The Brief | November 20, 2020

The Week in impact investing: Onward

Jessica Pothering
ImpactAlpha Editor

Jessica Pothering

TGIF, Agents of Impact! 

Impact On. Some investors go risk off. Others go impact on. ImpactAlpha launched our fall marketing campaign (and new website) this week by recognizing – who else? – the Agents of Impact who are writing a new narrative for business and finance. As if to prove the point, hundreds of Agents showed up for The Call to dig into gender-smart strategies for the COVID recovery (see No. 1, below). Others are showing up to address pandemic risk in the food supply (No. 2) and economic divisions in U.S. communities (No. 3). By the broadest measure, “sustainable investing” now accounts one one-third of all U.S. assets under management (No. 5). 

ImpactAlpha, too, is impact on. We are excited “to step up in this pivotal moment, when the door is open for fresh solutions and the appetite for system-change is apparent all around us,” I wrote in a note to subscribers this week. You may be seeing a lot of us as we make a big push for subscriptions to expand our ability to amplify your impact. Please tweet, share and tell your friends and colleagues: “When investors go ‘impact on,’ they go to ImpactAlpha.”

– David Bank, editor and CEO

Impact Briefing. On this week’s podcast, host Monique Aiken recaps Agents of Impact Call No. 25 on gender-smart investing, and we go to South Africa to follow up with Secha Capital’s Kuhle Mnisi and Wukina’s Maureen Sibanda, this week’s Agents of Impact. Plus, the headlines. Tune in, share, and follow us on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

The Week’s Big 6

1. Gender-smart investing for a sustainable recovery. Investing to advance women entrepreneurs, employees and consumers in emerging markets was the subject of ImpactAlpha’s Call No. 25 this week. We’ll have a roundup and replay next week. Meanwhile, check out the new guide from CDC Group and the International Finance Corp. to help fund managers strengthen gender diversity and incorporate gender into investment decision-making. Be resourceful.

  • Gender incentives. With initiatives like the 2X Challenge and the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, or We-Fi, development finance institutions and multilateral banks are dangling billions of dollars before private equity and venture capital fund managers to spur them to invest with a gender lens. Take the bait.

2. Investors press food producers to address ‘pandemic risk.’ Investors in the world’s largest meat, fish and dairy companies were unprepared for factory farming’s vulnerability to animal-born pandemics. To mitigate the risks, FAIRR, a $25 trillion investor coalition addressing issues in protein supply chains, is engaging eight major meat producers to improve worker and food safety – and protect returns. Dig in

3. Blueprint Local, LISC team up on community investment across the Southeast. Long-term inclusive community collaborations “defy the political and financial stereotypes of division,” say Local Initiatives Support Corp.’s Maurice Jones and Blueprint Local’s Ross Baird. “There need not be two Americas.” In a guest post on ImpactAlpha, LISC and Blueprint announced they are organizing projects together in Opportunity Zones in Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C. First up: The Current, a mixed-income, mixed-use project in Richmond, Va. that will be anchored by a food hall featuring local entrepreneurs. Keep reading

  • NEW: LISC looks to “10x” investment in home and small business ownership. The community lender’s Project 10x seeks to raise $1 billion in grants and low-interest loans to invest in businesses and communities led by people of color. LISC is putting up the first $20 million. “If we’re going to have any chance to materially attack the racial, health, wealth and opportunity gaps in America,” says Jones, “homeownership has to be one of the centerpiece strategies.” More

4. Restructuring emerging market businesses to help them survive the ‘debt pandemic.’ Impact investors have an opportunity to help restructure debt and provide growth capital to good emerging markets businesses suffering from events outside of their control. “Restructurings need not, and should not, be hostile processes seeking to extract rather than enhance value,” writes Albright Capital’s Greg Bowes. More.

5. U.S. sustainable investing tops $17 trillion. Sustainable investment grew 42% from the start of 2018 through the end of 2019, accounting for one-third of the $51.4 trillion in total U.S.-based assets under management, according to US SIF’s latest tally. The pandemic and climate and racial justice crises have further accelerated the growth: Investors poured $30.7 billion into sustainable funds through September, says Morningstar. Keep digging

6. Boldface names on vaccines, racial justice and climate action. Bill Gates, Jamie Dimon, rapper-activist Killer Mike and other super influencers demonstrated the newfound recognition of the materiality of social and environmental issues to business at this week’s virtual DealBook conference. “I’m not going to change the divisiveness in this country right now,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci. “But I’m going to try as best as I can to get people to realize that we are all in this together. We’ve got to get out of it together.” Get the scoop.

The Week’s Agents of Impact

Wukina’s Maureen Sibanda and Secha Capital’s Kuhle Mnisi. Follow the women… to catalyze an economic recovery and unlock trillions in new consumer spending power. Tech-enabled startups are expanding options for overlooked and hard-to-reach consumers and helping informal entrepreneurs find new sources of income and pathways into the formal economy. In South Africa, Wukina is an Avon-style distributor of hair products for rural women, by rural women, who act as digital sales agents. “I love hair. As a Black female, I, my friends, my family, we all spend a lot of money on our hair,” Wukina’s Maureen Sibanda tells ImpactAlpha. “For too long, the profit for female products has gone to people outside the country, and honestly, it’s mostly men.” Since early this year, Sibanda has been working with small business investor Secha Capital to build a network of more than 800 agents, or members, “a community of women who really need extra income and a trusted brand,” Sibanda says. 

Wukina is part of a new tech startup wave that is digitizing the informal economy and micro and small businesses (see,Post-pivots, African tech startups are peddling pandemic resilience). Nigeria’s Paystack, recently acquired by Stripe, has helped more than 60,000 micro- and small-businesses accept digital payments and leverage Africa’s rapid adoption of mobile money. Trade Depot, also in Nigeria, gives informal shops access to global distributors; Sokowatch offers similar services to Kenyan kiosk owners. Wukina is one of the newest and earliest-stage investments in Secha’s portfolio of South African small businesses, 80% of which are women-led. “Just focusing on market inefficiencies has inadvertently resulted in investing in women-owned businesses,” says Secha’s Kuhle Mnisi. Wukina, she says “brings to South Africa income in a different form—a form that allows women to be able to make money in a way that suits them best, and to use the resources around them.” – Jessica Pothering

The Week’s Dealflow

Creative capital. CDC adds $100 million to boost trade finance for the COVID recovery… Republic acquires rival NextSeed as crowdfunding platforms consolidate… Better World Acquisition Corp. lists ‘healthy living’ SPAC on Nasdaq… German’s Commerz Real launches alternatives impact fund. 

Low-carbon future. Form Energy raises $70 million for green energy storage… Bamboo Capital Partners rolls out $40 million energy access fund in Madagascar… Envoy secures $11 million to boost access to electric vehicles… Jeff Bezos awards $791 million in grants to fight climate change.

Circular economy. Aavishkaar, Circulate Capital back waste management venture Nepra… Lombard Odier looks for alpha in the ‘regenerative power of nature’… KKR invests in CMC Machinery’s sustainable packaging technology. 

Inclusive economy. LISC taps capital markets with $150 million in ‘impact notes’… Micron invests $50 million to reduce U.S. racial wealth gap… Center for Black Innovation lands $2.1 million to promote Black entrepreneurship.

Impact tech. ‘Justice tech’ and edtech ventures selected for gener8tor social enterprise accelerator… MycoWorks secures $45 million to scale alt-leather production. 

The Week’s Talent

Eloy Lindeijer, ex- of the Netherland’s PGGM, joins the board of The Global Impact Investing Network… Meg Voorhes is retiring after 12 years as director of research at US SIF… Dina Powell McCormick is named global head of sustainability and inclusive growth at Goldman Sachs… Ann Leng, ex- of AC Investment Management, joins Spring Lane Capital as CFO and COO.

Sam Fankhauser, ex- of Grantham Research Institute, joins the Oxford Net Zero Initiative at the University of Oxford… Camilla Nestor, ex- of MIX, is MCE Social Capital’s new CEO… Blackstone names Eric Duchon, ex- of LaSalle Investment Management, to the new position of global head of real estate ESG… Bonika Wilson, ex- of Wilson Capital Management, becomes Invest Atlanta’s first chief equity and inclusion officer.

The Week’s Jobs

CapShift is recruiting a director of impact investments based in Boston, Washington, D.C. or San Francisco… Flat World Titan is looking for an impact and ESG investment director in Stamford, Conn…Goldman Sachs Asset Management seeks a fixed income ESG and impact investing analyst in New York… The Global Impact Investing Network is looking for a market building manager in New York… US SIF is looking for a new director of research and education based in Washington, D.C.

Thank you for reading.

– Nov. 20, 2020