Greetings, Agents of Impact!
🎙️ Last chance to RSVP. Learn how to gain “the employee-ownership edge” on this week’s Agents of Impact Call. Join Mosaic’s Ian Mohler, World Education Services’ Smitha Das, Apis & Heritage’s Todd Leverette, Common Trust’s Zoe Schlag and Anna-Lisa Miller of Ownership Works, tomorrow, Sept. 27, at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London. RSVP today.
Featured: Investing in Place
Community foundations embrace mission-related investing to boost local impact. In 30 years at the Battle Creek Community Foundation, Brenda Hunt has seen the ups and downs of the small city in southwest Michigan. In 2013, vacancies dotted downtown years after the Great Recession. She saw entrepreneurship, small business ownership and a vibrant local economy as the keys to recovery. “This was not something we could grant our way out of,” Hunt says. The community foundation ventured into impact investing with loans and financing for small downtown businesses. An increasing number of the more than 900 community foundations across the US are making mission-related investments to boost their impact and build local ecosystems, Andrea Riquier reports for ImpactAlpha. “Even folks who historically had a separation between program officers and investment officers have started bridging that wall,” says David Sand of Community Capital Management, which is out with a report that explores community foundations’ adoption of mission-aligned investing.
- Raising awareness. Impact investing enables community foundations to do more with their dollars than they can with charitable giving alone. The Adirondack Foundation in upstate New York, with roughly $80 million in assets and a grant budget of about $6 million a year, began making impact investments last year. It has deployed $1.4 million into housing, small businesses and transportation, including participating in a $2 million Small Business Opportunity Fund that makes microloans to local entrepreneurs. The investments “raised awareness of the tool of impact investing in our region,” the foundation’s Lori Bellingham tells ImpactAlpha.
- Go deeper. The Impact Finance Center and Essex County Community Foundation identified 10 of the top community foundations engaging in impact investing, including the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, Community Foundation of St. Clair County, and the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation. Mission Investors Exchange has put together an impact investing guide for community foundations.
- Keep reading, “Community foundations embrace mission-related investing to boost local impact,” by Andrea Riquer on ImpactAlpha.
Dealflow: Muni Impact
San Diego school bond targets green improvements and equitable access. A $320 million bond issuance by the San Diego Unified School District aims to invest in environmental sustainability across the district while increasing equitable access to education for the majority of its students who are economically disadvantaged. HIP Investor gives the bonds’ environmental and social impact objectives a rating of 79.7 on a scale of 100, putting SDUSD in the top 3% of more than 18,000 K-12 entities rated by HIP. ImpactAlpha is featuring SDUSD’s bonds as part of our ongoing series with HIP Investor to highlight bond issues with social and/or environmental significance.
- Green dreams. In 2014, the SDUSD board adopted the “Dream Big Solutions for a Sustainable Future” plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2035, in line with the City of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan. Last year, the district adopted a “Fossil Fuel Free” resolution to electrify all district buildings, bus fleets and maintenance vehicles. HIP gave SDUSD high marks for its solar energy capacity. Bond proceeds will accelerate the district’s adoption of solar energy and battery storage, as well as LED lighting, water conservation, electric bus use and facility renovation.
- Check out the bond’s details, and catch up on all of ImpactAlpha’s coverage of Muni Impact.
Environment Bank offers biodiversity credits to catalyze corporate investment in nature restoration. Global conservationists and policymakers are working to develop an economically-viable market for biodiversity credits, also known as biocredits, to attract private-sector capital to finance the preservation or restoration of natural ecosystems (see, “Nature-based solutions may be the key to meeting Paris climate goals”). Environment Bank in the UK unveiled a new set of biodiversity credits to entice corporations to invest in high-impact nature restoration projects and offset their impact on the environment. It has committed $300 million to finance the projects and lower risks for investors.
- Nature-based solutions. Nearly $1 trillion is needed each year by 2030 to protect biodiversity and maintain the integrity of ecosystems, according to BloombergNEF. “Scalable and impactful delivery of nature restoration projects will be key to tackling climate change, and the private sector has a huge role to play,” said Environment Bank’s James Cross. “We do not get to net zero without nature, and it’s time to put repairing the planet first on the agenda.”
- Project milestones. Environment Bank says it is on track to deliver 6,000 acres of habitat creation in the UK this year, with hundreds of additional projects in its pipeline. The projects, co-designed with local partners, restore grasslands, woodlands, wetlands and wood meadows. By 2025, Environment Bank is seeking to restore an area equivalent to the size of Manhattan.
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Dealflow overflow. Other deals crossing our desks:
- Untapped Global closed $14 million to provide electric vehicle and other asset-based financing for climate-smart products to companies serving gig workers and micro-entrepreneurs in emerging markets. (Untapped Global)
- The US Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office approved a nearly $400 million loan guarantee to Eos Energy Enterprises to produce eight gigawatts of zinc-bromine battery storage in Turtle Creek, Penn. (DoE)
- Kenyan insurance tech company Turaco acquired MicroEnsure Ghana, which provides affordable, small insurance products, primarily to low-income customers. (Disrupt Africa)
Impact Voices: Inclusive Infrastructure
Investing in ‘meaningful connectivity’ to a better Internet in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Experts once talked about less developed countries “leapfrogging” more developed countries thanks to mobile phones. The past few years have seen the limits of the leapfrog beyond digital payments and basic communications. Only a privileged few have affordable access to high-speed Internet. “Mobile operators are drip-feeding the Internet, when we need an open flow of information and access,” Ben Matranga and Jim Forster of Connectivity Capital write in a guest post. “The real opportunity for change comes when people have uncapped, always-on broadband Internet access.” Connecting most households in Africa, Asia and Latin America with fixed infrastructure will require meaningful investment in broadband, Matranga and Forster say. “It’s all a cause for the creation of connectivity as a new and central category in impact investing.”
- Limited access. Matranga and Forster propose a rethink of how “universal and affordable access” to the Internet is measured in UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 9 for resilient and inclusive infrastructure. Current metrics consider a community “covered” if any mobile phone operator offers even the most basic and unaffordable mobile phone services. The metrics don’t account for whether people are actually using the Internet access that is supposedly available.
- Higher bar. Meaningful connectivity, defined by the Alliance for Affordable Internet, evaluates regular Internet use, appropriate devices, sufficient data and fast connections. Matranga and Forster say the more ambitious policy goal sets “a higher bar that enables more people to get connected to a better Internet.”
- Keep reading, “Investing in ‘meaningful connectivity’ to a better internet in Africa, Asia and Latin America,” by Connectivity Capital’s Ben Matranga and Jim Forster on ImpactAlpha.
Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent
Cynthia Herrera, a former climate justice fellow with University of Maryland, joins Green & Healthy Homes Initiative as senior director of climate, energy and equity… B Lab is hiring a head of business and finance transformation… Soros Fund Management is looking for an impact strategy senior analyst in New York… In London: Big Society Capital seeks a policy and advocacy manager in London; Opportunity International is recruiting an innovative finance manager; and bp has an opening for a sustainability and ESG finance advisor.
Thank you for your impact!
– Sept. 26, 2023