The Brief | January 8, 2021

The Week in impact investing: Historic

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact! 

History in real-time. If this week’s Georgia runoff elections that tipped the U.S. Senate signaled a turn toward The Reconstruction (see No. 3 below), the insurrection at the Capitol a day later was a reminder of the backlash that often follows. The riot’s disturbing images and implications shouldn’t overshadow the opportunities opened by the imminent policy reset (No. 4). Given the volatility and disruption of the past year, the hunger among investors for sustainability solutions has surprised many experts (No. 1). But not Agents of Impact, who have been piloting and prototyping such solutions for decades (No. 2). Even oil companies are giving up obsolete ideas, like drilling in the Arctic (No. 5). Millions turned out in Georgia; hundreds turned up at the Capitol. Reversals are inevitable on the path to progress, but a powerful and compelling narrative is taking hold. The takeaway of the week that was: Let the new era begin. 

– David Bank 

Impact Briefing. On this week’s podcast, David Bank joins host Brian Walsh to chart the year ahead in impact investing and share a preview of next week’s interview with Generate Capital’s Jigar Shah. Plus, the headlines. Tune in, share, and follow us on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. 

The Week’s Big 5

1. Ten sustainability calls for 2021. Impact investors are looking forward to a feast of opportunities, starting with pandemic relief and moving on to climate action, racial justice, inclusive prosperity and more. Key calls: Financial institutions are optimizing for sustainability (BlackRock, Fidelity, BNP Paribas and others). The costs of climate solutions are curving down (Generate Capital), while climate competition is heating up (Eurasia Group). Tech leaders are on the hook for diversity commitments (The Plug) and investors are recognizing that gender is material (GenderSmart). Collect all 10

2. The Call: What Agents of Impact are expecting in 2021 (replay). Agents of Impact shared 2021 predictions for emerging markets, catalytic capital, racial justice, climate finance, ESG and more on ImpactAlpha‘s 15th call last year. Carbon Tracker Initiative’s Mark Campanale sees “a managed decline of global fossil fuel production.” The Beeck Center’s Erika Davies, founder of The Racial Equity Lab, is calling for more rigor in 2021 “for how organizations are actually holding themselves accountable for internal progress on these issues such that it sticks.” Catch the replay.

3. Georgia’s civic mobilization. The impact of the massive voter education effort in Georgia may last well beyond the state’s Senate runoff election. “The same effort of mobilizing people will take hold as it relates to access to capital and addressing other barriers,” said Latresa McLawhorn Ryan of the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative. More.

  • Black voters matter. Watch LaTosha Brown discuss the Georgia election.

4. Climate carveouts. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to ramp up the U.S. response to climate change. The massive spending and stimulus bill signed into law late last year includes $35 billion over five years for clean energy, extends solar investment tax credits, and creates a new 30% tax credit for offshore wind projects that begin construction by 2026. The legislation also endorsed a curb on hydrofluorocarbons, potent greenhouse gases named in a global agreement that the Trump administration failed to ratify. Onward.

5. The Arctic’s stranded oil. What if they threw an oil auction and no one came? The Trump administration unsealed bids for drilling rights on more than a million pristine acres in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Major oil companies mostly took a pass. Financing would have been tough: JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and other banks have banned funding for Arctic drilling. Dive in.

  • No shows. “Yesterday’s almost non-existent bidding for oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge were not surprising,” said As You Sow’s Danielle Fugere. “It confirms what we already know to be true: the era of drilling for oil at any cost is over.”

The Week’s Dealflow

Affordable housing. Morgan Stanley backs a fund to preserve affordable housing in Atlanta… Symbiotics’ bond supports affordable housing in Colombia… Mission Driven Finance raises $2 million to support homeownership in San Diego.  

Inclusive fintech. Investors back small business inventory financing in Pakistan and Egypt… Kenyan ‘neo bank’ Umba secures $2 million… PremierCredit raises funding for micro-entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe and Zambia.   

Low-carbon economy. Boston Metal raises $50 million to produce emission-free steel… Devic Earth raises $1.4 million to cut industrial air pollution… Ivanhoe Capital SPAC targets $200 million for sustainable mining and clean energy. 

Skills and education. The Rise Fund leads a $210 million round for Chinese edtech venture Meishubao… PAIRIN raises $4.4 million to support workforce development amid COVID.

Circular economy. Sustainable packaging company Cellugy raises €2.4 million… AMP Robotics scores $55 million for waste management robots.  

Impact tech. Indian agrifood tech startups raise rounds to get ready for 2021… India’s PadCare Labs secures early funding to recycle menstrual products.

Returns on inclusion. Immigrant-focused One Way Ventures closes second fund.

The Week’s Talent

McKinsey & Co. launches the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility… Former Goldman Sachs CEO and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson joins TPG Rise Climate as executive chairman… Renée Willette, ex- of Stantec, becomes vice president of programs and strategy for the U.S. Water Alliance… Cori Zarek, former deputy U.S. chief technology officer, takes over from Sonal Shah at Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation… Jim Sorenson of Sorenson Impact Foundation joins the board of the Economic Innovation Group

Irv Bailey of Chrysalis Ventures and Deven Parekh of Insight Partners join the board of the U.S. International Development Finance Corp… Octobre’s Sylvain Goupille joins Green Investment Partners as a non-executive director… Hiro Mizuno, ex- of Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund, will serve as U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ Special Envoy on Innovative Finance and Sustainable Investments… Chris Slevin, previously with Economic Innovation Group, will become deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. 

The Week’s Jobs

Skoll Foundation is looking for a talent and engagement program manager in Palo Alto, Calif… Just Capital has openings for a head of research in London and operations, programs and engagement associates in New York… BMO Harris Bank is looking for an impact investing associate in New York… Imaginable Futures seeks a principal on its U.S. investment team in Washington, D.C… The Social Innovation Forum is recruiting a development manager in Boston.

LOCUS Impact Investing seeks an executive director for its Community Investment Guarantee Pool… Maycomb Capital’s Community Outcomes Fund is looking for an investment analyst in New York… Emerson Collective seeks a senior associate for its early stage venture investing team in Palo Alto, Calif… OnePierce Community Resiliency Fund is hiring an impact investing manager in Tacoma, Wash… Zevin Asset Management is looking for an investment analyst in Boston… SEAF is recruiting for an impact and learning manager and other roles.

Thank you for reading.

– Jan. 8, 2021