The Brief | April 9, 2021

The Week in impact investing: New rules

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact! 

Impact Briefing. On this week’s podcast, host Monique Aiken speaks with B Lab’s Andrew Kassoy about how impact-driven businesses and investors are stepping up their policy advocacy (see No. 1, below). We also hear from Tiffany Manuel of The Case Made, next week’s guest on The Reconstruction podcast. Plus, the headlines. Tune in, share, and follow us on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen. 

Clubhouse conversation. We’ll be on the drop-in audio app today to talk about the week’s stories and whatever’s on your mind, hosted by ImpactAlpha’s Lyneka Little. Find us at 9am PT / 12pm ET / 5pm London. Drop by

The Week’s Big 9

1. New rules of the road for stakeholder capitalism. More than 50 business leaders and investor groups are seeking White House backing for structural reforms in the capital markets to address the economic recovery, racial equity and climate change. B Lab and the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance are leading the advocacy efforts and calling for a White House Initiative on Inclusive Economic Growth in the National Economic Council. Argues B Lab’s Andrew Kassoy, “You can’t have stakeholder capitalism if you don’t have stakeholder governance.” Onward

2. Not so fossil-fuel free. Institutional asset owners are dialing up commitments to achieving fossil-fuel free and net-zero carbon emission goals. Investors as well as climate activists would do well to closely scrutinize such commitments. Even de minimis portfolio allocations in dirty fuels matter, writes ImpactAlpha contributing editor Imogen Rose-Smith in her latest Institutional Impact column. “It’s time to insist on complete transparency and not settle for headline-grabbing proclamations.” Drill down

3. Impact-first family offices. A growing number of family investment offices are on a quest for outperformance – on impact. A new report from consultancy Bridgespan spotlights first-movers such as Omidyar Network, Blue Haven Initiative, Spring Point Partners and Ceniarth and the growing ecosystem of fund managers and advisers that are enabling the shift. Read on

4. Jamie Dimon’s wish list. In his 66-page shareholder letter, JPMorgan Chase’s CEO calls for an end to preferential tax treatments for the wealthy. “If the wealthy paid more in taxes and the money was put to good use, they would be the main beneficiaries of a stronger economy,” he muses. Dimon also calls for a tax on carbon; JPMorgan remains the world’s biggest banker of fossil fuels. Dig in

5. Board diversity and ESG in emerging markets. Gender diversity and environmental, social and governance, or ESG, performance are gaining recognition as drivers of business value by corporate boards and investment committees across Africa, Asia and Latin America. 

  • In Africa, businesses are exploring impact and ESG strategies in response to pressure from investors, non-governmental organizations and civil society groups. “Citizens want responsible companies, period,” says Simon Wafubwa of Kenyan pension fund manager Enwealth Financial Services. Read more here
  • Across emerging markets, gender diversity on corporate boards is gaining momentum, if slowly. In a guest post on ImpactAlpha, Cartica Management’s Kate Ahern spotlights policy progress in India, Pakistan, the U.A.E. and elsewhere to mandate women’s representation on boards. Check it out

6. Structuring capital for impact. How investments are structured can be as important as the underlying investments, write Delilah Rothenberg, Raphaele Chappe and Amanda Feldman of the Predistribution Initiative. Investors pouring capital into higher-risk investments in the quest for yields may be ignoring how asset managers operate and structure investments. One solution: require fund managers to report on compensation and pay ratios, political spending and tax practices. 10 more ideas.

7. Crowdfunding’s March madness. “Regulation crowdfunding” investments raised $60 million last month, nearly double the capital raised in February. Updates to regulatory rules, which increased the cap on how much companies can raise, are driving the surge. Jump in.

8. Sustainable SPACs. Of the $171 billion raised by companies going public via special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, sustainable investing strategies account for 30%. Health, ESG integration and new energy dominate sustainable SPAC offerings, according to data compiled by ImpactAlpha partner Sustainable Research and Analysis. Geek out.

9. Getting vaccines to underserved communities. No one is safe until everyone is safe. In a guest post, ImpactAssets’ Margret Trilli and Sharon Knight of Stop the Spread offer up four solutions to more equitable COVID vaccine distribution. One idea: Use the 15-minute post-vaccination observation window to address clinical and social needs, as St. John’s Well Child and Family Center is doing in Los Angeles. Fresh ideas.

The Week’s Agent of Impact

Kathryn Finney, Genius Guild. The entrepreneur and investor’s answer to systemic economic exclusion of Black, Indigenous and other people of color: build an ecosystem that intentionally fosters their participation. Finney, who has a background in both fashion and epidemiology, previously founded DigitalUndivided, which supports female founders, and The Donnie Fund, which provides micro investments to thousands of Black women-owned businesses. Genius Guild will build and invest in Black-led companies serving Black communities on the way to global scale (see, “Genius Guild scores $5 million financing to back Black-led tech ventures”). Finney points to the success of Richelieu Dennis’ Sundial Brands, the parent company of Shea Moisture, which was acquired by Unilever. “We know that products and services that first achieve success by serving Black communities often reach significant scale as they expand outside of our community,” Finney writes on Medium. 

Finney is creating space for such ideas to flourish. Genius Guild comes “from a deep place of abundance in an industry (venture capital) that has a history of actively applying scarcity models to Black entrepreneurs,” she says. The venture studio model, which includes a business creation lab and a venture capital fund, will allow Finney to co-build with Black founders and then invest. When Finney says she’s investing to “end racism” it’s personal: Finney’s great-grandparents lost their home and a thriving restaurant business in the 1921 race massacre in Tulsa, Ok.’s Greenwood district, known as “Black Wall Street.” She says she’s addressing “the ways in which capitalism and capitalist markets have been manipulated to limit, exclude and defraud Black communities — to defraud people like my great-grandparents.” Paraphrasing Audre Lorde, she says “using the master’s tools to fix the master’s house is extremely hard.” What if, she asks, “We use the master’s tools… to build our own tools and our own houses?” – Roodgally Senatus

The Week’s Dealflow

BlackRock Real Assets closes $4.8 billion green energy fund. With backing from 100 institutional investors, Global Renewable Power Fund III targets what BlackRock sees as a $10 trillion investment opportunity in the transition to net-zero energy. About 80% of all global electricity capacity installed last year was renewable, according to IRENA

  • Scaling up. The fund, among the largest climate infrastructure funds raised to date, is triple the size of BlackRock’s $1.6 billion Global Renewable Power Fund II. BlackRock’s funds have invested in 250 wind and solar projects across 13 countries in 4 continents. Keep reading

More clean energy transition deals. Volo Earth Ventures raises $13.2 million to seed early-stage climate tech… Oye Rickshaw secures 240 million rupees for its electric rickshaw ride-hailing service… Alecta invests $156 million in wind farm operator Stena Renewable… Solar Energy Loan Fund scores a $5 million line of credit to finance home retrofits in low-to-moderate income communities… Baobab+ raises €4 million to expand off-grid energy access in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire. 

Innovative cleantech. Horizons and Equinor Ventures back Syzygy Plasmonics to advance its low-emission chemical production process… Two battery tech startups secure seed funding from Clean Energy Ventures… FiveT’s Hydrogen Fund rakes in €260 million to finance green hydrogen infrastructure… ZeroAvia aims to decarbonize air travel with hydrogen-powered engines.

Financial inclusion. Kiva closes $32.5 million fund to promote financial inclusion for refugees… Inclusive fintech Avanti Finance secures $26 million in equity and debt… Cora raises a $26.7 million Series A round to lend to Brazil’s small businesses… Y Combinator backs Singapore’s freelancer and gig worker-focused fintech Friz… Uruguay’s dLocal secures $150 million to facilitate cross-border sales transactions for emerging market merchants… FinanZero raises $7 million to expand consumer credit for underserved Brazilians… Mastercard is investing $100 million in Kenyan mobile money business Airtel Africa.

Agrifood investing. Gathered Foods’ closes $26.4 million for its plant-based seafood products… Agri-chemical giants invest in precision agtech venture Guardian Agriculture… Ecovative secures $60 million to produce fungus-based materials.

The Reconstruction. MassMutual backs Reinventure Capital fund for diverse founders… Genius Guild scores $5 million financing to back Black-led tech ventures (see Agent of Impact, above)… E-commerce platform Wayfair invests $20 million in LISC’s Black Economic Development Fund. 

Access to… What3words snags £12 million to build out its universal addressing system for hard to reach communities… SDS Capital Group secures $10.3 million to build housing for people experiencing homelessness in South L.A.

Impact M&A. Peloton Capital Management and Canadian investor Stephen Smith acquire proxy advisor Glass Lewis… Energy Capital Partners closes $1.2 billion Continuation Fund to finance Terra-Gen.

Health and wellness. Bain Capital Double Impact backs personal-care brand Hand in Hand… CirrusMD raises $20 million to connect patients and physicians via virtual healthcare.

Frontier finance. Egyptian startup funds put North African tech innovation on the map.

The Week’s Talent

Founding partners Suprotik Basu and Amer Baig are leaving Blue like an Orange to focus on health sector resilience and COVID recovery… Bella Gangnes, ex- of Lighter Capital, joins Founders First Capital as director of investments… Caitlin McLaughlin, ex- of PNC Financial Services Group, joins Lafayette Square as chief people officer… MaryKate Bullen departs New Forests for a new opportunity in forestry investment.

Avary Kent leaves after seven years as head of… Vikas Raj departs Accion Venture Lab after eight years with the fintech investment firm… Darren Rabenou, ex- of Fabbri Fund Management, is named head of food and agriculture and head of ESG investment strategies at UBS Asset Management… Goldman Sachs names Megan Hogan chief diversity officer. 

The Week’s Jobs

Arctaris Impact Investors is recruiting a director of community impact and engagement… Community Investment Management is searching for both U.S. and emerging market-focused investment officers and other roles… Notley seeks a vice president of business development in Austin… Equality Fund is recruiting a senior manager of investment strategy in Ontario… Blue Haven Initiative is looking for a strategic analyst… REDF is hiring a senior loan associate in L.A. or San Francisco.

Harmony Labs seeks a development director… Emerson Collective is looking for an associate/senior associate of energy and environment in Palo Alto… CREO seeks an investment director for the Americas… Black Farmer Fund is hiring an operations director and a communications lead… Manifest Climate is looking for a senior climate strategist specialized in sustainable finance in Toronto… Adobe is recruiting a sustainability and social impact lead in San Francisco.

The Gates Foundation is recruiting a principal of life sciences venture capital in Seattle… Zebras Unite is looking for a part-time, remote executive assistant… Fitch Solutions is hiring an ESG product strategist, for its ratings data and research team in New York… CECP’s CEO Investor Forum seeks a sustainable finance intern in New York… Tides is recruiting a senior advisor of strategic partnerships in the San Francisco Bay Area… UN Women is looking for a policy specialist for inclusive peace processes in New York. 

That’s a wrap. Have a wonderful weekend. 

– April 9, 2021