The Brief | November 11, 2020

The Brief: Gender is material, waste-to-fuel opportunity, women’s health products, justice tech disruption, social bond boom

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

Featured: Impact Voices

From workforce to infrastructure, 10 ways gender is ‘material’ to the COVID recovery. If ‘material’ means factors that would affect the judgment of an informed investor, gender is decidedly material. In a guest post on ImpactAlpha, Criterion Institute’s Joy Anderson and GenderSmart’s Suzanne Biegel tick 10 gender-related indicators that can illuminate risks and opportunities for governments designing stimulus packages or investors and portfolio managers diligencing their next deal. The decline in women’s employment, for example, is expected to reduce global production by $1 trillion in 2020 alone. Since the onset of the pandemic, women have left the workforce in greater numbers than men. Women also have higher representation in low-wage sectors that have been hit the hardest. The increasing demand for unpaid child care, which falls disproportionately on women, is slowing economic growth. A red flag: countries or companies that fail to respond effectively to increases in gender-based violence. Caution Anderson and Biegel: “When investors fail to pay attention to these social patterns, they make mistakes.”

While the human and economic risks of the pandemic are well documented, how these patterns affect investment outcomes is less studied. A new paper from Criterion Institute takes up the issue. Among the indicators: Investments in women-led businesses are an investment in resilient economic recovery. Companies that mitigate the potential gendered consequences of remote work will be better positioned in “the new normal.” Women will continue to be the dominant purchasers of essential goods and services. Putting technology and infrastructure under a gender lens can reveal risks and opportunities. “The scope and magnitude of the economic and social impacts of gender inequality and the ways in which they are being exacerbated by the pandemic will change how companies, sectors and markets perform,” the authors write. “Given the gendered impacts of COVID-19, gender is one essential lens through which to analyze your investments.”

Keep reading, “From workforce to infrastructure, 10 ways gender is ‘material’ to the COVID recovery,” by Joy Anderson and Suzanne Biegel on ImpactAlpha

  • Agents of Impact Call No. 25: Gender-smart investing for a sustainable recovery. CDC Group’s Nick O’Donohoe and International Finance Corp.’s Stephanie Von Friedeburg will launch Private Equity and Value Creation: A Fund Manager’s Guide to Gender-Smart Investing and join equity and debt investors in Africa and Asia, local entrepreneurs, and other Agents of Impact in conversation with ImpactAlpha and the Collaborative for Frontier Finance, Tuesday, Nov. 17, at 9:30am ET / 2:30pm London / 5:30pm Nairobi / 8:00pm New Delhi. RSVP today.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

North Sky Capital backs a California waste-to-fuel plant – in an Opportunity Zone. The sustainable infrastructure investor is financing the development of a commercial-scale anaerobic digestion plant to produce biogas from municipal waste and wastewater treatment sludge. Anaergia Services is building the plant at the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority, located in an Opportunity Zone in San Bernardino County, Calif. The plant is expected to reduce annual emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, by more than 6,000 metric tons. 

  • Sustainable transition. Opportunity Zones are not only for real estate deals. Last week, Micronic Technologies raised $3 million for its “zero liquid discharge” technology to treat wastewater from industries and municipal landfills. In a South Carolina Opportunity Zone, the Agriculture Technology Campus plans to employ more than 1,500 people in a high-tech greenhouse. 
  • Check it out.

Swedfund commits $1 million to health products marketplace Kasha. Rwanda-based Kasha operates an e-commerce platform to improve low-income women’s access to menstrual care products, contraceptives, pharmaceuticals and other health and hygiene products. Kasha’s more than 200 mostly-female agents handle last-mile delivery in Rwanda and Kenya. Customers can order from basic feature phones. The investment in Kasha’s Series A round from Swedfund, Sweden’s development finance institution, follows a $1 million investment from Finnfund, and earlier backing from DFC, the U.S. development finance institution. More.

MPower secures seed funding for menopausal women’s health products. U.K.-based MPower is developing nutritional supplements for women experiencing perimenopause and menopause. Rebekah Brown started the company last year to address the “woefully inadequate” research into women’s symptoms and nutritional needs. The startup raised €550,000 ($650,000) from Pink Salt Ventures, Founders Factory and several angel investors.

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

‘Justice tech’ entrepreneurs look to disrupt the cycle of recidivism. The U.S. criminal justice system has created an industry of extractive products and services that cost the government, citizens and families of incarcerated individuals at least $182 billion per year. A new crop of ‘justice tech’ entrepreneurs are looking to disrupt this system with new tools and services to help the formerly incarcerated navigate life outside. “There is a lack of market awareness and a strong perception of risk among investors who do not see justice tech as a core investment area but may work in related or interconnected verticals,” Village Capital’s Marcia Rosado told ImpactAlpha.

  • Lived experience. Black Americans face higher incarceration rates than white Americans and worse prospects of reintegrating into society, increasing their odds of ending back up in prison. “It is essential that the solutions to today’s social issues be born from those who have lived experience,” Rosado and American Family Insurance’s Nyra Jordan write in “The Ethical Disruption of the Criminal and Civil Justice System.”
  • Startup pipeline. R3 Score Technologies’ software-as-a-service platform creates real-time assessments of formerly incarcerated applicants when they apply for a job, car loan or home. The startup was launched by Teresa Hodge, who was herself formerly incarcerated, and her daughter. Flikshop allows people to cheaply send messages to their incarcerated loved ones. 70 Million Jobs helps people with criminal records get a fair shot at employment. And Courtroom5 creates a legal toolbox to help people with civil cases.
  • Share this post.

Social bond boom. “Social bond” issuances from governments, development banks and corporations have more than quadrupled this year. The bonds, which address or mitigate a specific social issue, grew to nearly $72 billion as of October. S&P Global Ratings projects COVID-related relief efforts could push issues to $100 million for the year. The total sustainable debt market, which includes bonds issued to address climate and environmental goals, could hit a record $500 billion, up from $341 billion last year.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Babacar Ka, Takudzwa Mutasa and Marc Stoneham join Development Partners International as partners (see, Q&A with DPI’s Runa Alam: How Africa’s impact ventures became essential during Covid-19)… Native CDFI Awards recognizes Cook Inlet Lending Center in Alaska and Black Hills Community Loan Fund in South Dakota for their COVID relief support for Native-owned small businesses… MSCI is hiring a corporate social responsibility business manager in New York.

Pakistan’s Invest2Innovate is accepting applications for its WeRaise coaching and advisory program for female-led companies, launched in partnership with the WorldBank, efino and Valhalla Private CapitalEthical Systems and Preventable Surprises are hosting a live podcast with Kepos Capital’s Bob Litterman, chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s climate-related market risk subcommittee, today, Nov. 11 at 1:30pm ET.

Thank you for reading.

– Nov. 11, 2020