Greetings, ImpactAlpha readers!
#Featured: GSG Honors
Sir Ronald Cohen and the Global Steering Group to honor impact leaders — like you. A couple of months ago, ImpactAlpha asked for your “favorite impact investors.” The excellence of the dozens of suggestions drove home the need for a more formal process. Now, ImpactAlpha is delighted to partner with the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment to select honorees for the “Impact Summit” in Chicago, July 10–11. Nominations are open in four categories:
- Impact Asset Owner of the Year. Institutional investors and foundations, high net-worth individuals and family offices, corporations and banks and governments and other asset owners directing their capital to impact.
- Impact Entrepreneur of the Year. Founders and executives making an impact through for-profit companies, social enterprises, non-governmental organizations or non-profits.
- Impact Asset Manager of the Year. Impact fund managers, as well as other dealmakers placing or allocating impact capital.
- Impact Market-Builder of the Year. Leaders in the impact ecosystem, including policy advocates, professional-services providers, government agencies or media outlets.
The Global Steering Group, which grew out of the (then) G8’s impact investment taskforce of several years ago, coordinates national advisory boards in more than a dozen countries. Sir Ronald, sometimes described as “the father of British venture capital” and the chair of the GSG, will present the honors. Winners will receive travel expenses to Chicago from the Ford Foundation. Nominate yourself, or your favorite impact champion.
Nominations for the 2017 GSG Honors are open at impactalpha.com/gsghonors. Please share widely.
#Dealflow: Follow the Money
MyStrongHome launches with $8 million from Calvert Foundation for coastal climate adaptation. Often the discussion of climate resilience focuses on vulnerable overseas communities, but severe and changing weather patterns are also having a noticeable effect on many parts of the U.S., including the bayous of Louisiana. The investment from Calvert is part of the Bethesda, Md., nonprofit investment manager’s new Capital Aggregation initiative to syndicate fixed-income investment opportunities. MyStrongHome, which combines climate-resilient construction with financing and insurance products for coastal residents of Louisiana, South Carolina and Alabama, also raised $1.7 million in equity-like financing from Prudential Financial and several foundations. MyStrongHome was launched by Margot Brandenburg, formerly of the Rockefeller Foundation, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The debt investment from Calvert, backed by MetLife, Pi Investments and the Libra Foundation, will enable the company to retrofit its first 1,000 homes. MacArthur Foundation provided a guarantee on the senior debt.
Change.org gets funding boost from big names in tech. Call it a sign of the times: West Coast billionaires are throwing their weight behind Change.org, a for-profit “social enterprise” that serves as a hub for petitions and civic engagement. LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman led the $30 million investment, with backing from Bill Gates and Y Combinator’s president, Sam Altman. Hoffman described the deal as the “the largest personal impact investment” he has made to date. “Change.org performs functions that are key to a healthy democracy,” he writes. “It gives a megaphone to marginalized and disenfranchised communities. Its users and petition starters hold powerful interests accountable.” Change.org went through a difficult time in the months before the U.S. election. Last fall, it laid off 30 percent of its staff. Since then, it has launched crowdfunding capabilities through its website to bolster revenue.
Danone pours funds into Ghana dairy venture. The French food giant is injecting $25 million into a Ghanaian dairy business it acquired with The Abraaj Group in 2013. The capital will go to expanding the production capacity of the Fan Milk factory in Accra, adding 200 local jobs in the process. Danone says in a company statement that it is committed to local manufacturing and combatting youth unemployment in the region. It is also developing new high-nutrient products for the West African market, including an affordable drinkable yogurt that will be launched from the new factory. West Africa represents a €1.4 billion ($1.57 billion) market for Danone. Dubai-based Abraaj has invested in numerous food and dairy companies across the African continent. Fan Milk, a 55-year-old company, sells its dairy products in seven other West African countries in addition to Ghana.
See all of ImpactAlpha’s recent #dealflow.
#Signals: Ahead of the Curve
ImpactAlpha Original: Transcending Trump in Taormina. Raise your hand if you share the G6 consensus on sustainable development. President Trump may well come out against the Paris climate accord this week, after refusing to join the G7’s “strong commitment” to “swiftly implement” the global agreement. But it may be that nobody gives much of a damn what Trump thinks, writes ImpactAlpha’s David Bank. The rest of the G7 is behind a raft of global plans, mandates and commitments. On the agenda for Canada’s Justin Trudeau’s turn as head of the G7 for the next year: Tackling inequality as a systemic risk. Closing gender gaps. Creating jobs in the Next Product Revolution. And investing billions in Africa through blended financing and public-private partnerships. American cities, states, citizens and business leaders may be able to step into the breach of Washington’s abdication of leadership on climate. But they’re not alone. World leaders still have our back. For the moment, the 2030 global goals are holding. Read David’s full piece over at ImpactAlpha.
Nordic solutions to global challenges. As the Trump administration turns away from the global consensus on sustainable development (see above), the Nordics are doubling down. Case in point: Norway is phasing out gas and diesel-powered cars by 2025. Norway already leads the world in electric car ownership. There are 100,000 electric vehicles driving Norwegian roads — the highest per capita of any country. “Norwegians are turning their backs on fossil fuels and embracing electric cars like nowhere else,” says NPR’s Malcolm Brabant.
Norway’s moves are especially significant as the country is still one of the world’s top oil exporters. The state’s sovereign wealth fund, still heavily supported by oil revenues, is divesting from coal. And private Norwegian financial institutions are backing away from controversial fossil-fuel investments, like the Dakota Access Pipeline. Norfund, the country’s development bank, has nearly $2 billion committed to 770 companies to support “sustainable businesses in poor countries.”
It’s not just Norway. Recently, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland joined Norway in a new initiative, Nordic Solutions to Global Challenges, to share experiences of social and economic sustainable development. Nordic leaders cite six pillars: climate change, energy, sustainable cities, gender equality, welfare, and food policy. As Trump signals he may pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate deal, the Nordics made climate change the first pillar of their joint statement.
“By working closely together, our countries were the first to succeed in decoupling economic growth from climate change,” write the five heads of state. “For almost two decades now, we have been reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, without negatively affecting jobs and the economy.” That’s a growth opportunity: “The Paris Agreement generated huge demand for the type of solutions at which the Nordic region excels,” noted Katherine Richardson, a scientist appointed by the U.N. to monitor the 2030 global goals.
There’s a Nordic model of gender equality as well, which includes parental leave, affordable childcare, flexibility at work and women in leadership. Fadumo Dayib told the prime ministers gathered in Austevoll, Norway, that her education in Finland, where she arrived at age 18 with only five years of schooling, helped make her an agent of impact. Last year, Dayib became the first woman to run for president of Somalia. “You have in front of you somebody who personifies the Nordic gender effect.”
Onward! Please send any news and comments to TheBrief@impactalpha.com.