Greetings, Agents of Impact!
Featured: The Reconstruction
Rethink, redress, liberate: Two dozen conversations on being a good ancestor. Injustice is a feature, not a bug, of our current operating system. In so many ways, the last two years have exposed pre-existing systems failures and fragility. And, once again, a movement of movements, old and new, is coalescing, writes Monique Aiken, host of ImpactAlpha’s podcast series, The Reconstruction. The new direction knits hundreds of efforts, in human and civil rights, restorative justice, affordable housing, health equity, climate justice and more. Since February, Aiken has engaged more than two-dozen leaders of such efforts in a wide-ranging discussion about moving capital toward justice. “Three words connect the different ways that leaders are lighting the way,” Aiken says. “Rethink. Redress. Liberate.”
Rethinking means more than conceptualizing and creating new funds or programs. Injustice haunts the basic rules of finance. “We challenged ourselves to say, ‘How are we, as Enterprise, complicit?'” Lori Chatman of Enterprise Community Partners told Aiken in a discussion of Enterprise’s Equitable Path Forward initiative, which aims to unlock broader access to capital for BIPOC developers. For people who have benefited from racial hierarchy, redressal is the act of acknowledging systemic inequity and holding yourself accountable for change. “Whatever white people do not know about Black people reveals precisely what they don’t know about themselves,” suggested Insight Center’s Anne Price, recalling James Baldwin. “And when you don’t know yourself fully, how can you truly be whole?” Liberation is a collective effort. In her podcast conversation, Patience Marime-Ball from Women of the World Endowment admonished, “Let us not unsee.” Aiken, managing director of The Investment Integration Project, calls for a new imagination and “a shared vision for a future that makes justice normal. Let us be good ancestors.”
Keep reading, “Rethink, Redress, Liberate: Two dozen conversations on being a good ancestor,” by Monique Aiken on ImpactAlpha.
- The Call: The Reconstruction This Time. Aiken will discuss takeaways from The Reconstruction series with podcast guests Melissa Bradley of 1863 Ventures and playwright Gene Bruskin, along with Bill Fletcher Jr., ex- of TransAfrica Forum and other Agents of Impact. Join our last call of the year to explore The Reconstruction This Time, Tuesday, Dec. 14 at 10am PT / 1pm ET. RSVP now.
- Special showing. In advance of The Call, ImpactAlpha subscribers are invited to watch The Moment Was Now, a musical set in 1869 that imagines a rollicking intersectional debate between Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and other historical figures (for background, see “Retelling the history of the past to change the story of the future“).
Dealflow: Energy Transition
Energy software provider Voltus to go public via a SPAC. It wasn’t so long ago that billion-dollar deals, mergers and valuations in the low-carbon transition were rare. Voltus, which helps large companies and property owners manage their energy consumption in line with grid demands, is looking to raise $445 million through its merger with the special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, Broadscale Acquisition Corp. The deal would value the company at $1.3 billion.
- Power software. As a software play, Voltus stands out in a spate of energy-transition SPACs dominated by hardware such as batteries, electric vehicles and EV-charging companies. Voltus’ cloud software manages electrical loads from large customers; reducing consumption in response to high demand is the virtual equivalent of bringing a power plant online.
- Check it out.
Denmark’s Hyme raises $12 million to store energy in ‘molten salt.’ The thermal technology is being developed by Copenhagen-based nuclear startup Seaborg Technologies, which is developing molten salt reactors as part of a new wave of nuclear technology. Seaborg spun off Hyme this month. “We can more than halve the cost of thermal energy storage in one go,” said Seaborg co-founder Ask Emil Løvschall-Jensen, who is now leading Hyme.
- Energy storage. Hyme is looking to pilot the technology as a solution for storing solar and wind energy. It was backed by Heartland A/S, the investment arm of Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen.
- Read on.
Oil and gas investor Lime Rock Partners raises $375 million for clean energy. Amid a frenzy of big-ticket climate deals and energy-transition funds, Lime Rock raised less than it planned. The Lime Rock New Energy fund had targeted $600 million, The Wall Street Journal reports. Lime Rock hasn’t gone green. Its fossil fuel investments continue to climb, but at a slowing rate. Since 1998, Lime Rock has raised nearly $9 billion to invest in upstream oil and gas.
- Early deals. Lime Rock New Energy has invested in two companies: Smart Wires, whose technology helps utilities and grid operators manage power flow; and Qmerit, which is helping residential and small commercial users switch to electric products.
Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:
- Jeff Bezos committed an additional $443 million of his $10 billion Earth Fund climate pledge, including $130 million for the Biden administration’s Justice40 initiative to help disadvantaged communities deal with climate change.
- Woman-led Goalsetter raises $15 million from financial institutions, venture funds and celebrity investors to instill financial literacy in kids.
- Nigeria-based Herconomy, which offers financial services, training, jobs and networking for the female workforce, raises a $600,000 pre-seed round, with participation from its community members.
Signals: Impact Management
Veris presses its managers to report on impact and diversity. Veris Wealth Partners, which recently surpassed $2 billion in assets under management, considers itself a “100% impact-focused wealth management firm.” But the firm’s challenges in obtaining impact and diversity data from its network of nearly 100 fund managers makes it hard to validate that claim, and illustrate the continuing difficulty even savvy investors have in understanding the full impact of their money. “Too little information is currently available about the companies in our managers’ portfolios,” Veris’ Michael Lent writes in the firm’s just-released 2021 Impact Report, one of a spate of such year-end reports.
- Asset management. Veris has made a particular push to gather data on equity, diversity and inclusion efforts and says more managers are reporting such information. The impact report discloses that 12% of the firms Veris works with are owned by people of color and 24% are owned by women. But fewer than two-thirds of Veris’ managers reported such information. As for Veris itself, the report discloses that two-thirds of the firm’s partners are women and one-quarter of its staff are people of color. Veris did not report on the racial makeup of its ownership partners.
- Contribution. In its private-market investments, the firm says its managers collectively have averted nearly 52 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and 219,000 tons of waste, as per industry standard IRIS metrics. Veris’ stable of managers also claim to sustainably manage 6.5 million acres of land and to have financed or supported nearly 500,000 small and medium-sized enterprises. As one of many investors in those funds, however, Veris can credibly claim only its pro rata share of such outcomes.
- Impact themes. Examples from Veris’ managers’ portfolios across environmental and social themes provide an anecdotal window into the firm’s impact. A Veris manager invested in one of the first green bonds for conservation, issued by the Conservation Fund to acquire land in its Working Forests Fund. A New England private debt fund is financing small utility-scale renewable energy projects. Veris called out Ecosystem Integrity Partners’ investment in EV Connect, which provides open-source software for public charging stations. Among public companies, Veris highlighted Trimble, a leader in precision agriculture, which can reduce water and fertilizer use. Jopwell, a private startup backed by SJF Ventures, connects Black, Latinx, and Native American students and professionals with internships and job opportunities.
- Keep reading.
Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent
Clara Barby, ex- of Bridges Fund Management and Impact Management Project, joins Just Climate, the investment subsidiary launched by Generation Investment Management… The Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office seeks an investment officer in Washington, D.C… Venture for ClimateTech seeks a program manager… PayPal is looking for a head of impact investing and ESG in New York… Generali is hiring a senior ESG integration specialist in Milan.
Thank you for your impact.
– Dec. 7, 2021