The Brief | October 11, 2019

The Week in impact investing: Expanding the mission

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact!

Mid-conference-season breather. We’re taking a Brief break on Monday for the holiday here in the U.S. We’ll be back in your inbox Tuesday, Oct. 15.

– The ImpactAlpha team

The Week’s Agent of Impact   

Agent of Impact: John O’Shaughnessy, Franciscan Sisters of Mary. John O’Shaughnessy walked away from his first Social Capital Markets, or SOCAP, conference with a sense of shared values with impact investors in attendance. “This was our community, faith-based or not,” he told ImpactAlpha. “It didn’t, quite frankly, matter.” O’Shaughnessy, for more than 25 years the CEO and CFO of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, saw impact investing as a way for the congregation to extend its ministries beyond direct health services in St. Louis. O’Shaughnessy enlisted Imprint Capital (since acquired by Goldman Sachs) and moved 15% of the Sisters’ total assets into more than two dozen clean energy and agriculture impact funds and other impact investments. He directed another 63% of the portfolio toward ESG, or environmental, social and governance, strategies in public equities. The Sisters recently put another 5% of assets into Morgan Stanley’s Climate Solutions Fund. “Women religious are far and away the early leaders in the space because they are generally open to the ‘new’ and willing to let go of the old and empty,” he says.

What was missing at SOCAP and other gatherings, O’Shaughnessy realized, were peers. “Something’s going on here,” he thought, “and the Catholic community seems to be unaware.” Over dinners in St. Louis, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco, O’Shaughnessy spread the impact investing gospel, so to speak. This week, O’Shaughnessy announced in London that six U.S.-based Catholic institutions, with a combined $40 billion in assets, have issued a “Catholic impact investing pledge,” committing more of their capital to the twin crises of climate change and social inequity. “Catholic institutions that cede full authority over their investment programs—including financial and missional elements—to their investment committees and outside consultants are stuck in the old and empty,” he wrote in an email from London. “For the Catholic investing community to produce positive impacts in the world that will amount to more than a hill of beans, leaders of Catholic institutions need to follow the example of their progressive sisters.”

The Week’s Big 7   

1. ‘Public banks’ for the public good. A new law in California allowing the creation of publicly-owned banks – nonprofit public benefit corporations with independent boards of directors – could pave the way for new models of civic funding for everything from green infrastructure to affordable housing. Sushil Jacob, an attorney that worked on the effort, sees city-owned banks “becoming a new locus of community development activity.” Read on.

2. Retail investing in local farms. “There’s a mismatch between demand for sustainably grown products and the desire to support sustainable farming, and the capital available to farmers,” says Dan Miller. The co-founder and former president of Fundrise is leading a new initiative called Steward to unlock capital from everyday investors to support everyday farmers. “It’s millions and millions of individuals making change in their own backyards.” Dig in.

3. Impact-weighted accounting for the stakeholder era. CEO members of the Business Roundtable may say they’re onboard the stakeholder revolution, but their bookkeepers still lack a holistic way of accounting for company performance. Harvard Business School’s George Serafeim, the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment and the Impact Management Project are developing ‘impact-weighted accounts’ that quantify a company’s social and environmental value alongside financial metrics. Learn more.

4. ‘Nutrition lens’ investing. Think small to achieve big impact on access to affordable and nutritious foods. With its new ‘Nutritious Food Financing Fund’, The Global Alliance For Improved Nutrition is calling on impact investors to seize overlooked investment opportunities in small and mid-size companies producing nutritious foods, which can have an impact-multiplier effect on U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Fill up.

5. De-risking Japan’s economy. Despite Japan’s leadership in sustainable investing, two of its largest industries—energy and seafood—continue to present environmental risks. A pair of reports call out opportunities to reduce risks and reap benefits by going green. First up: reducing dependence on coal, which will be costlier than renewables in a few years, and boosting sustainably-managed fisheries. Dive in.

6. Sustainable investing in emerging markets. Private equity investors seeking impact in emerging markets are grappling with risk on both fronts. Strategies to measure and mitigate risk were on display in London at a summit of the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association, or EMPEA. The takeaways.

7. Impact gets a music video. What if… impact investing hits the pop charts? Arguably the first impact music video comes from “The Purpose of Capital” author Jed Emerson, his wife Mia Haugen, and niece and actress Jackie Emerson. The three-minute YouTube video, “What If?” is full of energy. Feel the beat.

The Week’s Dealflow

Impact tech. Better Ventures closes $32 million fund to spur early impact tech… Komposite raises $500K to test digital clothing production… Waycare secures $7.3 million to give city transit planning a data boost… Energy Impact Partners invests $25 million in RapidSOS for emergency response.

New Revivalists. National Community Investment Fund secures $5 million loan to invest in Chicago’s underserved communities… Faith-based nonprofit to invest in affordable housing in Atlanta… Bristol’s place-based fund secures £10 million to tackle hunger, inequality and climate.

Fund raises. Feelsgood Fund brings capital to impact startups in Croatia… Schneider Electric impact fund targets energy access in Asia… MaRS Catalyst Fund launches C$30 million fund amid rebrand.

Inclusive finance. Oikocredit reinvests in Colombian small business lender Sempli… Welsh development bank commits £2 million for social enterprise lending… Kiva hits $1 billion in loans to women.

Climate finance. The Lab launches six new financing structures to tackle climate change… Exelon Foundation to allocate $10 million for climate startups.

The Week’s Talent 

Abhilash Mudaliar joins the Paul Ramsay Foundation… Evercare Health Fund, formerly Abraaj Growth Markets’ Health Fund, appoints Massimiliano (Max) Colella as CEO… Sean Tennerson joins REDF as a program manager… Eric Rice, ex- of Wellington Management, joins BlackRock as head of active equities impact investing… Tesla co-founder Marc Tarpenning joins Omidyar Network spin-out Spero Ventures.

The Week’s Jobs 

Rethink Impact is hiring an associate… Nonprofit Finance Fund seeks a chief financial officer in San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York… Gates Foundation is hiring an associate for its strategic investment fund in Seattle… Renewal Funds is looking for an investment analyst and an assistant in Vancouver… Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is hiring an investment analyst in Redwood City…

Kiva is looking for an investment manager in Portland, San Francisco or Colombia… Omidyar Network India is recruiting an investment associate in Bangalore… 60 Decibels seeks short-term researchers in Latin America, Asia and Africa… Institute for Local Self Reliance seeks a senior researcher and writer in Washington DC or Portland, ME.

Thank you for reading. 

– Oct. 11, 2019