Greetings, Agents of Impact!
Featured: Gender Smart
Bringing women to the forefront of sustainable development. Sustainable Development Goal No. 5 underpins many if not all of the other goals: fighting hunger, securing education, helping the environment, advancing financial inclusion. And gender equality, especially in agriculture, may hold the key to climate resilience, author Esha Chhabra says in a guest post adapted from her new book, “Working to restore: Harnessing the power of regenerative business to heal the world.” Chhabra tells the story of female farmers in India, Kenya, Uganda and Nicaragua using organic and regenerative techniques like mulching, intercropping and cover crops to build healthier soil, reduce erosion, conserve water and cut fertilizer costs. “If companies invested in empowering women, they could address half of the Sustainable Development Goals in one sweep,” she writes. “With more money in their pockets – and organic products fetching higher prices – women can invest those funds in their children and in their own futures.”
- Feminization of agriculture. “Driving up into the hills of Uttarakhand in India, you’ll spot women working small plots of land,” Chhabra writes. “Many are alone: the men have left for the cities to find paying work – or are sitting idle in the village center, drinking.” Women from more than 200 villages have increased their incomes after forming the Mahila Umang Producers Co., a cooperative of 3,000 women made up of self-help groups of 10 to 20 women each. “They’ve planted over one million native tree saplings and shrubs in the river basins to revive the forests,” Chhabra writes. “Each year, members plant another five thousand fruit tree saplings, whose fruit they can eventually harvest and eat or sell for additional income.”
- Gender alpha. Chhabra earlier produced ImpactAlpha’s 2017 series, “Women rising in India.” Her new book cites companies such as Nisolo, based in Nashville, Tenn., which sells shoes made by artisans in Peru. At the company’s factory in Trujillo, women get a living wage, healthcare, financial literacy sessions, and free English classes. Soko helps more than 2,500 artisan jewelers in Kenya take orders and get paid through an app on their phones. In Ghana, Divine Chocolate is raising incomes by paying a fair trade premium and integrating women into the country’s cacao industry. Women make up more than one-third of the Kuapa Kokoo, the farmers’ cooperative that owns 44% of Divine.
- Keep reading, “Working to Restore: Bringing women to the forefront of sustainable development,” by Esha Chhabra on ImpactAlpha.
Dealflow: Green Infrastructure
Hybrico raises $2 million to shift cell tower operators to green energy. Online connectivity is now essential to economic inclusion. But in markets where grid energy isn’t reliable, the majority of cell towers are diesel-powered. Guatemala-based Hybrico provides solar-plus-battery systems to Latin America’s cell tower operators wanting to switch to lower-cost and lower-emission power sources. The company’s software helps operators manage energy usage at each tower. Acumen Latam Impact Ventures, or ALIVE, invested in Hybrico to enable “greater access to reliable connectivity to underserved communities in the region, while also reducing carbon emissions.”
- Impact-focused. Hybrico encourages telecom operators to expand access for underserved and hard to reach communities. It says its systems offer the lowest lifetime costs for power compared to other energy sources. Nearly 70% of its systems are used in off-grid areas.
- Green infrastructure. The use of green energy to power mobile connectivity and data demands is on the rise. Women-led Caban Systems in California, which offers a similar combination power system + software, raised $51 million in January. Last week, Microsoft partnered with Nigerian solar-powered wifi-tower developer Tizeti to expand affordable Internet access in Cote d’Ivoire. Climate Adaptive Infrastructure is investing $300 million in greening digital infrastructure, like data centers, in partnership with investment firm DigitalBridge.
- Check it out.
CTVC secures $1.8 million to ramp up climate-tech data insights. Climate investor Kim Zou launched Climate Tech VC in 2020 to track trends in climate tech investing. The free newsletter started “as a pandemic-era side project” while Zou worked with venture capital firm Energy Impact Partners. Now her full-time gig, she’s setting her sights on climate-tech data insights and services for corporates, investors and policymakers. CTVC is expanding its database of climate tech milestones. “An alphabet soup of rounds doesn’t always translate into success, but real projects on the ground, commercial contracts and partnerships do,” Zou wrote, announcing the raise. CTVC’s pre-seed investment round was backed by former presidential candidate and Galvanize founder Tom Steyer, Elemental Excelerator and Earthshot Ventures’ Dawn Lippert, Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr, and AccelR8.
- Follow the talent. Zou has brought on two new co-founders: chief product officer Mark Taylor, ex- of Bloomberg NEF, and executive editor Grace Donnelly, who joins from Morning Brew. Oliver Booth was hired from ADL Ventures as a research analyst.
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Dealflow overflow. Other news crossing our desks:
- The Ford Foundation invested in Ariel Fund, a mutual fund that invests in undervalued small- and mid-cap companies. The fund was developed by Black-led investment firm Ariel Investments (related, “Why corporate buyers bet $1.5 billion with Ariel Alternatives to diversify supply chains and close racial wealth gaps”).
- Norway’s Cubera invested in four private equity funds with its first impact fund of funds, which is looking to raise €125 million ($135 million). (New Private Markets)
- Digital logistics company Agraga raised Series A funding to make it easier for India’s small businesses to manage cross-border supply chains. (YourStory)
- Harrison Street is reportedly launching an energy transition fund with a $750 million target. (Infrastructure Investor)
Six Short Signals: What We’re Reading
👩🏽🦱🧑🏼🦱👨🏾🦲👩🏻 Business and racial justice. When employees see their employer making progress addressing racism and racial inequities, they are far likelier than those who see no progress to want to stay for many years. (Edelman)
💼 Inclusive procurement. Minority-owned firms saw a big jump in Massachusetts state contracts last year. The increase comes after the state agency tasked with supplier diversity got more enforcement teeth and other agencies got tools to track their own progress. (WGBH)
💲 High cost of dollar stores. Black ministers in Ohio are pushing back against the expansion of dollar stores, which have been shown to stifle economic growth and exacerbate food insecurity – part of a wave of local efforts to restrict Dollar General and Dollar Tree. (Capital B)
🌱 Seed-stage climate tech. Climate tech companies on Carta that raised seed-stage funding in the first quarter received higher valuations and higher round sizes than the general startup population. The downside: not a lot of rounds raised (only 10 in the three month period). (Peter Walker / Carta)
⚡ Nuclear pipeline. The US Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office, led by Jigar Shah, has received $16.6 billion in loan applications for nuclear projects (The New York Times calls Shah “a swaggering clean-energy pioneer”). Shah says the loans program “is uniquely situated to help support key parts of the advanced nuclear value chain, in order to reach our decarbonization goals.” (Jigar Shah / Accelerating Climate Wealth)
🎥 Climate and culture. Climate change is getting screen time at film festivals, at the cinema, on television, and in video. Future Forward, by The Climate Pledge, sets itself apart with a focus on climate solutions in transportation, farming, flight, buildings, water and forests. (World Economic Forum)
Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent
Goldman Sachs promotes John Goldstein to global head of sustainability and impact solutions for its asset and wealth management business. Kara Succoso Mangone will become head of the investment bank’s sustainable finance group… Jeff Jordan is stepping down as general partner of a16z after 12 years… Swati Chandra, ex- of Ruffalo Noel Levitz, joins Opportunity Finance Network as a senior credit analyst… Legal & General seeks a climate strategy analyst in London.
Acumen is recruiting an investment director focused on off-grid solar in Africa… Remarkable Ventures is looking for a climate senior investment associate in New York… South Pole is on the hunt for a sustainable finance managing consultant in San Francisco… African Management Institute and Shortlist partner on the Energy Access Talent Initiative to train and provide clean energy jobs for 1,600 African youth.
Thank you for your impact.
– May 22, 2023