The Brief | June 21, 2022

The Brief: The XX edge, scoop on SOCAP, Mirova snatches SunFunder, corporate refugee action

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Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Featured: Agents of Impact Podcast

Delivering higher returns and stronger impact with ‘The XX Edge’ (podcast). At a breakfast meeting in Singapore a few years ago, Patience Marime-Ball and Ruth Shaber were speaking to asset owners and entrepreneurs about centering women as changemakers who drive solutions. “We noticed that, as we spoke, the women were nodding, and the guys were eating their breakfast,” Marime-Ball told ImpactAlpha’s Monique Aiken on the latest Agents of Impactpodcast. “Ruth and I, after that meeting, looked at each other and said, ‘We have to write a book.’” That book, “The XX Edge: Unlocking Higher Returns and Lower Risk,” is out today. “How to get to the guys” became the book’s key strategy, says Marime-Ball, who heads Women of the World Endowment, a nonprofit investment and advisory firm. “Men still need for us to bring this message to them, this message of missed opportunity.” 

  • Missing returns. In the financial services industry, all but about 2% of the $110 trillion of assets under management globally are managed by men, “and largely white men,” says Marime-Ball, a veteran of International Finance Corp. who grew up in Zimbabwe. In the Fortune 500, just 74 companies are led by women, up from 41 last year. Only about 14% of private equity fund managers are women, and less than 3% of venture capital is directed towards enterprises founded or run by women. The XX Edge cites studies that show gender-inclusive teams are more likely to outperform all-male teams, as do new companies with female founders. One study showed women-run hedge funds outperformed the average of larger hedge funds by a margin of 6% over a period of almost seven years.
  • The XX Edge. Marime-Ball says their research for the book indicated women “tend to have low ego,” as well as more collaborative, distributed leadership styles and more risk awareness, a term the authors prefer to the traditional “risk-aversion.” “We noticed in our research [that] women take the long view,” she added. “They tend to prioritize the long view over short term gains. And that too, can have real impact.” Shaber, founder and president of Tara Health Foundation, said in an interview with GenderSmart that the book’s ideal readers are men who will take action. “Specifically, a man who works for a mainstream investment bank who wants to do more, who is curious, excited, motivated, ambitious, but has no idea what a gender analysis even is or why it would be important to him.”
  • Listen to the podcast and keep reading, “Delivering higher returns and stronger impact with the XX edge,” by Isaac Silk on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: SOCAP shakeup

SCOOP: Sorenson takes over SOCAP to restructure its finances. SOCAP, one of the earliest and biggest impact investing events, is under new management. A cash crunch caused by the two-year, Covid-induced shutdown of its flagship gathering in San Francisco has forced a restructuring of its parent company, SOCAP Global. This year’s event, set for October, will be produced by the Sorenson Impact Center, based at the University of Utah’s Eccles School of Business. In: Robert Munson, managing director of the Sorenson Impact Center, who will take over SOCAP’s operations. Out: Robert Caruso, who led the group of investors that acquired SOCAP from its founding team in 2017. Caruso will remain an advisor and investor. 

  • Field builder. Over 15 years, SOCAP helped build the field of impact investing, bringing an eclectic mix of entrepreneurs and investors to the funky warehouses of a former Army base overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge (this year’s event is moving downtown). But Covid-related shutdowns tanked the company’s revenues, which fell nearly 70% in 2020 from approximately $4 million in 2019. SOCAP got loans from Open Road Alliance and the Sorenson center. That debt load is now being restructured as SOCAP seeks to raise another round of financing.
  • New tone. Munson, a former political consultant and sports marketing executive, said the new management team is “committed to protecting and preserving SOCAP’s culture while evolving the platform to reflect the rapid transformation of impact.” Caruso tried to put the best face on the restructuring.  “Honestly, it’s a miracle that we’re still alive,” he told ImpactAlpha. “It’s been really hard keeping everything going these last two-plus years and was only possible due to our amazingly committed team and community. But now we’re at the end of the pandemic and finally coming back.”
  • Keep reading, “Sorenson takes over SOCAP to restructure its finances and produce its flagship event,” by David Bank on ImpactAlpha. 

Mirova acquires SunFunder to expand clean energy and climate investing in emerging markets. Nairobi-based SunFunder was launched a decade ago as a crowdfunding platform to finance solar energy in Africa. Through its blended-finance funds, it has since invested more than $165 million in 58 companies deploying distributed clean energy solutions mainly in Africa and Asia. Paris-based Mirova, a $27 billion unit of French global asset management firm Natixis Investment Managers, has nearly $1.4 trillion under management. The combined entity will create a $500 million energy debt fund to invest in about 70 solar projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America. 

  • Impact management. Mirova, a certified B Corp, aims to build a clean energy portfolio in emerging markets. “In order to thoroughly address the challenges that come with the fight against global warming and social inequalities, having a local presence in emerging markets is critical,” said Mirova’s Philippe Zaouati. With SunFunder, “we will pursue our efforts to meet the needs of the real economy and increase the impact of our investments.”
  • Solar financing. SunFunder says it has helped improve access to clean energy for more than 10 million people, mainly in Southeast Asia and East and West Africa. When the transaction is complete, Mirova will own 100% of SunFunder. Mirova will retain the existing SunFunder team of 38 people, 55% of whom are women and 45% of whom are African.
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Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • LGT Capital Partners raised $550 million for Crown Impact, its first impact private equity fund, to invest in companies working to advance climate action, inclusive growth and healthcare.
  • Oikocredit, via a partnership with nonprofit Aqua for Allwill invest up to €16.5 million ($17.3 million) to improve access to water and sanitation for low-income communities in Cambodia and East and West Africa.
  • NY Green Bank committed $250 million from its balance sheet to provide low-cost capital to community development financial institutions for clean energy projects in underserved New York communities.
  • CrossBoundary Energy Access secured $25 million from investors including Bank of America and Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund to expand access to clean electricity in rural Africa.

Impact Voices: Refugee Lens

Tracking corporate action to address the climate-driven refugee crisis. The world’s refugee population doubled to over 26 million people from 2010 to 2020 – and that was before a wave of Ukrainians fled the Russian siege. The next wave will be driven by climate change, which could displace more than 1 billion people by 2050. “Almost anyone can become a refugee,” write Sindhu Janakiram of Refugee Integration Insights and Hernando Cortina of ISS ESG in a guest post marking International Refugee Day. Forced displacement is increasingly a long-term phenomenon, calling for solutions that “facilitate refugee economic integration and self-reliance,” they say. The private sector has stepped up to the challenge with hiring, entrepreneur support, education and skills development, products and services, and philanthropy. Still lagging: investors. 

Of the tens of trillions of dollars in global sustainable investments, less than $50 million is earmarked for refugees, with no investable products in the public markets. Refugee Integration Insights was launched last spring to provide corporate refugee data and insights so that refugee action may be tracked like environmental, social and governance activities. Corporate leaders on refugee action, such Unilever and Citi, also outperform on ISS’s ESG and SDG ratings. Such data will help “bring transparency to corporate refugee impact, offering the potential for investor capital to help scale this action to meet the growing needs of an accelerating crisis.” 

Agents of Impact: Where To Meet

  • BlueMark is hosting “Making the Mark: Spotlighting Leaders in Impact Management,” with Daniel Brandão of Vox Capital, Issa Faye of IFC, Pia Irell of Trill Impact, Pete Murphy of Nuveen, and BlueMark’s Tristan Hackett and Christina Leijonhufvud, Tuesday, June 28.
  • Big Path Capital’s Impact Capitalism Summit convenes July 20-21 in Nantucket, Mass.
  • The ROMBA Conference, the world’s largest gathering of LGBTQ+ business students and alumni, takes place in Washington, D.C., Oct. 6-8.
  • The GIIN Investor Forum will convene in The Hague, Netherlands, Oct. 12-13.
  • SOCAP will return on Oct. 17-20 at a new venue, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.
  • Enterprise Community Partners will hold its 40th anniversary conference Oct. 19-20 in Washington, D.C.

Thank you for your impact!

– June 21, 2022