The Brief | October 1, 2020

The Brief: Solar financing for frontline health clinics, biodiversity urgency, India’s digital health boom, greening freight, racial justice algorithms

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Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

Call No. 24: Solar financing for frontline health clinics in Africa and Asia. Renewable energy meets global health in a compelling challenge for innovative finance. Join We Care Solar and ImpactAlpha to explore emerging solutions for financing clean, affordable solar power for frontline primary public health clinics. The World Bank’s Raihan Elahi, Sustainable Energy for All’s Jem Porcaro, UBS’s Phyllis Costanza and Liebreich Associates’ Michael Liebreich and other Agents of Impact join We Care Solar’s Laura Stachel and ImpactAlpha’s David Bank, Thursday, Oct. 8, at 9am PT/ 12pm ET/ 7pm Kampala. RSVP today.

Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

Biodiversity summit aims to increase urgency and financing to avert ecosystem collapse. If you think things already are bad, consider that we’re also hurtling toward what scientists are calling Earth’s sixth mass extinction. A million species are at risk of extinction in as little as a decade. Human activity has altered nearly three-quarters of all land, crowding out wildlife and providing pathways for zoonotic diseases, such as COVID-19, to make the leap to humans. “Deforestation, climate change and the conversion of wilderness for human food production are destroying Earth’s web of life,” Secretary-General António Guterres said in opening the U.N.’s biodiversity summit, an effort to reset global ambitions and enlist the power of capital markets to avert ecosystem collapse. The goal: a new Paris-style pact for biodiversity to be forged at COP15 next year in Kunming, China.

One of the first orders of business is to stop making things worse. One big target: reforms for the estimated $542 billion in annual government subsidies for agricultural, fisheries, and forestry that are harmful to nature, according to Financing Nature,” from the Paulson Institute, The Nature Conservancy and Cornell’s Atkinson Center for Sustainability. That could go a long way to closing an estimated $700 billion annual financing gap in biodiversity efforts. A new Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures, modeled on a similar task force for climate-related disclosures, includes Citi, BNP Paribas, Natwest Group, BP, PIMCO and the U.N. Principles for Responsible Investment. Transitioning to “nature-positive” systems across key sectors could generate up to $10 trillion in annual business value and create 395 million jobs by 2030, according to the World Economic Forum.

Keep reading, “Biodiversity summit aims to increase urgency and financing to avert ecosystem collapse,” by Amy Cortese on ImpactAlpha.

Sponsored: Tideline

Introducing BlueMark, Tideline’s impact verification business. Tideline today announces the launch of BlueMark, an independent business providing impact verification services to build trust in the impact label and help scale the impact investing industry with integrity. The new business draws on Tideline’s deep expertise helping clients develop impact investment strategies and practices as third-party verification emerges as the next critical piece of a best-in-class approach. BlueMark’s mission: to “strengthen trust in impact investing” through rigorous assessments of impact practices and performance for investors and companies. By bringing greater accountability, discipline, and comparability to the impact investing market, impact verification represents the best weapon in the fight against impact-washing. 

BlueMark CEO Christina Leijonhufvud will be joined at today’s launch event by CDC Group’s Nick O’Donohoe, LeapFrog Investments’ Andrew Kuper, Maria Kozloski of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Roy Swan of the Ford Foundation. Learn more about impact verification and BlueMark today at 9am ET / 2pm London. Register for additional details or Zoom right in.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

BestDoc secures $2.1 million to help clinics deliver digital healthcare in India. The challenge of universal healthcare access for India’s uninsured rural poor has been made starkly clear by the COVID crisis. The country, with its six million cases, ranks second highest in the world. (The U.S., with a quarter of India’s population, is No. 1, with more than seven million cases.) Entrepreneurs and investors are seizing the moment to build digital health services to fix, streamline and expand care services offered through traditional brick and mortar clinics and hospitals. The latest deal: A pre-Series A investment round for Kerala-based BestDoc, which offers management software to help India’s primary health centers handle scheduling, payments, customer surveys and, since the pandemic, online telemedicine appointments. Accel and Bangalore-based Arkam Ventures invested.

  • Market drivers. Investments in India’s digital health startups reached $587 million last year — a four-fold increase from 2014. The three drivers, according to Prabu Thiruppathy of impact investor KOIS, include the telecom boom: “Every household has at least one phone that can send and receive SMS and which has constant connectivity. So mobile access now reaches to the bottom of the economic pyramid and has really enabled India to open up.” Talent: A younger generation of tech-savvy healthcare providers and operators have more readily embraced tech in the health sector. And policy: the Indian government now favors adoption of health tech to expand healthcare access and quality.
  • COVID effect. Investments have only accelerated amid the pandemic. Genetic diagnostics company MedGenome’s $55 million round in April, led by LeapFrog Investments, was an early example. Thiruppathy and Pinak Shrikhande of New Delhi-based healthcare venture fund HealthQuad anticipate that 2020 will indeed be digital health’s breakout year; COVID will speed adoption of solutions already designed to address health crises. “Before the coronavirus, there was an epidemic of chronic diseases happening in India,” says Shrikhande. To slow and eventually reverse that trend, “it’s not good enough to have incremental growth in hospitals, doctors and manpower. We have to leverage technology to leapfrog into non-conventional modes of care delivery.”
  • Prabhav 2020. India’s digital health acceleration is a focus of “India Impact Investing Week,” hosted by India Impact Investors Council, Oct. 5-9. ImpactAlpha subscribers get 35% off registration with code P20-IMPALPHA.
  • Go deeper

Sweden’s Einride raises $10 million to green freight transit. Heavy transport accounts for 30% of transport-related carbon emissions and 7% of total global carbon emissions. Pandemic-related disruptions to global logistics exposed the transport sector’s vulnerabilities. Einride’s freight management platform integrates electric and autonomous vehicles to move commercial products. Partners include plant-based dairy company Oatly and European grocery chain Lidl. Impact investor Norrsken VC led the round, which included EQT Ventures, Nordic Ninja VC and Ericsson Ventures. Check it out

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Call No. 23 recap: Changing investment algorithms to advance racial justice (video). What got us here won’t get us where we need to go. Guidelines that govern global finance need to be rewritten to drive equity and justice throughout the economic system. Agents of Impact came together on The Call to call out ways in which racism distorts markets, masks investment risks and drives economic injustice and poor social outcomes. Co-host Transform Finance dissected examples in its new report, “How investments drive injustice and what investors can do about it. “There are racist structures that are baked within capital,” said Transform Finance’s Andrea Armeni. “What would it mean to look at every investment through the lens of racial justice?” The report identifies racialized outcomes of investments in healthcare, education, criminal justice and other sectors. A key indicator: low-quality jobs, which are disproportionately held by people of color, especially women. 

  • Agents of Justice. Illumen Capital’s Daryn Dodson, Mastercard’s Marla Blow, Beeck Center’s Erika Davies and Activest’s Ryan Bowers, along with co-hosts Monique Aiken and David Bank, urged investors to root out racism and bias in finance to reduce systemic risk and improve returns. “We need people to interrogate the systems and the policies and the practices that are in front of us, and then decide to make changes to them,” said Davies.
  • Investment continuum. Bridgespan’s Stepanie Kater followed up The Call with examples of racial justice allocations. Kater cites capital that TPG and Arizona State University allocated to establish public benefit company InStride that targets gig economy workers, and Maycomb Capital’s Community Outcomes Fund, which uses public-private partnerships to improve outcomes for families in the predominantly Black city of Memphis. ImpactAlpha’s roundup includes the trove of resources and readings recommended by Call participants, including 10 articles, four books and two reports.
  • Read on and watch the video replay.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

RBC Global Asset Management, Northern California Grantmakers, Southern California Grantmakers and San Diego Grantmakers launch the Philanthropy California Investment Collaborative, with $100 million in impact investments targeting homeownership, job creation, small business growth, and increased access to affordable rental housing, healthcare and education… Walton Enterprises is hiring an investment director… ImpactCity The Hague is hosting its annual ImpactFest, virtually, Oct. 27-29. ImpactAlpha subscribers get a discount by registering hereOpportunity Finance Network will hold its (virtual) annual conference Nov. 9-12. 

Thank you for reading.

–Oct. 1, 2020