The Brief | July 13, 2018

The Brief’s Big 8: Vatican impact, global goals scorecard, beyond aid, sustainable oceans fund, racial-lens investing

The team at


Greetings, ImpactAlpha readers! 

The split screen between this week’s gatherings at the Vatican, where impact investors pledged themselves to refugees, migrants and the poorest of the poor, and Brussels, where world leaders pledged themselves to raise military spending, might suggest we inhabit parallel universes. I think it rather signals that hard-working Agents of Impact won’t be distracted. At the United Nations in New York right now, dozens of countries are charting their progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals. America 2030, anyone? Chime in on our subscriber-only Slack channel.

– David Bank, editor

Featured: The Brief’s Big 8

1. America needs its own 2030 sustainable development goals. The U.S. ranks at the bottom of the list of G20 countries in terms of preparation for and commitment to the global goals. For his weekly column, David Bank caught up with economist Jeff Sachs, who says setting U.S. goals for sustainable development could gain support across the political spectrum. Decade-long stretch goals, he says, resonate with Americans’ need to stand for something, aim for something and get something done.

  • The U.N.’s “High-Level Political Forum,” which runs through July 18, is reviewing a half-dozen of the 17 goals, including No. 6 (clean water and sanitation) and No. 12 (sustainable consumption and production).
  • Sweden, Denmark and Norway top new rankings across the pillars of economic growth, social fairness and environmental sustainability. The U.S. ranked 35th, above Ukraine and Serbia, but below Bulgaria and Poland. Path to 2030.

2. Vatican spotlights impact investing in the poorImpactAlpha’s Carol Clause was at the Third Vatican Conference on Impact Investing in Rome this week, covering efforts to make impact investing serve refugees and the poor. That direction may be awkward even for some impact investors: such customers are still often regarded as charity cases that can’t support viable businesses. In contrast, entrepreneurs marketing goods and services to the emerging middle class can produce healthy returns for investors. More from Rome.

  • Impact investors target an unfortunate growth market. The Vatican’s interest in impact investing in the last few years has coincided with the growth in the number of refugees and migrants worldwide. From migrant-focused startups to social impact bonds and investors networks, a market is emerging to finance solutions for people on the move. We’ve all migrated.

3. Beyond Aid: ImpactAlpha series on new tools for global development. The new series draws lessons from the work of Mennonite Economic Development Associates, which has focused on business solutions to poverty. In Part One, MEDA’s Majid Mirza shows how small amounts of grant-based business support can help growing enterprises in emerging markets reach lower-income customers that need them most. Part One.

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

5. Investing in ‘life under water.’ No more than a handful of impact funds target ocean investments. Countries have made little or no progress toward Sustainable Development Goal No. 14, “life under water.” That makes all the more significant the persistence of fund manager Althelia in reaching a $37.5 million first close for its Sustainable Ocean Fund. “We have to get these funds launched to prove out the thesis,” said Matthew Weatherley-White of Caprock Group, which brought a dozen investors to the deal. Dive in.

6. Getting real about racial-equity investing. Racial equity investing isn’t about ticking a diversity box. It’s about tackling social inequities in the U.S. that still divide along racial lines. A new report from Cambridge Associates parses the range of investment strategies. It’s a growth market.

7. Local leaders in Brazil look to investments in social impact. Strikes, economic recession and government discontent are spurring local leaders in Brazil to look to social entrepreneurship and impact investing for new approaches to inequality and support sustainable development. A promising signal: São Paulo’s Vox Capital’s exit from affordable healthcare network TEM. Social Ventures Partners’ Julia Wilkinson filed a dispatch for ImpactAlpha from last month’s “Forum de Finanças Sociais e Negócios de Impacto.” Signs of progress.

8. The augmented American worker. Between an aging population, low rate of workforce participation and high rate of employment, employers in the U.S. are struggling to find qualified workers to meet demand. A growing group of entrepreneurs are building workforce solutions for the future. One approach: artificial intelligence and automation that extend, rather than replace, human capacities. The future of work.

July 13, 2018.