The Brief | September 14, 2023

The Brief: Generation Investment charts sustainability, protest-invest at Climate Week NYC, waste-to-plastic alternatives, standing up to for diversity-focused funds

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

Featured: Climate Week NYC

Al Gore’s Generation Investment ‘calls a moment’ in the sustainability revolution. Climate change has moved from the margins to the center of global politics. “This is how I know it’s real: A lot of people are getting mad all of a sudden because this is not just symbolic anymore,” says Justin Gillis of Generation Investment Management. “We’re calling a moment here.” Generation charts the advances and setbacks in the global race to scale up clean technologies in its seventh Sustainability Trends Report.” The catalyst for this year’s surprisingly optimistic analysis: ambitious industrial climate laws in the US and Europe, climate friendly governments in Australia and Brazil, and progress on climate policy in India. Factors including war in Europe, falling costs for renewables, and the global search for economic growth have finally dragged governments into the climate fight. Finding investment opportunities amid an evolving policy environment and systemic inertia is still tricky, says Gillis. “You’ve got to be a pretty smart investor to figure that out.”

  • Climate divergence. ImpactAlpha is displaying nine charts from the dozens in Generation’s annual slide deck, charting the dramatic rise of heat pumps, rapid penetration of EVs, and dominance of China up and down clean tech supply chains (even as it continues to roll out coal). One chart tracks the divergence of the trendlines for emissions in developed countries (falling) and emerging economies (rising). That split provides the context for November’s COP28 in the United Arab Emirates. The chair of the annual UN climate summit, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, head of the UAE’s national oil company, has put new financing for the energy transition in low- and middle-income countries high on the COP agenda.

Protesters and private investors to pressure global leaders at Climate Week NYC. When world leaders jet into New York for the annual UN General Assembly this weekend, it will be hard to miss the tens of thousands of protestors expected to take to the streets for the March to End Fossil Fuels. After the hottest summer on record, and amid Libya’s massive flood – the latest incident in a vulnerable region – the question is: “Can you, from the streets and from the business community and from the finance community, put enough clear pressure on political leaders to act now?” asks Rachel Kyte of Tufts University’s Fletcher School. Next week’s real action (or at least the fun) will take place not at the UN but all over New York at the sprawling, messy meetup of entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders and activists known as Climate Week NYC, organized by the nonprofit Climate Group, which also attracts a dizzying array of side events (h/t Climate Tech VC). The annual gathering has become an “epicenter for an ecosystem of private-sector innovators, funders, and policymakers convening across party lines,” said Planeteer Capital’s Sophie Purdom.

Dealflow: Green Materials

UBQ Materials scores backing from TPG’s impact funds for its plastic alternative. The Israeli company converts banana peels, chicken bones, pizza boxes, baby diapers and other household waste into pellets that can replace fossil-fuel based plastics in car parts, footwear and other products. UBQ raised $70 million from TPG Rise Fund and TPG Rise Climate, Battery Ventures and M&G Catalyst. Eden Global Partners led the round. The B Corp is building a facility in the Netherlands to convert more than 115,000 tons of waste annually into nearly 90,000 tons of pellets.

  • Waste to value. UBQ’s partners include Arcos Dorados, a McDonald’s franchisee that owns more than 2,250 restaurants in Latin America and the Caribbean. It’s using UBQ’s pellets to make food trays. Mercedes-Benz has tested the material for use in automotive parts. UBQ acquires municipal solid waste and separates recyclable elements, like metals and minerals, to go back to traditional recyclers. The rest gets broken down into its basic organic components, like cellulose, fiber and sugar, and mixed with landfill- or incinerator-bound plastics to make the granules. The company says its process uses no water and 100% solar energy.
  • Food protection. Separately, Boston-based DetraPel raised $7.6 million from Material Impact, packaging manufacturer INX International and others for its plastic-free food and textile films and coatings.
  • Check it out

Dealflow overflow. Other news crossing our desks: 

  • Energy Impact Partners launched its third growth-stage climate tech fund with a target of $1.5 billion. (New Private Markets)
  • One Small Planet backed Pittsburgh-based ReSeed to help small farmers and even home gardeners get plugged into the carbon markets. (Axios)
  • Vancouver-based business accelerator Spring Activator acquired investment group Future Capital to support underrepresented founders. (betakit)
  • Pulsora scored $20 million from Galvanize Climate Solutions, Aramco Ventures and JetBlue Ventures and others for its corporate ESG and sustainability management software. (Pulsora)
  • Optera, based in Boulder, Colo., raised $12 million to help companies account for ESG and the carbon footprints of their products, operations and supply chains. (FinSMEs)

Signals: Inclusive Economy

Disruptive discourse: Standing up to legal challenges to fund managers and entrepreneurs of color. “We absolutely must be doing something right,” JaNay Queen Nazaire of Blk Grvty said at this week’s Disruptive Discourse, a half-day summit in New York organized by OfColor, a Black-owned financial wellness startup. “Part of what’s happening right now is that people are scrambling out of scarcity, fear, power and control.” Attracting the most attention is the lawsuit against Atlanta-based Fearless Fund, which provides capital for early stage businesses run by Black women. Fearless Fund faces a lawsuit by the American Alliance for Equal Rights alleging anti-white bias (see, “Legal challenge to Fearless Fund misses the mark on racial bias in venture capital”). “I stand in solidarity with the Fearless Fund and others,” Nazaire said.

  • Worker ownership. Exacerbated by the Covid pandemic, workers of color are facing disproportionately higher rates of debt and other financial hardships compared to white peers. One promising path to wealth creation: worker ownership. Ownership Works, launched two years ago, has implemented broad-based ownership programs at 79 portfolio companies with more than 100,000 workers. “We’ve shared almost $25 million with Black workers in particular, and the average payout to those workers from employee-ownership programs has been about $46,000,” said Ownership Works’ Anna-Lisa Miller. She said workers need to make plans of what to do to maximize the long-term benefit of the payouts. “Forty-six thousand dollars can be a tremendous amount of money for an employee,” Miller says, “but it’s not instant generational wealth.”
  • Keep reading,Disruptive discourse: Standing up to legal challenges to fund managers and business owners of color,” by Roodgally Senatus.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

👉 View (or post!) impact investing jobs on ImpactAlpha’s Career Hub.

David LeZaks, ex- of Croatan Institute, joins Food System 6 as managing director. Lauren Manning, also ex- of Croatan, joins as an associate director… Jugjeev Duggal, ex- of Citigroup, joins Moelis & Co. as a managing director, supporting clean energy mergers and acquisitions… Innophos’ Kim Ann Mink joins Group14 Technologies’ board of directors (see, “Group14 Technologies rakes in $400 million to commercialize silicon batteries”)Village Capital is on the hunt for a communications associate in Mexico. 

Sitawi Finance for Good  seeks an impact investing coordinator in Rio de Janeiro… Instiglio is looking for a manager or senior associate in Nairobi… The Aspen Institute is recruiting a director of finance in Washington, DC… US Bank seeks an affordable housing business development associate in St. Louis…. American Heart Association is on the hunt for a social impact associate portfolio manager in Dallas… One Acre Fund is the 2023 recipient of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, which will provide the organization with $2.5 million to support smallholder farmers in Africa.

Thank you for your impact!

– Sept. 14, 2023