The Brief | September 16, 2021

The Brief: Optimizing for Impact challenge, institutional carbon lock-in, Jeb Bush aligns with impact, solar internet, ESG in real estate, alt-proteins

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

Welcome to The Brief. Please enjoy this complimentary edition of The Brief. ImpactAlpha’s industry-leading newsletter is brought to you by Morgan Stanley throughout September. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe today – and take $100 off an annual subscription.

Take the ‘Optimizing for Impact’ challenge. Knowing the basics of impact measurement and management is table stakes for a career in impact investing and sustainable finance. So add your Coursera certificate of completion for the course, “Impact Measurement and Management for the SDGs,” to your LinkedIn profile. The first 100 Agents of Impact who point us to their updated LinkedIn profiles will be recognized by ImpactAlpha and receive a small personal prize from the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship, or CASE, at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. Just drop a note with a link to your LinkedIn profile. 

  • The Call. Join a special hands-on workshop, led by CASE’s Cathy Clark, for a quick how-to on impact measurement and management, and a preview of the new online course, Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London. RSVP today.

Featured: Institutional Impact

Target Enbridge, not Exxon, to prevent the lock-in of high-carbon infrastructure. When it comes to energy infrastructure, institutional investors seemingly want to have their renewable energy cake and eat it with fossil-fuel frosting. Net-zero pledges and ESG frameworks notwithstanding, contributing editor Imogen Rose-Smith writes in her latest Institutional Impact column, there is still money to be made in high-carbon infrastructure. Case in point: Enbridge Inc., the Alberta, Canada-based company that is building the 1,000-mile-long Line 3 Pipeline to bring tar-sands oil from Alberta to Superior, Wis. The project is the latest flashpoint in the environmental movement’s war against climate change and profiteers from the fossil fuel industry. Getting too little attention, Rose-Smith says, is who is financing such pipelines. “The answer, in a variety of ways, is institutional investors – often including asset owners who have made commitments to ESG and in some cases, divestment from fossil fuels.”

Major holders of Enbridge include the C$390 billion (US$308 billion) Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, or CDPQ, part of the U.N.-backed Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance. Another holder is Norges Bank, which manages the $1.3 trillion Government Pension Fund of Norway, which is funded by oil money but is leading Norway’s diversification from fossil fuels. Other backers also have stated ESG commitments and policies, as does Enbridge itself, which says it has a plan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. “At the end of the day, however, Enbridge is predominantly an energy pipeline company,” Rose-Smith writes. Oil pipelines represent wasteful investments in obsolete fossil fuel infrastructure that in the best-case scenario we won’t use – and in the worst case, we will. “By financing these costly and disruptive pipeline projects, we are locking ourselves into high-carbon infrastructure for the next 30 years,” she writes. “Given where we know the energy mix needs to be 10, 20, or even 30 years from now, does anyone really think that Line 3 is a good long-term bet?” 

Keep reading, “Institutional Impact: Target Enbridge, not Exxon, to prevent the lock-in of high-carbon infrastructure,” by Imogen Rose-Smith on ImpactAlpha. Catch up on all of Imogen’s Institutional Impact columns.

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Dealflow: Follow the Money

Jeb Bush launches Finback Investment Partners with $350 million for ‘impact aligned’ private equity. The former Florida governor’s new firm will focus on investing “private capital to solve public sector challenges.” It is targeting investments of $20 million to $40 million in business services, IT, education, healthcare, industrials, digital infrastructure and financial services. Deals will be first screened for potential financial returns. “Once that is met, we evaluate investments based on their societal impact,” Finback’s website states. ImpactAlpha is seeking details on Finback’s impact thesis, metrics and reporting standards; we’ll report back when the firm responds.

  • Politics to private equity. Bush follows other former politicians into the realm of impact investing. Former Vice President Al Gore, of course, is a founder of Generation Investment Management. Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick helped launch Bain Capital Double Impact. Former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman co-heads KKR’s global impact fund. Bush serves as managing partner of Finback alongside George Huber and Jack Oliver of Dock Square Capital, where Bush is chairman.
  • Early portfolio. The firm has built a rollover portfolio of 10 investments, including Omnia Partners, a purchasing organization that connects public and private institutions with suppliers; Seniorlink and InnovAge, which focus on senior care; and Vertical Bridge, an owner and operator of communications infrastructure.
  • More

CrossBoundary Energy and Zoodlabs develop solar-powered internet in Sierra Leone. CrossBoundary Energy invests in and develops commercial and industrial solar systems across Africa. Its latest deal is a 1.2-megawatt solar-plus-storage project that will power Sierra Leone’s submarine fiber optic infrastructure to enable reliable and clean-powered internet access in the country. CrossBoundary, USAID, The Shell Foundation, Powerhive and Netis will invest up to $2 million to develop the project. CrossBoundary has a power purchase agreement with Freetown-based utility infrastructure company Zoodlabs.

  • Internet impact. Less than 20% of Sierra Leoneans have internet access. “We believe one of the quickest ways to leapfrog economic barriers in Africa is to solve the digital divide and make broadband internet access commonplace,” Zoodlabs said in a statement. The solar project will eliminate the need for a back-up diesel generator, reducing the networks’ CO2 emissions by nearly 350 metric tons per year, the company said.
  • Read on

Lever VC secures $80 million for alternative protein fund. New York-based Lever VC’s founders Nick Cooney and Lawrence Chu worked with family offices that made early investments in alternative protein companies, including plant-based meat companies Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat and cellular meat venture Mosa Meat. Lever VC’s first fund will invest in early stage alternative meat and dairy companies. The fund received commitments from undisclosed food companies and family offices from the U.S., Europe and Asia.

  • Portfolio companies. Lever VC has backed 19 companies, including Singapore’s cell-based milk producer TurtleTree Labs, China’s cell-based dairy producer Marvelous Foods, and California’s Better Meat Co., which makes plant-based ingredients for meat and seafood companies.
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Measurabl raises $50 million to help real estate investors measure for ESG. Global real estate investors are increasingly looking to implement environmental, social and governance initiatives in their portfolios. One reason: to attract large institutional investors allocating capital through an ESG lens. San Diego-based Measurabl’s platform helps real estate firms manage their ESG performance and helps investors assess physical climate risks and identify decarbonization opportunities. BlackRock uses Measurabl’s ESG technology and data platform to measure the efficiency and sustainability of its real estate investments, according to BlackRock’s Katherine Sherwin. Energy Impact Partners led the Series C round. Check it out.

Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Boulder, Colo.-based Matchstick Ventures looks to back diverse founders in pre-seed and seed rounds with its $55 million third fund.
  • Capiter, which runs an e-commerce platform for Egyptian merchants, raises $33 million from Quona Capital and MSA Capital.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

The SEC’s Gary Gensler testified before the U.S. Senate’s Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee on establishing “clear rules of the road” for corporate ESG disclosure… CapShift is hiring a director of business development in Boston or remote… The Global Impact Investing Network is looking for a manager of institutional asset owners in New York… Impact Frontiers seeks an operations associate in Providence, R.I.

New York Life Insurance Co. is recruiting an impact investing senior associate in New York… Blue Earth Capital (formerly PG Impact Investments) is recruiting a private equity analyst for its climate growth fund in London… Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation is hiring an impact investing manager… SJF Ventures is hosting “Future Impact: The Solar Century,” with Adja Ba of PosiGen, Emily Burks of Community Energy, Matt Campbell of Terabase Energy, and Kristan Kirsh of Nextracker, Thursday, Sept. 30.

Thank you for your impact.

– Sept. 16, 2021