The Brief | July 2, 2018

Populist podcast, water tech, Macquarie’s green bank, beyond CSR

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Greetings, ImpactAlpha readers!

Featured: Returns on Investment podcast

Can impact investments build popular support for inclusive, sustainable and, yes, global prosperity? (podcast). Many impact investing types, it seems, are proud globalists, with an optimistic, connected, cross-border approach to challenges, solutions and human relationships. At the same time, the essential precondition of investing – having capital to invest – means most investors are largely distant from the lived experience of many of the people their investments are purported to benefit. “There is a paternalism in impact in a lot of the dialogue around globalism that is condescending and alienating to the very people we’re trying to help,” Imogen Rose-Smith, an investment fellow with the University of California, said in the latest episode of ImpactAlpha’s Returns on Investment. “To me, that’s the biggest problem.”

The challenge ahead is to deepen inclusion, engagement and participation of stakeholders in the global project, and expand the popular constituencies in support of shared objectives like the Paris climate agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. “I want to keep that abundant, open, opportunity, innovation direction vibrant and strong in the face of what are  strong countervailing forces,” argued ImpactAlpha’s David Bank. “Bringing people into the economy, raising their livelihood, better-off communities –– that’s a parade any politician in any country should be jumping to get in front of.”

Read on and listen in, “Can impact investments build popular support for inclusive, sustainable and, yes, global prosperity? (podcast).” And subscribe to all of ImpactAlpha’s Returns on Investments podcasts on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you listen.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

OnFarm’s exit and WaterBit’s raise highlight investor interest in in water-saving irrigation tech. OnFarm, a Fresno, Calif.-based farm software firm, is being purchased by Sustainable Water and Innovative Irrigation Management (SWIIM) System, a water management tech company in Denver. “There may be no greater farming challenge than the increasing water issues our customers face today,” said OnFarm’s Lance Donny. California-based WaterBit raised $11.4 million for its autonomous irrigation system from New Enterprise Associates, Heuristic Capital, and former CEO of Cypress Semiconductor, TJ Rogers. More.

Macquarie debuts North American green investment strategy. Macquarie Capital’s Green Investment Group, is expanding to North America. The unit has roots in the British government’s Green Investment Bank, which Macquarie acquired last year. The U.S. group’s first two projects are a 200-megawatt wind farm in Texas and a solar development partnership called Candela Renewables. The details.

Impact Voices: Pass the Mic

Corporations go beyond ‘social responsibility’ to drive value through impact. Corporate social responsibility, or CSR, accounts for an estimated $18 billion in corporate spending by Fortune 500 companies. That sounds like a big number until you consider the estimated $12 trillion that these same companies spend each year to run their operations. “Intrapreneurs” and innovators from within corporations are going beyond CSR, to pursue a range of social impact strategies to drive real value for their companies, reports Karen Mac, a recent graduate of Santa Clara University and a volunteer at One World Training and Investment. Some of Mac’s takeaways from last month’s Innovations for Corporate Social Impact Summit, convened by One World in Redwood City, California:

  • Better business… Says One World’s Scott Saslow, “When a corporate impact initiative is profitable, it catches the attention of management. It is then more likely to receive support to become sustainable, and ultimately scalable.” Companies like GE, JP Morgan and Gap are going “beyond CSR” to attract and retain talent, drive cost savings and open market opportunities.
  • Market opportunities… Kari Dohn Decker said JP Morgan Chase & Co. has benefited from its Financial Solutions Lab program, a community of startups building fintech solutions for underserved communities in the U.S. Moody’s John Baer said the firm has built a product to improve lending to small businesses.
  • Corporate venture… Salesforce’s $50 million in-house venture impact fund invests in startups using Salesforce technology to address some of the world’s biggest problems, said Salesforce’s Sunya Ojure.

Read, “Corporations go beyond ‘social responsibility’ to drive value through impact,” by Karen Mac on ImpactAlpha.

– July 2, 2018.