The Brief | October 2, 2020

The Week in impact investing: Extinction

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact! 

Help us help you. ImpactAlpha has grown to become the leading media platform for the fastest-growing market in finance. We’re committed to over-delivering for our subscribers and to helping Agents of Impact drive social and environmental benefits. ImpactAlpha’s short subscriber survey will help us provide even more value. Submit your responses by Oct. 15 and enter to win one of five free tickets to this month’s SOCAP Virtual (a $499 value). Take the survey now. 

Impact Briefing. On this week’s podcast, host Brian Walsh chats high-tech greenhouses, the future of agriculture and impact SPACs with Jessica Pothering and David Bank. We hear from youth climate activist Archana Soreng, this week’s Agent of Impact. Plus, the headlines. Tune in, share, and follow us on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Agents of Impact Call No. 24: Solar financing for frontline health clinics in Africa and Asia. Renewable energy meets global health in a compelling challenge for innovative finance. Join We Care Solar and ImpactAlpha to explore emerging solutions for financing clean, affordable solar power for frontline public health clinics. Thursday, Oct. 8, at 9am PT/ 12pm ET/ 7pm Kampala. RSVP today.

The Week’s Big 8

1. Toward a Paris-style pact for biodiversity. Biodiversity experts are ringing the alarm bells as we hurtle toward Earth’s sixth mass extinction. This week’s U.N. biodiversity summit laid groundwork for a global biodiversity deal to be forged next year in Kunming, China (see Agent of Impact, below). Transitioning to “nature-positive” systems could generate up to $10 trillion in annual business value and create 395 million jobs by 2030. Shift capital.

  • Starting point. Institutional investors have committed to €25.3 billion ($30 billion) to funds targeting U.N. Sustainable Development Goal No. 15: Life on Land, which includes biodiversity, according to Phenix Capital’s Global Impact Platform.
  • Climate agents. Mark Carney, ex- of the Bank of England, and Hiro Mizuno, ex- of Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund, are among the Agents of Impact calling for systemic changes in finance to combat biodiversity loss and climate change in Our Planet: Too Big To Fail, a new 40-minute film from WWF and Silverback Films.

2. AppHarvest’s SPAC-quisition previews the future of ag. High-tech greenhouse grower AppHarvest ticks the boxes for high impact and high profile. Sustainable agricultural production. Coal-country job creation. Bold-faced name investors and board members like Martha Stewart, J.D. Vance and Inclusive Capital’s Jeffrey Ubben. And now, an acquisition by a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, that will provide $475 million in fresh capital and a $1 billion valuation. Go deeper.

3. The Call: Advancing racial justice (video). What got us here won’t get us where we need to go. Illumen Capital’s Daryn Dodson, Mastercard’s Marla Blow, Beeck Center’s Erika Davies and Activest’s Ryan Bowers, along with Transform Finance’s Andrea Armeni and co-hosts Monique Aiken and David Bank, came together on ImpactAlpha’s Call No. 23 to call out ways in which racism distorts markets, masks investment risks and drives economic injustice and poor social outcomes. Change the algorithm.

  • NEW: Illumen Capital’s $85 million fund is combating fund manager biases to drive impact and alpha. Reduced bias. Increased performance. More impact. That’s the timely thesis of Illumen Capital, the impact investment fund-of-funds led by Dodson that this week closed on its $85 million first fund. One of Illumen’s goals, says Dodson: “Make impact investing deliver on its promise.” Read it here first.

4. Financial innovations for a green recovery. Climate adaptation notes to fund water infrastructure. Rural prosperity bonds for sustainable agriculture. Portfolios of distributed solar projects for schools and health clinics in Africa. The Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance introduced eight new financial solutions that “address the climate emergency while providing much-needed sustainable recovery opportunities for overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic economic shock,” said the Lab’s Barbara Buchner. Collect the whole set

5. ESG laggards get the boot. Companies generating more than 5% of their revenues from thermal coal were dropped from S&P Global’s environmental, social and governance, or ESG, index. Goodbye, Duke, Dominion and American Electric Power. Next time.

6. Bridging the ‘city climate finance gap’. With an initial €55 million ($64.5 million), the City Climate Finance Gap Fund will help cities advance clean energy, water, and other infrastructure projects and build a high-quality project pipeline for investors. Catalytic capital.

7. Mitigating risk with an LGBTQI lens. Investors are applying a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex, or LGBTQI, lens to spot regulatory, reputational and market risks, write Joy Anderson and Tia Subramanian of Criterion Institute. Risk, adjusted.

8. Crédit Agricole vs. BNP Paribas. Global banks have an opportunity to build new assets from massive liabilities like climate change and social justice. The latest installment of Impak Battles, an ImpactAlpha series with rating agency impak, compares the positive and negative impacts of two major French banks. Spoiler alert: Material positive impact represents only a tiny fraction of the banks’ activities. Face-off.

The Week’s Agent of Impact

Archana Soreng, Indigenous youth activist. Global efforts to turn back the tide of biodiversity loss may be missing the trees for the forest. The talk of this week’s U.N. biodiversity summit was the 30×30 pledge to double the Earth’s protected land and water to 30% by 2030 (see No. 1, above). But it took activists like Soreng, a member of the Khadia tribe in India’s Odisha state, to point out that without sufficient safeguards, such conservation policies can lead to human rights abuses and the displacement of indigenous communities. The 30×30 effort “could constitute the biggest land grab of the world’s history, reducing millions of people to landless poverty, all in the name of conservation,” warned Soreng, who researches indigenous culture and rights. Soreng, 24, is one of seven members of a U.N. youth advisory group on climate and the only one to speak at the summit. She has advocated for tribal communities to create and control businesses that improve livelihoods through sustainable production. 

Soreng’s concerns are shared by a broad range of human rights groups. At least 139 organizations from the Global South signed a “peoples’ response” to the biodiversity summit that charges that corporate and financial voices are drowning out local communities and Indigenous peoples who have long been stewards of the land. Collaborative models exist. In Nepal and Namibia, community forests are communally governed and sustainably managed by locals. In Australia, Indigenous Protected Areas cover roughly 168 million acres. Some leaders are listening. Canada’s Justin Trudeau vowed to “work with Indigenous Peoples who are our partners in protecting the land” to protect one-quarter of the country’s land and ocean by 2025, and 30% by 2030. “We are ready to work with you to reverse the biodiversity loss,” Soreng told world leaders. “The question is, are you?”

  • Share Archana Soreng’s Agent of Impact story, and like it on Instagram

The Week’s Dealflow

Low-carbon economy. Oil trader Trafigura Group launches renewables group… Sweden’s Einride raises $10 million to green freight transit… National Energy Improvement Fund crowdfunds energy efficiency loans… E8 angel network makes three cleantech investments. 

Returns on inclusion. Bank of America issues $2 billion ‘equality progress’ bond to advance racial equity… Blue Meridian, Schmidt Futures back ‘career impact bonds’ via Social Finance’s UP Fund… Citi Impact Fund secures $50 million to invest in Black entrepreneurs.   

Impact tech. BestDoc secures $2.1 million to help clinics deliver digital healthcare in India… Ghana-based Viamo expands low-tech information service in Africa. 

Agrifood investing. Aqua-Spark backs cell-based shrimp company Shiok Meats.

Fund news. Insurer QBE backs Save the Children’s impact fund. 

The Week’s Talent

Emily Chasan, ex- of Bloomberg News, joins Generate Capital as director of communications. Generate earlier recruited Nam Tran Nguyen, previously with SunPower, as chief operating officer, and Andrew Marino, ex- of Carlyle, as a senior managing director and head of strategy… ICA Fund names Dianna Tremblay chief program officer and John Gough chief investment officer.

The Week’s Jobs

Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism is recruiting a program director in New York… Walton Enterprises is hiring an investment director… The Runway Project seeks a part-time strategic project manager and an Oakland director…  The Nature Conservancy is hiring a director of public advocacy and engagement in Seattle… Yunus Social Business is looking for a carbon financing consultant… Common Future has openings for a managing director in New York, Washington, D.C. or Oakland and a chief operating officer in Oakland… Financial advisor Revalue is accepting applications from investors for its Collaborative Fall Cohort. 

Thank you for reading.

–Oct. 2, 2020