenges.” Robinson and Eldridge are partners at Include Ventures and on the initiative.

In the U.S., President Biden signed an executive order soon after taking office directing 40% of the benefits of federal climate action to disadvantaged communities. Activists and advocates also are mobilizing for COP26, the global climate summit set for November in Glasgow, where developed nations will be pressed to make good on commitments to mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020 to support climate action in developing countries.

Black and Brown leadership

VC Include in March awarded fellowships to more than a dozen women and VCs of color targeting ‘impact alpha’ with first-time funds. Among the fellows: Chicago and L.A.-based Supply Change Capital, Ruthless for Good Fund in New Orleans and Reign VC in New York.

Separately, Greentech Noir earlier this year launched to provide a platform for Black professionals pushing for systems change in sustainability and climate tech. The changes that Black and Brown communities “need to be healthier and greener are so much larger than the capital that they have access to,” founder Nneka Uzoh told ImpactAlpha at the time. “These are systemic changes that need to happen.”

Founding members included Eldridge, as well as Christian Okoye of Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, Amy Duffuor of Prime Coalition, UtilityAPI’s Devin Hampton, and Elemental’s Jamila Jarmon and Danielle Harris.

Browning the Green Space, a separate nonprofit, aims to boost the participation and leadership of Black and Brown people in clean energy in the U.S. northeast.

“Most of our folk are doing the work,” founding partner Kerry Bowie of Msaada Partners told BostInno in February. “We want to amplify what they’re doing, and we want to fill gaps and build bridges.” Bowie founded Browning the Green Space with Clean Energy Ventures’ Daniel Goldman.