ImpactAlpha Open: The ESG counter-counterattack

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ImpactAlpha Editor

Dennis Price

It’s Tuesday, Agents of Impact!

Welcome to ImpactAlpha Open, a weekly drumbeat of impact careers, connections and capital. 

📧 Get ImpactAlphaOpen in your inbox every Tuesday. Sign up FREE at ImpactAlpha.com.

In this week’s newsletter:

  • The costs of anti-ESG “riskwashing”;
  • Efforts to decarbonize cement;
  • Putting Palestinian entrepreneurs on the map;
  • The staggering economics of electric trucks; and
  • Market signals of diversity and inclusion.

Let’s get to it, but first, it’s the LAST WEEK to save 50% on a full ImpactAlpha subscription. Subscribe today to get that daily dose of impact + community.

  – Dennis Price


Must-reads on ImpactAlpha

  • ESG counter-counterattack. The coordinated anti-ESG campaign should be viewed as special-interest “riskwashing” that is hurting businesses, taxpayers, workers and retirees, ImpactAlpha’s Amy Cortese and I report. 
  • Decarbonizing cement. A flood of federal dollars has set off a rush among startups to develop low- or no-carbon to replace the ubiquitous building material that is responsible for up to one-tenth of all greenhouse gas emissions, report ImpactAlpha’s Roodgally Senatus and Amy Cortese.
  • Wastewater startups. Smart sensors, “internet of things” platforms, onsite treatment technologies and other innovations are shaking up the global wastewater treatment sector, which is expected to reach more than $460 billion by 2030, writes Ginger Rothrock of HG Ventures. (Open)
  • Practitioner wisdom. Vital Capital’s Nimrod Gerber distills three lessons impact investors can offer venture capitalists entering Africa’s hot startup market, including that “not everything can be leapfrogged.” (Open)

    • USAID Invest’s Lauren Yang offers examples of emerging-markets fund managers using ESG data to improve performance and manage material risks such as gender-based violence. (Open)
  • Gender smart. In Southeast Asia, Beacon Fund’s Shuyin Tang and Yen Do are demonstrating how investing in women-led agricultural businesses can strengthen food security in developing countries, where women produce the majority of food. (Open).

    • Recession? Inflation? War? Don’t panic, counsel Women of the World Endowment’s Patience Marime-Ball and Tara Health Foundation’s Ruth Shaber. Having more women in leadership “is about accelerating growth, peace and prosperity for our collective future.” (Open)

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Agents of Impact

🗺️ Ambar Amleh, Ibtikar Fund: Putting Palestinian entrepreneurs on the map

The risk factors for a venture fund based in Ramallah, Palestine are obvious; the opportunities perhaps less so. “Technology is borderless,” says Ambar Amleh, who co-founded Ibtikar Fund to bridge the early-stage funding gap for Palestinian entrepreneurs. “You can build great companies from here, supporting markets anywhere in the world, and it can be done profitably and effectively.”

  • Anchor funding. Investors seem to share that vision: Ibtikar has raised $15 million for its second fund from the Bank of Palestine, the Dutch Good Growth Fund, International Finance Corp. and local and diaspora Palestinian investors. The firm aims to raise $30 million by the end of the year.
  • Share, “Ambar Amleh, Ibtikar Fund: Putting Palestinian entrepreneurs on the map,” by Jessica Pothering and like the story on Instagram.

🏃 On the move

  • Give Directly co-founder Michael Faye once tried and failed to convince Rory Stewart, then the UK’s Minister of International Development, of the potential of cash transfers. Stewart now joins Give Directly as president, as Faye moves to executive chair.
  • Tim Youmans, ex-of Federated Hermes’ EOS, joins Calvert Research and Management as executive director and corporate engagement strategist. Youmans will develop relationships with select investee companies to make tangible improvements in company ESG performance.
  • Isabelle Hau, former head of U.S. education at Omidyar Group’s Imaginable Futures, joins Stanford Transforming Learning Accelerator as executive director. “Advances in learning, technology, data, and neurosciences are paving the way for breakthrough impact for all learners to thrive,” says Hau.

Deal Spotlight

🎮 Carbon Counts raises $7 million to gamify climate change

EverForest, the first game from upstart game company Carbon Counts, aims to help plant 100 million real trees on behalf of gamers by 2025. The Cambridge, Mass.-based company, which raised an initial $2.5 million last year, has rounded out its seed round with another $4.5 million from Borderless Capital, Algorand, the Algorand Foundation and other investors.

  • Climate and crypto. Inside the game, players engage with trees, plants and funny animal characters to grow forests. As players progress, Carbon Counts will plant real trees on their behalf through partners including Eden Reforestation and Earth Lungs. Carbon Counts will use the Algorand blockchain to connect playing and planting.
  • Creative capital. Investors are increasingly interested in the positive impact of video games. About a quarter of the more than 100 investment funds identified by Upstart Co-Lab that invest in the creative economy have invested in “social impact media” opportunities, including film and television.
  • Share this post. And check out all of ImpactAlpha’s Creative Economy” coverage.

Sustainability Economics

🚚 Here come the e-trucks

The cost of hauling goods with a Tesla all-electric semi, set to ship this year, could be up to 83% cheaper than a standard diesel truck, according to Tesla durability test operator Alex Gayer.

  • Electric truck economics. With the average price of a gallon of diesel fuel at $4.99, and Tesla’s energy cost of $0.07 per kilowatt-hour (via Tesla Megachargers, Megapacks and on-site solar), a 200-mile haul in a diesel 18-wheeler would cost about $170. In a Tesla semi-trailer, that 200-mile trip would cost … $28. 
  • More at Torquenews.com.

Six Signals

👩‍ Older entrepreneurs outperform younger founders, shattering ageism preconceptions. (Forbes)

📄 The ESG Term Sheet: A sequel to Obvious Ventures’ World Positive Term Sheet. (Obvious Ventures)

👩🏽‍🦱🧑🏼‍🦱👨🏾‍🦲👩🏻‍🦰 What Is DEI? Market signals of diversity, equity and inclusion (an analysis of 429 metrics from 21 frameworks). (Rights CoLAB)

🏢 Washington, Massachusetts and Maryland are passing laws to decarbonize buildings. (ACEEE)

📗 Climate Startup Playbook: A guide for founders turning theory into action. (Third Sphere)

🤦 These headlines, together: “California passes ban on gas cars by 2035.” “Texas passes ban on ESG companies.” (Calvin Froedge)


Get in the Game 

💼 Step up

🤝 Meet up

  • The African Green Revolution Forum is hosting its AGRF 2022 Summit with Harvest Plus’ Arun Baral, Agra’s George Birwa, World Bank’s Geeta Sethi and others, Sept. 6-9 in Kigali, Rwanda.
  • Carbon Trust’s Climate Tech Investor Forum will showcase the UK’s leading climate tech innovators, Sept. 22 in London.
  • Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility is hosting “Good Company: The Role of Corporations in a Just Society,” with Leo Strine, former chief justice of the Delaware Supreme Court, and Alison Taylor of Ethical System, Thursday, Sept. 29 in New York.

🎬 Take action 

  • Community Impact Fund in Great Barrington, Mass., is accepting applications for community projects through Friday, Sept. 30.
  • U.S. Venture and gener8tor are launching an accelerator for early-stage sustainability and mobility startups in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Need some help? Engage a Duke Fuqua School of Business Case i3 consulting team on your ESG or impact investing project. Apply by Wednesday, Aug. 31, here.

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