Greetings, Agents of Impact! Meet catalytic climate investors in two conversations next week:
🗺️ Mapping opportunities for catalytic climate capital. The first Agents of Impact Call of the season will explore effective strategies for bridging climate capital gaps in emerging markets, low-income communities, climate adaptation and climate justice. BlocPower’s Donnel Baird, Shell Foundation’s Ashish Kumar, and Jonathan Phillips of Duke University’s Energy Access Program will join ImpactAlpha’s Amy Cortese and David Bank. Bonus: Vibrant Data Labs’ Eric Berlow will launch ImpactAlpha’s Climate Finance Tracker, an interactive map of climate investments and trends.
- Answer the Call, Wednesday, Sept. 14, at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London. RSVP today.
🍌 The power of catalytic capital to reduce food waste (co-hosted by ImpactAlpha and ReFED). Impact investors are deploying creative and flexible investments to fill the annual $16 billion gap needed to cut food waste in half by 2030. Join Prime Coalition’s Sarah Kearney, Spring Point Partners’ Margot Kane and ReFED’s Angel Veza in a conversation moderated by ImpactAlpha’s Dennis Price.
- RSVP for the webinar, Thursday, Sept. 15, at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London. Register today.
Featured: Smarter Infrastructure
Three shifts needed to build resilient water systems in Jackson, Miss. and other U.S. cities. The issue that has left nearly 200,000 residents of Jackson, Miss. without water is tragic but unsurprising. Water issues are not new in Jackson: about 40,000 residents were without drinkable water during a winter storm earlier this year, and the Pearl River has been flooding Jackson for decades. “What should be new is how we address the problem,” Seyi Fabode of water management venture Varuna writes in a guest post. The three watchwords for water-system fixes in Jackson and across the U.S., he says: data-driven, distributed and redundant.
- Data and distribution. Risk models predicted the flooding that impacted the Jackson’s Curtis Treatment Plant. Such data should be used to determine what assets can be deployed to alleviate the current situation and prevent future occurrences. We should also add redundancy to water systems and design interconnected micro-systems that can provide water to smaller parts of a city and back up larger water systems as well, says Fabode.
- Infrastructure funding. Fabode recounts earlier water crises, including the fires on the Cuyahoga River in the 1970s that contributed to the creation of the Environment Protection Agency and the Clean Water Act. The current crisis includes simultaneous water issues in Mississippi, Texas, California, Michigan and thousands of cities across the U.S. The government has made available roughly $67 billion (through the Infrastructure Investment Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act) to build and implement solutions. “We have the tools,” says Fabode. “We now need a more robust approach to solutions.”
- Keep reading, “Three shifts needed to build resilient water systems in Jackson, Miss. and other U.S. cities,” by Varuna’s Seyi Fabode on ImpactAlpha.
Dealflow: Off-Grid Solar
Bboxx expands in West Africa with acquisition of off-grid solar peer PEG Africa. PEG Africa launched its pay-as-you-go solar business in Ghana in 2013 and has since expanded to Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Mali. Half of its customers earn less than $3 per day; more than 80% had no prior access to grid energy or credit. U.K.-based Bboxx acquired PEG to expand its presence in West Africa. Bboxx says the deal expands the company’s off-grid solar, financial and other services to 3.5 million people in 10 African markets. ImpactAlpha reported in April that Bboxx was in talks to acquire PEG. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
- ‘Super platform.’ Bboxx is doubling-down on low-income customers with new products and services that complement its pay-as-you-go solar business. “We see ourselves more or less as a ‘super platform’ that is connecting a digital relationship with a household with a physical relationship that is initially enabled by some sort of basic utility,” Bboxx’s Mansoor Hamayun told ImpactAlpha in July (see, “Off-grid solar pioneer Bboxx is following the data to down-market growth”). It is acquiring PEG’s new product and business lines, which include solar irrigation pumps and providing solar systems for rural health clinics.
- Read on.
Kapor Capital attracts outside investors to $126 million fund to close equity gaps. The Oakland-based investment firm has deployed the capital of Mitch Kapor, a founder of Lotus Software, and educator Freada Kapor Klein, who both stepped back from leadership earlier this year. New co-managing partners Ulili Onovakpuri and Brian Dixon tapped outside limited partners for the first time in raising $126 million for the firm’s third fund, which focuses on underrepresented founders of early-stage startups. Funded entrepreneurs agree to the firm’s founders commitment and set diversity and inclusion goals.
- New leadership. Both Dixon and Onovakpuri came up through Kapor’s internal talent development programs, as they recounted on ImpactAlpha’s Agents of Impact podcast in June. The new fund has invested in Tomo Credit, which helps first-time borrowers build credit scores. Cayaba Care provides maternity care, mental health counseling, breastfeeding support and patient education for low-income mothers and mothers of color. Daylight says it is the first digital banking platform designed for the LGBT+ community by the LGBT+ community.
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Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners raises €3 billion for energy transition fund. The Danish fund received commitments from 65 institutional investors, including global pension and sovereign wealth funds, insurance companies, asset managers and family offices in Europe and North America. The fund will invest in clean energy infrastructure projects, mainly industrial-scale “power-to-X” projects, an umbrella term for power-to-gas, power-to-liquid, power-to-fuel, power-to-chemicals and power-to-heat energy generation. “Power-to-X will be key for countries and industries to take the next big leap within reaching the commitments of the Paris Agreement and achieving energy independence,” said CIP’s Jakob Baruel Poulsen.
- Low-carbon transition. The fund aims to help decarbonize hard-to-abate industries, such as aviation, chemical manufacturing, steel and shipping. It will also target agriculture via zero-carbon fertilizers. The fund has invested in projects in Western Europe, South America and Australia that are working to produce green hydrogen, ammonia and aviation fuel. Once operational, the projects are expected to deliver more than 4.4 million tons of green fuel per year and reduce CO2 emissions by more than 8.3 million tons annually.
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Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:
- SparkCharge raised $30 million in Series A financing to expand its on-demand electric vehicle charging business in the U.S.
- Germany’s Liefergrun scored $12 million in a seed round backed by eCAPITAL, Speedinvest and Norrsken VC to decarbonize last-mile delivery.
- U.K.-based Mobile Power snagged £1 million ($1.2 million) from All On, a Shell-backed impact investment firm, to provide batteries-as-a-service in underserved parts of Nigeria.
- The Off Grid Electricity Fund, which aims to electrify to more than 140,000 Haitian households by 2024, invested in Paon Bleu to expand solar lending in Haiti’s rural areas.
Signals: Measure Better
Dow Jones raises stakes in ESG data competition with news-driven ratings. The opinion page of The Wall Street Journal has proudly championed the campaign to discredit environmental, social and governance investing. But Dow Jones, the paper’s parent company (and a division of News Corp.) is following its core audience of financial professionals toward the ESG opportunity. The company surveyed 200 financial leaders to highlight the company’s new sustainability data set covering 6,000 public companies. Two-thirds of the financial services leaders called ESG the No. 1 driver of growth in the industry.
- Sentiment analysis. Many ESG ratings are based on self-reported, and by extension, backward-looking, data on companies’ performance. Dow Jones is adding scores for “sentiment,” based on daily updates from thousands of global news sources to flag real-time developments, emerging risks, and more independent outside-in perspectives. The combination “acts as an antidote to some of the inherent biases contained in company self-disclosed data alone,” said Dow Jones’ Joe Cappitelli. Dow Jones operates Factiva, which aggregates and analyzes more than 33,000 global news sources.
- Gen Z. Move over, millennials. Almost the same number of sustainable investing inquiries come from 18 to 25 year-olds as from 26 to 41 year-olds. But financial advisors are nearly four times more likely to target millennials. “Our research shows that financial firms are missing an opportunity with Gen Z – and it is time for the financial industry to take them seriously,” Cappitelli said. With the ongoing generational transfer of wealth, he added, “marketers and practitioners need to rethink their perceptions of this age group.”
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Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent
Lara Metcalf, ex- of The Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund, joins the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation as managing director… BlackRock seeks a sustainable investing research and strategy associate in New York… Environmental Defense Fund is recruiting a remote manager of climate research and analysis… New Markets Support Company is looking for an asset management associate and a fund accounting manager in Chicago.
Big Path Capital seeks a remote investment banking analyst… Calvert Impact Capital is looking for a risk management analyst, preferably in Washington, D.C… US SIF seeks an events and marketing manager… The American Sustainable Business Network will host, “The case for carbon labeling,” today at 1pm ET and a dialogue on conservation and a sustainable economy, Friday, Sept. 9.
Thank you for your impact!
– Sept. 7, 2022