The Brief | June 29, 2018

The Brief’s Big 8: Agents of Impact step up, America 2030, private-equity hot seat, beyond ESG

The team at


Happy Friday, ImpactAlpha readers!

We haven’t toted up the AUM of all the firms on the line yesterday for our Agents of Impact Call No. 2, but let’s just say ImpactAlpha is on the way from billions to trillions. Thanks to all who turned out and special tips of the hat to Capria’s Will Poole, Tideline’s Ben Thornley and Vimine Holding’s Vivina Berla, ex- of Sarona Asset Management. We’ve been jazzed by the response to The Call and are working to keep the conversation going and growing.

Poole called in from Bangalore, where he was working with Capria’s network of emerging-market fund managers targeting “the missing middle” of venture financing. I had asked Will, whom I’ve known since his tech days, for a global, not U.S.-myopic view. “I hope I’m not U.S.-myopic any more,” he wrote back. “Might have been that 30 years ago, but I’m much better now :)”

That global view was clear as well in testimonials offered this week by a half-dozen Agents of Impact. What was striking about the responses to our question: “Are you a globalist?” was the centrality of personal identity. “I’d rather try to be part of the solution than sticking my head in the sand,” wrote ANDE’s Randall Kempner. “Personally, I am an immigrant to the US whose four grandparents were born in four countries on three continents and I did nothing more to deserve the right to American citizenship than the people crossing on foot into Texas today,” said Nonprofit Finance Fund’s Antony Bugg-Levine. Heron’s Clara Miller “turned a binary choice into a nuanced reflection,” (@KevinDoyleJones) with her “light-touch common-sense approach to a challenging question.” (Matthew Weatherley-White @i3impact).

That was the first of three pieces that tried to connect the broad impact project with the peculiar moment the U.S. finds itself in. In many places and in many ways, the people and places driving “impact” are together forging a path forward for the country and the world. Those solutions and relationships and, let’s be frank, that kind of capital, will be even more consequential in the days ahead.

Speaking of Independence Day, ImpactAlpha has a Summer of Impact offer going on right now. (It’s less than $10 a month when you pay annually.) Agents of Impact, share with your friends, colleagues, partners, investors, parents and children so that they too can access the latest news and insights on impact investing!

– David Bank, editor and CEO

Featured: The Brief’s Big 8

Agents of Impact speak out. The scenes at the U.S.-Mexican border, the waves of migration into Europe, the prospect of a trade war and the accelerating climate disruption make clear there is no ducking global issues. The choice is how we respond. Closed, divided and driven by scarcity and fear? Or open, connected and abundant?

1. Monday: ‘Why I am a globalist.’ ImpactAlpha published perspectives from contributors taking global approaches to global challenges. Village Capital’s Ross Baird said, “As an American, I believe globalism is being smart and realistic about how the world works, and nativism is naively idealistic at best and intellectually dishonest at worst.” Sphaera’s Astrid Scholz added, “We can now disintermediate government, and engage in a kind of collective individualism around a shared set of goals.” Such individualism, she said, “avoids the pitfalls of top-down internationalism and the specter of UN black helicopters.” More impact voices.

2. Tuesday: America 2030. America benefits from an inclusive, expansive approach to migration, diversity, entrepreneurship, innovation. Instead of Made in China 2030, how about America 2030? Such a plan “would include a massive buildout of clean-energy infrastructure…the dramatic expansion of U.S. entrepreneurship…tech innovation to drive down costs and open up solutions…investments in talent, both homegrown and newly arrived….good, competitive, 21st century jobs, all over the country.” What’s not to like?

3. Wednesday: Get on board. Every industry is being disrupted, from supply chains to distribution channels, and we don’t mean by President Trump. Agents of Impact in nearly every company, country, and U.S. cities and states are prodding their colleagues and partners toward the innovation-driven, low-carbon, inclusive and yes, globally connected future. What choice do they have? Wouldn’t want to miss this train.

4. Where the big private-equity firms are placing their impact bets. It’s not just the still-declining costs for wind and solar. Or steady improvements in batteries and a surge in electric vehicles. Meat substitutes are growing faster than processed meats. Material consumption is declining. The ways food is grown, water is used and health care is delivered are changing rapidly. Can “original impact” private-equity funds like DBL Partners, Bridges Fund Management and LeapFrog Investments and new “hybrid” impact investors including Bain Capital, TPG Growth and KKR point the way to impact-driven growth? Big money, big challenges.

5. Deals of the week. Drink from the deal firehose all week long on A few that stood out:

6. Inside Laurene Powell Jobs’ new engine for social change. Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective is “equal parts think tank, foundation, venture capital fund, media baron, arts patron and activist hive,” writes the Washington Post’s David Montgomery. In the portfolio of both grants and investments: media companies like the Atlantic magazine and upstart digital pub OZY, a guerrilla art project with artist JR and a seed fund for immigrant entrepreneurs. Montgomery calls the Emerson Collective “perhaps the most influential product of Silicon Valley that you’ve never heard of.” New tools of philanthropy.

7. Going ‘beyond ESG’ to deepen understanding of investment risk. With company risks at the center, stakeholders” in the next ring out and the wider landscape in the outer circle, the asset manager Impax has set out to identify short and long-term risk factors, including, for example, impact of regulations to mitigate climate change, health impact of products, or reputational risk from supplier safety lapses. The firm, with $15.6 billion in assets under management, says investors need to go “beyond ESG,” to capture the full scope of risks facing companies today. Know your risks.

8. Impact investing business profs share their secrets. The price of admission to this week’s gathering at the Kellogg School of Management was an actual course syllabus for teaching impact investing. At the second annual gathering of the Impact and Sustainable Finance Faculty Consortium, impact professors shared not only syllabi, but research, cases and experiential exercises. “No one has blinked” at such collaboration, Kellogg’s Megan Kashner told ImpactAlpha. “People are so eager to share and have access to one another’s content, to move the field toward mainstream adoption and canonization.” Take a peak.

– June 29, 2018.