The Brief | December 1, 2021

The Brief: Building back better on the Navajo Nation, aluminum recycling, EV charging in Europe, corporate impact in Canada, plant-based eggs

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact! Thanks to the hundreds of you who showed up for yesterday’s Call: Capitalism Reimagined. We’ll have a replay and a recap in Friday’s Brief.

  • Next Call: The Reconstruction this time. The resonances of the historical Reconstruction are informing new ways to organize, invest and envision multi-racial democracy and shared prosperity in our own time. Agents of Impact will explore a proactive vision for a just future, the growth of Reconstruction investing, and the narrative shifts that emerged in two dozen conversations on ImpactAlpha’s podcast series, The Reconstruction. The conversation continues, exploring how retelling the history of the past can change the story of the future, on Call No. 36, Tuesday, Dec. 14 at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London. RSVP today.

Signals: Returns on Inclusion

Can the recovery catalyze a business revival on the Navajo Nation? The Navajo Nation, which includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, is one of the hardest places to do business in the world. As the largest Indigenous territory in the U.S., it’s becoming a testbed for efforts to rebuild more resilient Native economies across the country. The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill just signed includes about $11 billion for Indian Country. The Navajo Nation, where many tribal members lack running water and reliable electricity, is expected to get significant funding for healthcare, water and sanitation, and for tribal water rights. There are green shoots of private finance as well. Local energy company Navajo Power is developing utility-scale solar projects to support the reservation’s clean energy transition, after a 40-year-old coal plant closed down last year. Last month, Navajo Power raised $9.5 million, including $3 million in catalytic capital from W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

  • Business in the pandemic. Early in the pandemic, the Navajo Nation had one of the highest infection rates in the U.S. (then subsequently, one of the highest vaccination rates). The disruption only exacerbated existing business challenges, including difficulty accessing land, energy and Internet services, as well as resolving business disputes. “True economic recovery will not be about returning to the previous way of doing business, but instead focus on adjusting and thriving in a ‘new normal’,” states The Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Navajo Small Businesses, a new report from Native-led business incubator Change Labs, program evaluator Casual Design and the Navajo Nation Division of Economic Development.
  • Build back better. A survey of tourism, hospitality, food and artisanal business owners revealed “devastating accounts of business losses” through the pandemic, as well as widespread personal losses of family and community members. “Ultimately, even with financial assistance, small businesses will suffer, and likely fail, without a more normal operating environment,” the report found. Access to financing – and to broadband – are critical to business success, as is the safe return of tourism. A key recommendation: “Ensuring that Navajo financial support stays within the community can provide another outlet for supporting local business.”
  • Read the full post.

Dealflow: Decarbonize Everything

Ionity raises $700 million for EV charging with a boost from BlackRock. How to drive a massive energy transition? With massive investments. Munich-based Ionity reeled in $700 million to more than quadruple its electric vehicle charging network to 7,000 charging points across Europe by 2025. The E.U. plans to phase out new gas-powered cars by 2035. Part of Ionity’s supersized haul came from existing auto investors BMW, Ford, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen. New investor BlackRock is said to have invested $500 million from its Global Renewable Power fund, which closed a $4.8 billion fundraise in April.

  • India’s EVs. Bigger funds are driving bigger deals. Tata Motors in October grabbed $1 billion from TPG Rise Climate and Abu Dhabi’s ADQ for a new subsidiary that aims to power up India’s EV market. TPG Rise Climate, the private equity firm’s first dedicated climate fund, reached a first close of $5.4 billion in July.
  • Check it out.

Breakthrough Energy Ventures backs metal recycler Sortera Alloys. Aluminum, an essential material for construction and transportation, is responsible for 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon emissions each year, and demand is expected to grow more than 50% by 2050. Sorted aluminum alloy feedstock is a $10 billion market, said Soltera’s Nalin Kumar. The Fort Wayne, Ind.-based startup uses AI-powered imaging and sensors to recycle aluminum from car scrap metal for automakers and other manufacturers. 

  • Circular economy. The venture arm of Bill Gates-backed Breakthrough Energy led Sortera’s $10 million round. “The auto industry should be very excited about Sortera’s ability to deliver high purity recycled materials without the cost and negative impact of producing virgin metal feed stocks,” said Breakthrough Energy’s Carmichael Roberts. Sortera is shipping truckloads of aluminum from a 10-acre pilot facility and plans to open a production facility next year.
  • More.

TELUS’s $100 million Pollinator Fund for Good adds three portfolio companies. The Canadian telecommunications company launched the corporate impact fund last year to invest in local and international impact funds and startups focused on healthcare, agriculture, the environment, and social and economic inclusion in Canada. The fund has invested $20 million in 10 companies, including Vancouver-based Raven Indigenous Capital Partners. Half of the portfolio companies are led by Indigenous and other minority founders; 40% are led by women.

  • Corporate impact. The Pollinator Fund’s latest additions include Toronto-based Gotcare, which matches home health aides with patients in need; Goodmylk, a California-based company producing plant-baked milk powder; and Montreal’s Nectar, which is helping beekeepers raise more productive bees.
  • Onward

Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • GajiGesa secures $6.6 million to provide fintech services for unbanked workers in Indonesia.
  • Italian energy-storage tech company Energy Dome scores $11 million to build a demonstration facility in Sardinia.
  • Bangalore-based edtech Vedantu will buy back $3 million in shares from its employee stock ownership plan.
  • Berlin-based Perfeggt snags $2.8 million to make plant-based eggs using fava beans.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Opportunity Finance Network is looking for a research director and to fill other roles in Washington, D.C… Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation is hiring a student engagement manager in Washington, D.C… PwC is recruiting a senior associate of sustainability… Alt-protein investor CPT Capital seeks a venture partner in London… Also in London, Greenwich Partners is looking for an investment/research associate for ESG investing. 

The Asian Development Bank is hosting “SDG Impact: New Approaches to Measurement and Alignment,” Thursday, Dec. 2… The Croatan Institute is hosting a discussion on ESG investing for natural and social systems featuring Croatan’s Bill Harrington, Resilience Capital Ventures’ Gillian Marcelle, Aston University and NYU Stern Fulbright Scholar Daniel Cash, and Chantal Naidoo of University of Sussex and Rabia Transitions, Friday, Dec. 10.

Thank you for your impact.

– Dec. 1, 2021