The Brief | June 17, 2021

The Brief: Closing racial wealth gaps, European solar assets, access to medicine in India, recycling electronics, catalyzing climate capital

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Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

  • The Call No. 29: Capitalism Reimagined. Chris Jurgens of Omidyar Network outlined a strategy for reimagining capitalism in last week’s podcast conversation with David Bank. Join Leo Strine, Fran Seegull, Andres Vinelli and hundreds of other Agents of Impact to help flesh out rules and policies for the stakeholder economy,” Tuesday, June 29 at 10am PT / 1pm ET. RSVP today.

Featured: The Reconstruction

Celebrating Juneteenth: Closing racial wealth gaps to deliver economic freedom for all. The promise of freedom was kept from enslaved people in Galveston, Texas for two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. On June 19, 1865, Union troops arrived to deliver the not-fake news: Slavery was over. For the next dozen years or so, national policies of Reconstruction represented the promise of a second founding based on multi-racial democracy and broad-based prosperity. Congress on Wednesday voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. “Juneteenth should be celebrated by all of us and for all of us,” writes Lisa Mensah of Opportunity Finance Network in a guest post on ImpactAlpha. The challenge for our own Reconstruction is to close racial wealth gaps and end the persistent poverty that continues to stifle Black, rural, urban, and Native communities. McKinsey estimates that closing the racial wealth gap would add trillions to the economy over the next 10 years. “This is a day to reflect, aspire, and invest in the America we want to have for Black people, yes, but also everyone.”

  • Third Reconstruction. Rev. William Barber II of North Carolina is kicking off a year-long Poor People’s Campaign next Monday to build toward next summer’s “massive, generationally-transformative” Moral March on Washington and an assembly of poor people and low-wage workers (see, “A minister’s call for moral, as well as economic, revival”). The goal: Build support for “an omnibus vision for a fundamental restructuring of society that lifts from the bottom.”
  • Community lending. Community financial institutions – banks, loan funds, credit unions and venture funds – support hundreds of thousands of small businesses, millions of jobs, affordable housing, and essential community facilities. This week, the Treasury Department pumped nearly $1.3 billion in flexible grants into 863 community development financial institutions. Twitter last year committed $100 million to Opportunity Finance Network’s Finance Justice Fund, which aims to raise $1 billion for long-term, below-market-rate loans and grants to community lenders. “Intrinsic to our collective freedom is financial freedom,” Mensah says. “Freedom and justice take money, and it ought to be invested directly in our communities.” Read Lisa’s full post.
  • Real estate wealth. The first in a series of “Black Papers” from the Inclusive Capital Collective looks at innovative structures and models developed by Black, Indigenous and other POC real estate developers. The new network of loan, equity and real estate funds and entrepreneur support organizations aims to create equitable access to capital, support BIPOC entrepreneurs, and build community wealth. Says ICC’s Najaah Yasmine Daniels, “There’s no better time than now to actually invest in the work that has been happening behind the scenes within the community.”
  • Black in tech. Big Tech and corporate America pledged to support Black workers, Black organizations and Black companies in the months after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery. A year later, The Plug surveyed more than 40 companies with Fast Company to see if the pledges stuck. Respondents see progress, but “remain uncertain that the tech industry is truly committed to change beyond leveraging Black people for a good PR moment,” writes The Plug’s Sherrell Dorsey. Glimmers of hope: more funding for Black founders, more transparency in diversity reporting, and a commitment to hire more Black workers.
  • Systems investing. Neoliberalism is not fulfilling its promise of economic growth that benefits all. To address systemic racism, impact investors need to “get systemic,” say Common Future’s Rodney Foxworth and William Burckart of The Investment Integration Project in a guest post. On Common Futures’ agenda: universal basic income for Black entrepreneurs and worker-ownership opportunities for childcare workers who are disproportionately low-wealth women of color. Get their take.
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Sponsored by BlueMark: Impact Management

The impact investing industry is ready for a practice benchmark. Benchmarks play a crucial role in financial markets, allowing investors to see how they stack up against their peers. The impact investing industry is a few steps from a globally recognized impact performance benchmark, but has made significant progress towards a practice benchmark. In its second annual Making the Mark report, impact verification firm BlueMark analyzed the results of 30 impact verifications against the Operating Principles for Impact Management to create the BlueMark Practice Benchmark. The first-of-its-kind tool is designed to root out impact-washing and differentiate between “practice leaders” and “practice learners.” As new standards and practices emerge, writes BlueMark’s Christina Leijonhufvud, the benchmark can help “drive a race towards ever better management of impact investing practices.” Go deeper.

Dealflow: Healthcare Access

Tata Group acquires majority-share of online pharmacy 1MG Technologies. Gurgaon-based 1MG provides online access to medicine and other health products, as well as telehealth and remote diagnostic services, to 20,000 postal codes in India. The deal is Tata Digital’s second acquisition in as many months. Earlier investors in 1MG include Omidyar Network India, International Finance Corp. and the Gates Foundation. “1MG is yet another example that ‘proves the model’ of impact investing,” Omidyar Network India tweeted of the acquisition.

  • E-commerce race. The Indian conglomerate launched Tata Digital two years ago to tap into emerging tech trends. With the acquisition of 1MG Technologies, Tata Digital aims to “provide superior customer experience and high-quality healthcare products and services in e-pharmacy and e-diagnostics,” Tata Digital’s Pratik Pal said. Tata Digital is competing against Reliance Retail and Amazon in India’s growing e-commerce market. Last month, it acquired a stake in grocery delivery giant Big Basket.
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EcoATM Gazelle secures $75 million for e-waste recycling. A record 53.6 million metric tons of electronic waste was generated worldwide in 2019. San Diego-based EcoATM is building a global network of 4,800 eco-friendly automated kiosks across the U.S. and Europe that pay consumers on the spot for their used smartphones, which it resells or recycles for parts. EcoATM says it has kept more than 28 million devices out of landfills since 2009.

Rise Fund’s Matrix Renewables acquires solar portfolios in Spain and Portugal. The Madrid-based global renewable energy investor is acquiring a 300-megawatt solar energy portfolio from Spain’s Alten Renewable Energy. The portfolio has five solar assets that are expected to break ground this year in Spain and Portugal, where Alten will build two gigawatts of solar and storage projects for Matrix Renewables. Matrix purchased a 154-megawatt Chilean solar portfolio from Verano Capital earlier this year (see, “Rise Fund’s renewables group acquires Chilean solar energy portfolio”). Share this post.

Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Private equity firm Salonica Maroon launches £75 million ($106 million) fund to back diverse-led consumer goods and retail enterprises in the U.K.
  • London-based iClima Earth sets up a renewable energy ETF to trade on the London Stock Exchange.
  • Freddie Mac Multifamily is issuing $230 million in social bonds to fund community-based homes for people with disabilities.
  • India’s Fluid Ventures raises $3.4 million for its first fund to make “micro” investments in early-stage ventures.

Signals: Catalytic Capital

Wanted: safe, simple, scalable investments to drive capital to climate solutions. Fifteen years after the film An Inconvenient Truth alerted audiences to the climate crisis, the world is even closer to the irreversible precipice. “In 2021, we are all climate investors, because the climate emergency is having an impact on everything,” said the Global Impact Investing Network’s Amit Bouri, kicking off the GIIN’s “Next Normal Now” virtual convening on climate action. Global climate financing has been stuck around $600 billion a year, according to Climate Policy Initiative data (see, “Financing for climate action is not catching up to the climate emergency”). What’s needed: patient, risk-tolerant capital and blended-finance solutions to drive more investment into clean energy, climate tech and nature-based solutions that help communities adapt to the changes already underway. “The world needs a lot more of what impact investing has to offer,” said Bouri.

  • Institutional shift. The key to unlocking the trillions needed for climate action? Address institutional investors’ needs for safe, simple and scalable products, said CPI’s Vikram Widge. One example: Climate Investor One, a Netherlands-based graduate of CPI’s Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance, helps unlock institutional capital for clean energy project developers in emerging markets through a pooled refinance fund. Credit Suisse’s newly launched $318 million Climate Innovation Fund will invest in early-stage climate tech, a rarity for a bank. The fund will do that via ten global venture funds focused on decarbonizing food and agriculture, manufacturing and consumer goods, and mobility and urbanization. “We put it together as a fund of funds structure, which solved a lot of challenges around risk and scale,” said the bank’s James Gifford.
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Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Marc Sternberg leaves the Walton Family Foundation to lead A-Street Ventures, a new Bentonville, Ark.-based venture capital fund seeded by members of the Walton family to invest in K-12 education… Jessica Lauretti becomes managing director of The Anthem Awards, the Webbys’ new award for the world’s “best purpose and mission-driven work.” The first winner: Pharrel Williams… Ellavoz Impact Capital names David Kaye of BioFortis to its board… The Decarbon8-US Fund is soliciting applications from climate tech companies focused on decarbonizing transportation.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners is hiring a venture capital analyst and other roles in Philadelphia… J.P. Morgan Private Bank is looking for a private bank sustainable investing analyst in New York… WeFunder has openings for a head of talent, an operations manager and for human resources… Veris Wealth Partners is recruiting an associate wealth manager with impact investing experience in San Francisco… Ecotrust is hiring a financial analyst in Portland… VC Include seeks a director of programs in San Francisco… Boundless Impact Research & Analytics is looking for a climate impact portal manager in New York.

Thank you for your impact.

– June 17, 2021