The Brief | November 18, 2021

The Brief: Leveraging infrastructure investments for communities, health apprenticeships, sustainable seafood in Portugal, carbon offtakes, 160 racial equity funds

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Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

Featured: Impact Voices

How impact investors can leverage the infrastructure bill to help disinvested communities catch up. The U.S. infrastructure bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for impact investors to apply their knowledge to rebuilding communities across the country, Boston College’s Lourdes Germán, an advisor to The Kresge Foundation, writes in a guest post on ImpactAlpha. The $1.2 trillion bill includes public finance mechanisms, such as private activity bonds, public-private partnerships, revolving loan funds and other capital tools that can be designed to improve the built environment and the lives of community members. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other administration officials acknowledge the legacy of systemic racism in infrastructure, construction and maintenance. Impact investors, Germán says, “are practiced at digging below the surface to better understand how the flows of capital impact people, place and environment.”

In reauthorizing Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds, for example, the bill doubles the minimum percentage of subsidies designated for disadvantaged communities. States can assist such communities with grants, negative interest loans and loan forgiveness, and can buy, refinance and restructure debts. “Impact investors could leverage this capital to create an unprecedented opportunity for disinvested communities to catch up to those favored in previous infrastructure investment policies,” Germán writes. The $50 billion included in the bill to protect against drought, heat waves, floods and wildfires, she says, is significant in how it recognizes the disproportionate impact of climate change on communities of color. The bill also dedicates $1 billion to reconnect historically underserved communities divided by highways and other infrastructure blockades. We have an opportunity, Germán says, “to make use of the same funding mechanisms that ripped apart communities across the country and attempt to stitch them back together.”

Keep reading, “How impact investors can leverage the infrastructure bill to help disinvested communities catch up,” by Lourdes Germán on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Upskilling Workers

Achieve Partners acquires Ro Health to create apprenticeships for school health workers. New York-based Achieve acquired the Seattle-based medical staffing and home health agency to advance an apprenticeship program for entry-level healthcare workers, primarily school nurses and behavioral therapists. Achieve raised $180 million in June to acquire up to 10 companies to train people for entry level jobs in sectors with skills gaps. Among the five companies it has bought so far are cybersecurity provider Metmox and Optimum Healthcare IT. It plans to acquire five more within two years. “We’re investing in rapidly-growing companies where the biggest problem faced is access to high-quality talent at scale,” Achieve’s Daniel Pianko told ImpactAlpha.

  • Good healthcare jobs. More than half of U.S. public schools don’t have a full-time nurse and nearly half lack access to a school psychologist. The apprenticeship program will address near-term needs “and build stronger talent pipelines for the years to come,” said Ro Health’s Sandie Tracy.
  • Keep digging

Aqua-Spark backs Portugal’s sustainable seafood company Oceano Fresco. Oceano Fresco’s open-sea aqua farm in Portugal grows clams native to Europe and at risk of extinction. Aqua-Spark, a sustainable aquaculture investor, has been “looking for the right bivalve operation to invest in” since it launched in 2013, according to founders Mike Velings and Amy Novogratz (for context, see, “Investing in aquaculture for a protein-hungry planet”). The Dutch investment fund co-led Oceano’s €6.1 million ($6.9 million) Series B funding round, which it plans to use to expand operations and build storage and packaging facilities. Oceano is looking to commercialize premium clam species. Share this post.

Evergrow raises $7 million to off-take carbon reduction projects. The San Francisco-based startup will pool capital from institutional investors to provide “long term, bankable off-take agreements” for developers of biofuel, waste-to-energy, electric vehicle charging and other carbon reduction projects, Evergrow’s James Richards told ImpactAlpha. Off-take, or advance purchase, agreements can unlock capital for project developers (see, “Off-takes, guarantees and blended finance: A lexicon of catalytic climate capital”). Evergrow’s goal: to remove or avoid a billion tons of greenhouse gas by 2030. The seed round was led by XYZ Venture Capital and Congruent Ventures. More.

Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Incofin backs women-led Exportables to meet growing demand for hot peppers by sourcing directly from smallholder farmers in Peru.
  • ADT acquires rooftop solar systems provider Sunpro Solar for $160 million in cash and 78 million shares of common stock. Sunpro will rebrand as ADT Solar.
  • Africa Health Holdings secures $18 million to expand telemedicine services in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya.
  • MindX raises a $3 million Series A round to train students in rural Vietnam for careers in tech. It received a debt investment from Beacon Fund, a gender-lens investor.

Signals: Returns on Inclusion

The list of 160 funds creating opportunities for Black, Indigenous and other people of color. Billions of dollars have been pledged to advance racial equity. The majority of those dollars remain on the sidelines. One excuse: There’s a shortage of investable opportunities. Bridgespan Social Impact has “found that hypothesis to be patently untrue,” write researchers from Bridgespan, CapEQ, Global Impact Investing Network and PolicyLink. Bridgespan Social Impact has released a list of more than 160 funds with strategies to raise the power, agency and wealth of BIPOC individuals and communities. Partnering with more diverse fund managers correlates strongly with more diverse deal sourcing. “Who decides where funds are invested is an important question that has the power to drive equitable investing – or hamper it,” the researchers write.

  • Returns on inclusion. The list includes names familiar to ImpactAlpha readers, including Apis & Heritage, Boston Ujima Project, Backstage Capital, VC Include, Kapor Capital, Impact America and SoLa Impact’s Black Impact Fund. Others on the list include Jumpstart Focus Fund, which provides seed capital to female entrepreneurs of color in Ohio, and Hip’s PowerUp Fund, which makes equity investments in scalable Latinx-led startups.
  • Measuring equity. The release of the list coincides with the launch of a new racial-equity theme in the GIIN’s IRIS+ impact measurement and management guides. The prototype helps investors select impact strategies and metrics for advancing and measuring racial equity. Say the researchers, “Advancing racial equity requires diligent, intentional processes and consistent, rigorous evaluation regarding outcomes.”
  • Collect the whole set.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

The American Sustainable Business Council and Social Venture Circle merged to become the American Sustainable Business Network… The American Society of Mechanical Engineers hosts its annual Impact Engineered convening, Thursday, Dec. 2… FINCA International is hiring a director of philanthropy in the U.S… Advantage Capital is looking for a vice president of minority business enterprise investing in New Orleans… Grant Thornton is recruiting a senior consultant of sustainable finance, ESG and impact in Amsterdam… Calvert Impact Capital is hiring an investment analyst in Bethesda, Md.

Thank you for your impact.

– Nov 18, 2021