The Brief | September 15, 2023

The Week in Impact Investing: Getting Real

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact! 

🗣 Gathering momentum. An under-the-radar survey of institutional investors from BNP Paribas this week showed a massive attitude-shift in favor of impact investing. The survey suggests the pursuit of positive-impact outcomes will overtake “ESG integration” as investors’ preferred approach to addressing social and environmental issues. That coincides with promising policy signals from governments in the US, Europe, Brazil, Australia and India, which are finally engaging on pro-climate and pro-worker policies, as we highlighted in coverage of Generation Investment’s latest sustainability trends report. Entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders and activists are pushing, and protesting, for even faster progress on climate action at next week’s Climate Week NYC, as ImpactAlpha’s Amy Cortese previewed.

The inevitable resistance is a signal of the gathering momentum. “A lot of people are getting mad all of a sudden because this is not just symbolic anymore,” Generation’s Justin Gillis told ImpactAlpha. That goes for the diversity imperative as well. ImpactAlpha’s Roodgally Senatus dropped into OfColor’s Disruptive Discourse summit, to hear how JaNay Queen Nazaire of Blk Grvty and other leaders are stepping up ecosystem-building efforts to hit back at attacks on strategies to redress racial disparities and back fund managers and founders of color. 

African pension funds and private investors are stepping up to bridge Africa’s gap in infrastructure financing, report Anne-Marie D’Alton and Ngatia Kirungie, who represent consortia of pension funds in Kenya and South Africa that have collectively mobilized $500 billion in three years. California is poised to enact the nation’s most sweeping climate-disclosure rules; thousands of companies are getting ahead of the regulatory curve by voluntarily reporting on “impact materiality,” as the Global Reporting Initiative’s JB Hillman and Matthew Rusk told me. The progress is real. Don’t mistake the backlash for the trend. – Dennis Price

Elsewhere on ImpactAlpha:

  • Catalytic capital. Stacey Faella of the Woodcock Foundation demonstrates how program-related investments can leverage grant dollars and multiply the availability of impact-first capital, “optimizing the impact of scarce resources.” Go deeper.
  • Grid upgrade. Investments in power transmission in Africa can generate stable cash flows and attractive risk-adjusted returns, write Alain Eboisse of Africa50 and Shri Sreekant of Power Grid in India, whose firms are supporting high-voltage transmission in western Kenya. Get their take.

The Week’s Podcast

🎧 Impact Briefing. Host Brian Walsh chats with Amy Cortese to set the stage for the UN General Assembly and Climate Week NYC. Plus, the headlines. 

The Week’s Chart

Raise your ambitions. The trendlines for renewable energy generation, battery storage, heat pumps and other solutions all are up, but global carbon emissions also are at an all-time high. In this chart from Generation Investment’s sustainability trends report, orange lines track emissions under current national policies. Red lines assume countries actually implement the pledges and promises they have made. The blue line is what’s required to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The heat is on global leaders at next week’s UN Climate Ambition Summit to update their “nationally determined contributions,” accelerate their net-zero targets and, according to the UN itself, commit to no new coal, oil and gas and the phase-out of fossil fuels. 

The Week’s Dealflow

Deal spotlight: Florrent leans into the social impact of green materials. Investments in battery storage technologies are on pace to reach $40 billion, double last year’s level. Alternative storage solutions, like ultracapacitors, claim less attention. But in the clean energy transition race, ultracapacitors have the potential to store and dispatch large volumes of energy more quickly than batteries. Massachusetts-based startup Florrent raised $2.1 million this week to make its ultracapacitor material innovation a proof point for the just energy transition. Its hemp-based activated carbon is an alternative to more common material sources, like coconut husks. Florrent is building its supply chain around Indigenous, Black and other hemp farmers of color. “Hemp used to be a major cash crop in the US, a lot of which was grown by BIPOC farmers,” says Florrent founder Jose LaSalle, who identifies as Black and Chamorro – the Indigenous people of Guam – as well as Irish. He wants to build new energy transition technologies “in a way that’s regenerative and contributes to local economic wellbeing in the underrepresented communities that I come from.”

  • Ultra potential. Roughly $1.2 trillion in capital is needed for clean energy manufacturing and critical minerals supplies by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement climate goals. Investment in ultracapacitors (also called supercapacitors) amounts to a couple billion dollars, estimates LaSalle. “Ultracapacitors can store energy in a way that is 100 times more powerful than a battery,” he says, without the risk of overheating.
  • Storage innovation. In Silicon Valley, Lyten raised $200 million to commercialize its superconducting form of carbon – 3D Graphene – and tailor it for batteries and sensors. Estonia-based Skeleton Technologies last year raised $220 million to build a factory for its supercapacitors, which use a proprietary “curved graphene” material.
  • Check it out

Agrifood investing. Black Farmer Fund raised $11 million in grants and loan capital… EcoEnterprise Fund led a $4 million equity round for female-led, “carbon-neutral” health food company Nuu… Omnivore backed altM, a Bangalore-based biomaterials startup, the first deal from its $150 million third fund… One Small Planet backed Pittsburgh-based ReSeed to help small farmers and even home gardeners get plugged into the carbon markets. 

Climate tech. Trill Impact Ventures backed Open Cosmos to boost the use of open satellite-data for climate change and humanitarian disasters… Energy Impact Partners launched its third growth-stage climate tech fund with a target of $1.5 billion… Helsinki-based NordicNinja launched a second, €200 million sustainability venture fund… World Fund added €50 million to European climate tech venture fund. 

Impact management. Optera raised $12 million to help companies account for ESG and the carbon footprints of their products, operations and supply chains… Pulsora scored $20 million for its corporate ESG and sustainability management software. 

Independent media. The McKnight Foundation committed $150 million to the $500 million Press Forward to revive local news establishments in the US. 

Low-carbon transition. Canada’s Heliene raised $170 million in equity and debt for US solar plants… Kimmeridge invested $15 million in distributed-generation solar developer US Light Energy… Repsol entered the US onshore wind market by acquiring ConnectGen for $768 million… Electric motorbike marker Ather Energy, based in Karnataka, India, raised $108.5 million… Vibra, through its venture arm, reupped its investment in Brazilian ultra-fast EV charging maker EZVolt.

Muni impact. Michigan issued $1.2 billion in bonds to rebuild roads and bridges.

Returns on inclusion. Common Trust raised $2.6 million in seed funding to help business owners develop and execute employee-ownership transitions… Vancouver-based business accelerator Spring Activator acquired investment group Future Capital to support underrepresented founders… myZoi clinched $14 million to support migrant workers in Gulf states.

Sustainable alternatives. UBQ Materials scored backing from TPG’s impact funds for its plastic alternative… Boston-based DetraPel raised $7.6 million for its plastic-free food and textile films and coatings. 

The Week’s Talent

Matthew Weatherley-White, ex- of Caprock Group, joined Align Impact as chief investment officer… Yasmine Shama, ex- of TPG, joined Quona Capital as head of investor relations… Erin Davis of Enduring Planet, CleanCapital’s Melinda Baglio and Piper Foster Wilder of 60Hertz Energy are among 11 winners of the US Department of Energy’s 2023 Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) Awards. 

David LeZaks, ex- of Croatan Institute, joined Food System 6 as managing director. Lauren Manning, also ex- of Croatan, joined as an associate director… Jugjeev Duggal, ex- of Citigroup, joined Moelis & Co. as a managing director, supporting clean energy mergers and acquisitions… Innophos’ Kim Ann Mink joins Group14 Technologies’ board of directors. 

Jack Moriarty, ex- of Ownership America, joined Lafayette Square Foundation as executive director… BP’s CEO Bernard Looney, who led the London-based oil giant’s move into renewable energy, resigned… MSCI’s Linda-Eling Lee will helm the ratings firm’s new Sustainability Institute; Hiro Mizuno will advise the institute in his role as special advisor to the CEO. 

Kirsten Hill, most recently COO for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, joined Social Finance as president and COO… Hamilton Lane’s Erik Hirsch and Juan Delgado-Moreira will become co-CEOs effective in January; they will succeed CEO Mario Giannini, who will become co-chairman.  

The Week’s Jobs

💼 Share the week’s impact jobs. View dozens of other jobs on our new job board. Want to post a listing? Submit it here.

US East Coast

The Aspen Institute is recruiting a director of finance in Washington, DC… Also in DC, Bezos Earth Fund has an opening for an events manager… The Global Impact Investing Network is looking for a communications associate in New York… Also in New York, Surdna Foundation is hiring a program associate for its sustainable environments program… Boston Impact Initiative is hiring a development director and a portfolio manager

Other US jobs

US Bank seeks an affordable housing business development associate in St. Louis…. American Heart Association is on the hunt for a social impact associate portfolio manager in Dallas… Builders Vision is on the hunt for a VP of ocean investment in Chicago. 

In Europe

E3G is hiring a policy advisor of UK Energy Transitions among other roles in London… Aqua for All is looking for an impact finance manager in The Hague, Netherlands… Also in The Hague, the Netherlands Advisory Board on Impact Investing is recruiting a communication and impact manager. 

Other global locations

Village Capital is on the hunt for a communications associate in Mexico… Sitawi Finance for Good seeks an impact investing coordinator in Rio de Janeiro… Instiglio is looking for a manager or senior associate in Nairobi… Altree seeks an Africa-based senior investment analyst for its gender and climate fund… Save the Children Global Ventures has an opening for an impact investment manager in Singapore.

That’s a wrap. Have a wonderful weekend. 

– Sept. 15, 2023