The Brief | September 20, 2021

The Brief: Redressing infrastructure harms, spurring community solar, gender alpha in Australia, Climate Week in NYC

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

👏 Agents of Impact Call No. 31: Optimizing for Impact. Knowing the basics of impact measurement and management is table stakes for a career in impact investing and sustainable finance. In a special hands-on workshop, Duke University’s Cathy Clark will provide a quick how-to, Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London. RSVP today.

Featured: The Reconstruction

Redressing the past with climate-smart infrastructure for a just transition (podcast). Investors in climate solutions face a generational opportunity to create wealth and value. That opportunity begins by transforming or replacing polluting industries that have long hurt workers and communities while also destroying the environment. “There’s a responsibility now to redress and make sure that we can account for the harm done,” says Stephan Nicoleau, partner at FullCycle Climate Partners, a Los Angeles-based investment firm that makes growth-equity investments in climate infrastructure that can make an immediate dent in greenhouse gas emissions. Nicoleau joins host Monique Aiken on The Reconstruction podcast to discuss the intersection of infrastructure and climate justice. There’s more to the climate-smart transition than net-zero pledges, he says. “There’s a more urgent and more immediate responsibility to repair the harm done to communities that are impacted by your operations.”

In the U.S., all eyes are on congressional action on the multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure and budget bills, the passage of which could mark the real beginning of a full-scale climate mobilization. “The question becomes: who gets to participate in that great transition?” Nicoleau says. Climate investors like FullCycle are mobilizing private capital to slipstream on public investments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase resilience to weather-related disasters, and prepare communities for climate change. Climate justice advocates, labor unions and community leaders have developed a Just Transition framework and roadmap that centers justice in the transition to a regenerative economy. Take waste incinerators, nearly 80% of which are located in low-income communities in the U.S. “We have the technology to take those incinerators offline forever,” Nicoleau says. “It is our responsibility to build in a way that is more equitable, that serves communities, and that, in fact, repairs the harm done to communities that were disadvantaged by the placement of that infrastructure.”

Sponsored by Morgan Stanley

Innovations selected for Sustainable Solutions Collaborative. Learn how Morgan Stanley is helping to advance breakthrough innovations for global sustainability. Meet the cohort.

Dealflow: Clean Energy Access

Arcadia raises $100 million to spur U.S. demand for community solar. The Washington, D.C.-based energy access company is on a mission to accelerate community solar in the U.S. Arcadia matches energy customers with local community solar farms. As those farms generate power, Arcadia credits customers’ utility bills. The company says its customers save an average of 5% to 10% on their monthly bill. The consumer data Arcadia collects is meant to encourage utilities to integrate community solar into their networks. Arcadia’s Series D round was led by Tiger Global Management and the Drawdown Fund. Existing investors Energy Impact Partners, G2 Venture Partners, Inclusive Capital and BoxGroup participated, as well as a number of new investors.

  • Policy push. Arcadia supports 500 megawatts of installed community solar. Expansion requires policies for “virtual net-metering,” which have been adopted in only a few states. The company intends to “deepen our policy work and engagement with lawmakers to expand access to community solar and build a cleaner, more distributed, and more resilient electric grid.”
  • Plug in

Australia’s Verve Super raises early venture financing to manage its women-centered retirement fund. Verve Super launched in 2018 to offer Australian women a responsibly-invested “superannuation,” or retirement, fund matched to women’s career paths. It has more than A$180 million (US$130 million) in assets under management across 5,000 member accounts. Like Ellevest in the U.S., Verve Super aims to bridge Australia’s retirement gender gap: women in Australia retire with 35% less savings than men on average. The company’s A$2.6 million equity round was backed by a number of individual entrepreneurs and investors, including the founders of Who Gives a Crap forest-friendly toilet paper company, which itself just raised $30 million.

  • Impact alpha. In its annual report, Verve Super notes that its fund out-performed the market in 2020. That’s in part because it removed “(as much as possible) the risks associated with fossil fuels,” the report states. “The fossil fuel industry was one of the worst performing sectors (again) last year.”
  • Read on

Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Incofin’s India Progress Fund invests in a $4.7 million round for Jaipur-based Namdev Finvest, a micro- and small business lender.
  • San Antonio-based New Apprenticeship raises $2.5 million to offer year-long apprenticeships in digital marketing, data analytics, cyber security, web development and other fields facing skills gaps.
  • Nigeria’s Releaf secures $4.2 million to improve access to technology and markets for the country’s smallholder palm farmers.
  • Ten startups addressing worker benefits, youth engagement, equitable career opportunities and fair wages join Uncharted’s Economic Inequality Initiative accelerator.

Signals: Getting It Done

It’s Climate Week in New York, as global leaders convene to bridge ‘the ambition gap.’ Climate Week NYC kicks off today with hundreds of sessions meant to showcase climate solutions – and spur action as world leaders descend on New York for a parallel meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. The week’s admittedly aspirational theme: “Getting it done.” The series of events is also meant to prod countries ahead of the COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow in November. The commitments made by countries that are parties of the Paris Agreement, called “national determined contributions” or NDCs, are not nearly enough to avert climate catastrophe, according to a new U.N. report. Countries including China, India and Turkey have not yet submitted updated NDCs; Mexico, Russia and Brazil have actually weakened their plans.

  • Live from New York. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres on Monday will implore global leaders to step up their climate action. On Wednesday, the U.N. will host the first Food Systems Summit, and on Thursday, the first “high level dialogue” on clean energy in 40 years. Climate Week features more than 300 sessions across themes ranging from energy, finance, transportation and the built environment to environmental justice and nature-based solutions. Late-night comedians dedicating their shows to climate action on Wednesday night include Samantha Bee, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Trevor Noah and Seth Meyers.
  • Plug in.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

J&J Impact Ventures is recruiting an investment lead / senior manager in New Brunswick, N.J… Earthshot Ventures seeks a senior analyst in the San Francisco Bay Area or Honolulu… StepStone Group is looking for an ESG and impact associate in New York… FII Institute is hiring a director in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia… Slauson & Co. and Grid110 are accepting applications for “Friends and Family,” an accelerator program for early-stage entrepreneurs.

The U.N. Gender and Development Forum will host “Transforming Finance, Investment and Entrepreneurship: A feminist viewpoint,” featuring Resilience Capital Ventures’ Gillian Marcelle, Frontier Markets’ Ajaita Shah, Palladium’s Lauren Rawlings and others, Sunday, Sept. 26.

Thank you for your impact.

– Sept. 20, 2021