The Brief | September 25, 2018

Steps toward the global goals, Rise eyes Abraaj, investigating Big Tech, benchmarking corporate sustainability

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Greetings, ImpactAlpha readers!

Double Feature: Impact Voices

The speeches have begun at the United Nations. Investors and philanthropists gathering this week at side events like the Concordia Summit and the Bloomberg Global Business Forum are wondering: How is the world going to mobilize trillions of dollars to advance the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals? Let us count the ways.

Four ways blended finance can help tackle extreme poverty in post-conflict countries. Roughly 40 “fragile or conflict-affected states” are key to reaching Sustainable Development Goal No. 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere. But investments of private capital in such countries are hampered by uncompensated risks, write Dalberg’s Kusi Hornberger and Maria Camila Saad in a guest post on ImpactAlpha. Blended finance – the strategic use of concessionary funding to mobilize private capital – can transfer risk, lower costs and get projects off the ground.

The World Bank, for example, is using direct funding, incentives and technical assistance to develop a raisin processing facility in Afghanistan. The project expects to double Afghanistan raisin production levels, increase selling prices by up to 20%, generate $22 million in export revenues and improve livelihoods for 3,000 smallholder farmers. Read, “Four ways blended finance can help tackle extreme poverty in post-conflict countries,” by Dalberg’s Kusi Hornberger and Maria Camila Saad on ImpactAlpha.

Six steps for expanding impact investment products that advance the Sustainable Development Goals. Progress towards mobilizing investment towards the Sustainable Development Goals has been slow and thin, write Rockefeller Foundation’s Lorenzo Bernasconi and Carolien de Bruin and Josephine Damstra of C-Change, an Amsterdam-based impact strategy consultant. They call for solutions “to achieving a step-change in the number and scale of ‘fit-for-purpose’ investment products that are SDG-aligned.”

Among their prescriptions: Intermediation, or better bridges between the impact and development-finance ecosystem and capital markets. Robust information, including better data, clearer standards and benchmarks to drive SDG investments. And visionary leadership and incentive alignment to drive the SDG investment agenda. Keep reading, “Six steps for expanding impact investment products that advance the Sustainable Development Goals” on ImpactAlpha.

Event: Total Impact Boston, Oct. 4-5

Total Impact comes to Beantown. After a debut in Philadelphia, Total Impact will shine a light on impact investing across asset classes, as well as opportunities to address issues around Boston. The lineup: Liesel Pritzker-Simmons of Blue Haven Initiative, Putnam’s Katherine Collins, Christiana Bardon of MPM Capital, Paul Grogan of The Boston Foundation, Bank of America’s Jackie VanderBrug, Rekha Unnithan of Nuveen and more. Register now (Use code TI_IMPACTALPHA to save $250).

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Abraaj Watch: TPG Growth’s Rise Fund in exclusive talks to take over $1 billion health fund. TPG’s Bill McGlashan said the step came after an extensive selection process by a committee of limited partners of the Growth Markets Health Fund. In a statement, McGlashan said TPG is excited “to build an integrated healthcare delivery network in growth markets across Africa and South Asia that will help communities thrive.” The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, but ImpactAlpha readers got a preview in July (see,TPG Growth’s Rise Fund touts ‘impact’ in bid for Abraaj health fund). LPs, including the Gates Foundation, still have to approve any deal, as does a court in the Cayman islands. The parties expect the transition to occur before the end of the year. Share this.

Impact Shares launches ETF focused on support for the Sustainable Development Goals. The nonprofit investment manager rolled out an exchange traded fund (ETF) targeting the SDGs as U.N. Week is getting underway in New York. The ETF trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker SDGA and includes shares of companies committed to supporting the SDGs, particularly in low-income markets. Impact Shares partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation and the U.N. Capital Development Fund. Earlier this year, Impact Shares launched NACP, built around companies focused on minority empowerment, and WOMN, with companies strong on women’s empowerment. Ding, ding, ding.

Craigslist founder backs news site to cover Big Tech’s impact on society. Former ProPublica investigative journalists Julia Angwin and Jeff Larson are planning to launch The Markup to cover the impacts of big tech on society. The idea is getting a $22 million grant-based boost, with $20 million from Craigslist founder Craig Newmark alone. The Markup aims to launch early next year to report on issues like discriminatory software and algorithms and the spread of misinformation. Read all about it.

MIT Solve selects 33 “solvers” in work, learning, coastal communities and health. The competition has selected 33 winners out of 1,150 applicants for its 2018 themes: work of the future, teachers and educators, coastal communities, and front lines of health. Among the winners: Shimmy Upskill, a platform to help retrain workers vulnerable to job loss from automation, and Marauder Robotics, which makes autonomous underwater drones to support marine ecosystem balance. MIT launched the Solve Challenge in 2015 to crowdsource promising ideas for global impact. Discover more.

Signal: Ahead of the Curve

Can corporate sustainability benchmarks turn the SDGs into a race to the top? Nike’s deal with Colin Kaepernick has added almost $6 billion to company’s market value. But what has the company contributed to the UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 16, “Peace, justice and strong institutions”? A new initiative launched ahead of the U.N. General Assembly is developing a range of benchmarks by 2023 to assess the progress of 2,000 companies in achieving the 2030 global goals.

  • Turning SDG-washing… A growing number of companies (and investment firms) are touting their alignment with the SDGs. The World Benchmarking Alliance, a partnership between Aviva, Index Initiative and the United Nations Foundation, aims to increase transparency and accountability by providing free and public data on companies’ SDG performance.
  • …into a race to the top. The data is intended to spark a race among businesses to deliver against the SDGs. The benchmarks, says the Alliance’s Gerbrand Haverkamp, “will ultimately create demand for corporate responsibility.”
  • First up: Benchmarks are due in 2020 for food and agriculture, climate and energy, digital inclusion and gender equality and empowerment.
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September 25, 2018.