Small farmers, big impact; measuring forest sustainability; IKEA goes social, Apple goes recycled



#Featured: Open Mic

Small farmers are the future of global food security. Smallholder farmers have become the most important piece of the global agricultural system. Small farmers feed close to 80 percent of the total population in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and support the livelihoods of nearly 2 billion people worldwide.

Now, larger buyers of agricultural products have recognized the opportunity smallholder farmers offer to their supply chains. Programs and operating models, such as Nando’s Peri Peri Ethical Sourcing Initiative, Unilever’s Livelihoods for Smallholder Farmers, and the Export Trading Group, which links African smallholder farmers with global buyers, provide evidence that it is possible to integrate smallholder farmers on commercially competitive terms and make a sustainable impact on rural poverty.

Read more from Impact Amplifier’s Tanner Methvin on ImpactAlpha:

Small farmers are the future of food security

#Dealflow: Follow the Money

Macquarie buys U.K. Green Investment Bank for $2.9 billion. Macquarie, an Australian bank known for its infrastructure financing, led the purchase of the British government’s Green Investment Bank for £2.3 billion ($2.9 billion). Macquarie, which was joined by Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund 5 and the Universities Superannuation Scheme, a U.K. pension fund, is expanding its green investment foothold in the U.K. and Europe. An investment vehicle for offshore wind will include many of the Green Investment Bank’s existing investments, and new vehicles will be created for low-carbon and green infrastructure lending. Macquarie wants to grow the bank’s green infrastructure investments by £3 billion in the next three years. Since it launched in 2012, the Green Investment Bank has invested £3.4 billion in public money in more than 100 green infrastructure projects. Critics have questioned the sale to Macquarie over concerns the Australian bank could strip the green bank’s assets. Macquarie said ‘special share’ arrangements, held by independent trustees, will safeguard the bank’s green purpose. The deal is expected to close in two months.

Cummings Foundation taps impact investing talent. The $400 million Nathan Cummings Foundation has engaged San Francisco-based impact investment advisory firm Sonen Capital to guide the foundation’s impact investing strategies. In addition, Lisa Green Hall of Anthos Asset Management and the former CEO of Calvert Foundation, has joined the foundation’s investment committee. The New York foundation, which focuses on “inclusive clean economy” and racial and economic justice, says it’s growing its “engagement in impact investing.” The foundation has had a notable shareholder activism strategy as part of its mission-related investment strategy.

Credihealth raises $1.5 million to provide healthcare information in India. Credihealth launched in 2014 to advise healthcare patients on health-related decision-making via web, hotline and Whatsapp. “Due to lack of transparency in the Indian healthcare system, patients have to run from pillar to post for finding relevant information that can help in decision-making,” says co-founder Ravi Virmani. The platform offers information about hospital services and costs and facilitates consultations with doctors and specialists. Credihealth, based in Gurgaon, works with more than 630 hospitals across India. Credihealth’s pre-Series A investors include Tolaram Inc., Mountain Pine Capital, and former KPMG partner Bala Swaminathan.

YWCA in Arizona creates $1 million loan fund for minority women entrepreneurs. The YWCA of Southern Arizona launched the fund to facilitate lending to women and minority entrepreneurs whose businesses support regional economic development. “This is a two-pronged strategy that puts tools in the hands of women and changes the systems that are unfair and make life so much more difficult than it needs to be,” according to Kelly Fryer, CEO of the YWCA of Southern Arizona. The YWCA chapter’s Second Century Campaign also includes a $500,000 training and advocacy center for disadvantaged women.

See all of ImpactAlpha’s recent #dealflow.

#Signals: Ahead of the Curve

How Australia’s New Forests measures the sustainability of its forests. In its latest sustainability report, New Forests details how it is using deploying “LiDAR” technology to track productivity on the 840,000 hectares of forestland in its portfolio. LiDAR “uses short wavelengths of light in the electromagnetic spectrum” to remotely measure the dimensions of tree growth and underlying land. It is experimenting with sensors on harvesting machinery to collect log dimension and quality data. Australia-based New Forests says technology R&D is key to meeting sustainability and productivity goals. Last year, the firm had AUD 3.6 billion in assets under management and committed capital across its six funds in Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and Asia. New Forests says all but four percent of its 6.3 million metric tonnes (9.6 million tons) of timber production is sustainably certified; certification of the rest is underway.

IKEA creates a pathway for refugees to join its supply chain. Swedish furniture giant IKEA seems to take the global refugee crisis personally. In 2015, the company partnered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to design modular housing for the 2.6 million long-term refugee camp inhabitants globally. Now, it wants to help those refugees make a living while also helping its own future business. A social entrepreneurship initiative this summer in Jordan will train refugees and local workers to produce handicrafts. The program will start with 100 workers — half of them refugees — and aims to employ 200,000 people globally over the next 10 to 15 years. “We want these people to be our future suppliers,” says IKEA’s Jesper Brodin. New business owners will learn models and production planning to join IKEA’s supply chain.

Apple’s says it will make all products from renewable or recycled resources. Three years ago, Apple said it planned to make its facilities 100 percent run on renewable energy. It’s 96 percent of the way there, Lisa Jackson, Apple’s VP of environmental and social initiatives told Vice (in a video clip) last week. Apple says it will source materials for its products from recycled and renewable resources to eliminate precious metal mining, and questionable human and environmental practices, in its supply chain. Jackson said the move “is important because it’s where technology as a sector should be going.”

#2030: Long-Termism

Countries have set renewable energy targets; now they must make them law. Not all renewable energy targets are created equally. More than 160 countries have set renewable energy targets, up from only 43 in 2005. How those targets are structured says a lot about countries’ level of commitment.

Last week, ImpactAlpha highlighted new agreements and incentives from the Nigerian government to support its target of 30 percent renewable energy generation by 2030 with financial risk mitigation. Other countries have done little more than announce a renewable energy target.

National plans are scattered between national development plans, National Renewable Energy Action Plans, and plans for specific economic sectors. “In the majority of cases, renewable energy targets are not accompanied by a binding obligation,” report researchers in an International Renewable Energy Agency report. IRENA argues that legally binding targets are the most secure path for building viable markets and achieving target goals. Fifty-nine countries have taken this approach. “Making targets binding in law helps reassure investors that a local market will continue to exist for their product in the future,” the report notes.

Onward! Please send any news and comments to TheBrief@impactalpha.com.

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