The Brief | October 1, 2021

The Week in impact investing: Outcomes

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact! 

👏  Next Call: Black tech, green solutions. “We need to have founders and investors who have relationships with the communities that will have the greatest impact of climate change,” says Include Ventures’ Taj Eldridge (see No. 1, below). Eldridge will join The Call to talk scalable, community-based solutions with SaLisa Berrien of COI Energy, Kameale Terry of ChargerHelp, Donnel Baird of BlocPower and other Agents of Impact. Join The Plug and ImpactAlpha, Tuesday, Oct. 12 at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London. RSVP today.

🗣️ Last Call: Optimizing for Impact. Hundreds of Agents of Impact learned the ABCs of measurement and management from Duke’s Cathy Clark, along with Courageous Capital’s Laurie Spengler and Calvert Impact Capital’s Beth Bafford. Clark previewed her new Coursera course, “Impact measurement and management for the SDGs.” The Sustainable Development Goals represent a global to-do list, Clark says, and “we all need to get better at achieving real impact and progress toward them.” Get the recap and watch the video replay of Agents of Impact Call No. 31.

🎧  Impact Briefing. On this week’s podcast, host Brian Walsh is joined by John Cochrane from the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance to sort out what this week’s policy developments in Washington mean for impact investors (see No. 6). Plus, the headlines. Tune in, share and follow us on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen.

🙌  Sign your team up for ImpactAlpha. Hundreds of enterprises, funds and institutions take advantage of ImpactAlpha for Teams to raise their game with investors, clients and partners. Save with substantial team discounts, and onboard colleagues with a customized welcome page. Drop us a note (or just hit ‘reply’) to get started.

The Week’s Agents of Impact

Halima Iqbal and Farwah Tapal, Oraan. Halima Iqbal didn’t plan to start her own fintech company when she returned to Pakistan in 2018, after years as an investment banker, consultant and certified chef in Toronto and New York. When it took her more than three months to open a bank account, Iqbal’s entrepreneurial brain started working. “If people like me, who are slightly more sophisticated financial product users, are having such a hard time accessing a bank account, what is the reality in terms of the rest of the population?” she says. She found that only 7% of Pakistan’s adult female population has access to formal financial services. Iqbal joined forces with Farwah Tapal, an industrial and product design expert familiar with tech solutions for underserved communities. The pair launched Oraan to digitize savings circles, one of the most common forms of financial services for the world’s unbanked, especially women. This week, Oraan raised $3 million, led by Zayn Capital and Wavemaker Partners.

Savings circles, more formally known as rotating savings and credit associations or ROSCAs, let groups of trusted community members pool their savings and lend out the capital to each other in turn. More than 40% of Pakistan’s population relies on ROSCAs, known locally as ‘committees,’ which transact an estimated $5 billion each month. Oraan has on-boarded more than 10,000 customers, 84% of whom are women. For members, it offers Islamic finance-compliant five and 10-month savings plans. When it’s time for each member to receive their loan, the funds get deposited into an online bank account through Oraan’s partner bank, Dubai Islamic Bank. ROSCAs are a natural entry point for a woman’s financial journeys, says Tapal. “She doesn’t have to explain it to anyone. She can just do it.” She adds, “And then when she starts seeing the benefits, she’ll take on more, or ask for coaching, or say, ‘Please provide me with a bank account.’ She’ll start asking for additional things along her financial journey.” – Jessica Pothering

The Week’s Big 6

1. Tapping community wisdom for climate solutions. Based in Hawaii, Dawn Lippert co-founded Elemental Excelerator to bridge the gap between cleantech solutions and communities desperate for such innovation. Lippert funds global startups to test climate technologies locally and then helps the companies take their solutions global. Elemental’s 136 portfolio companies have raised over $4 billion in follow-on capital. Read on.

  • Diverse climate fund managers. The bet: Increased diversity in climate-tech fund management will drive climate solutions, green business ownership and job creation in Black and Brown communities. VC Include’s Climate Justice initiative is recruiting diverse climate fund managers in the U.S. and Europe. Onward.

2. Obey the ‘carbon law.’ Global investors with $30 trillion in assets are pushing Boeing, Alaska Air, Fedex and hundreds of other companies to set science-based targets and obey the ‘carbon law,’ which is aimed at halving emissions every decade, or 7% each year. “Every company will be impacted by climate change one way or another,” ManuLife’s Frederick Isleib told ImpactAlpha. Dive in.

3. Impact media boomlet. The spate of new climate, impact and ESG media outlets, newsletters, websites and podcasts is a proxy for the mainstreaming of sustainable finance. “The business of sustainable investing is beginning to take center stage as media cater to a growing professional class,” says Tideline’s Ben Thornley. New media landscape.

  • Impact advisory. The growth equity firm TA Associates cited Caprock Group’s focus on impact investing as it took a stake in the Boise-based multifamily office. Caprock has placed $1.5 billion in client assets in 50 impact-oriented funds.

4. Beyond ESG. Dalberg’s Kusi Hornberger, Kristina Kelhofer and Christellee Umubyeyi lay out four steps investors can take to move beyond ESG greenwashing and drive real impact. Among them: Support public investments by paying a fair share of taxes and avoid investments in companies that intentionally evade taxes. Collect the whole set.

5. Accounting for Impact. The International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation is preparing to launch an International Sustainability Standards Board and its first-ever roadmap towards sustainability reporting to “finally make it possible for investors and stakeholders to consistently account for and compare the positive and negative impacts of investments and businesses on people and the planet,” said Krisztina Tora of the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment. Keep reading.

  • Impact 3.0. New developments are positioning impact as a tool for measuring outcomes, not just intentions, GSG’s Cliff Prior writes in a companion post. “This is Impact 3.0 and it’s coming over the horizon.” The GSG Global Impact Summit from Oct. 6-8 will take up the future of impact investing. What’s next?

6. New rules for stakeholder capitalism. Three senators and two representatives are calling on the Biden Administration to use executive orders to reform American capitalism for the long term. The lawmakers are supporting the call by a coalition led by the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance and B Lab to create a White House Initiative on Inclusive Economic Growth. Check it out.

The Week’s Dealflow

Spotlight: Climate finance in emerging markets. A half-dozen new financing mechanisms are looking to de-risk opportunities and attract private capital to sustainable projects in Africa and Brazil. Brazilian cosmetics giant Natura and Mauá Capital are filing a financing gap for producers of forest-compatible products in the Amazon. In Africa, One Acre Fund is developing a Smallholder Resilience Fund to support farmers producing high-value, climate-resilient crops. More.

  • Climate overflow. Philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, through her Waverly Street Foundation, will invest $3.5 billion over the next decade in housing, transportation, food security and health for underserved communities most impacted by climate change… Blue Bear closes a $150 million fund for AI-enabled climate infrastructure… Zola Electric raises $90 million to expand off-grid energy access. 

The Reconstruction. Syndio scores $50 million to help companies address gender and racial pay disparities… Genius Guild’s Greenhouse Fund backs Quirkchat, a Black woman-led creative video and chat community for Black anime and comic fans… Minority-owned real estate investor Casoro Group in Austin launches an impact fund and aims to raise $1 billion to invest in underserved communities.

Agrifood investing. Alitheia backs Nigerian agri-processing venture ReelFruit… SuperZop scores $4 million from Incofin’s India-focused fund to scale its agtech commerce business… Bayer’s venture capital arm leads soil-carbon mapping venture EarthOptic’s $10.3 million funding round… Africa Eats crowdfunds capital to strengthen Africa’s food supply chains.  

Economic inclusion. Mexico’s Atrato secures a $15 million line of credit to offer loans to retail and other small businesses… SoftBank funding helps make Konfio and Andela emerging market impact unicorns… Pakistan’s Tag raises $12 million to offer banking services to employees of its business customers.

Green mobility. Lightyear raises $110 million for solar-powered electric vehicles… Sweden’s Cake raises $60 million to expand its electric motorcycle manufacturing in Europe, North America and Asia… Brazil’s Tembici secures a 29 million reais impact-linked line of credit from Santander Bank to launch a bike sharing service in the city of Brasilia.

Low-carbon transition. Ara Partners fund secures $1.1 billion to decarbonize the industrial sector… Buffalo, N.Y.-based CleanFiber secures $11.9 million to manufacture sustainable building insulation… Battery Resourcers raises $70 million to recycle and upcycle lithium-ion batteries and battery materials.

Affordable housing. Ummeed Housing Finance secures $37 million to provide affordable housing loans for low-income families in India… U.K.-based Women in Safe Homes, a fund that invests in and refurbishes housing properties for women fleeing domestic violence, makes nine investments. 

Fund news. Flat6Labs closes $10 million for its Anava Seed Fund, which will invest in early-stage Tunisian startups… Ananda Impact Ventures raises €65 million for European impact tech.

The Week’s Talent

Oralia Alvarez, ex- of Founders First Capital Partners, joins Mission Driven Finance as director of business development… Economic Policy Institute names Heidi Shierholz as president and Naomi Walker, ex- of the Economic Analysis and Research Network, as vice president. 

The Week’s Jobs

BlackRock is hiring a senior investment researcher for its sustainable investing group in New York… Co-Impact is looking for a program manager in São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro… Mercy Corps Ventures seeks an investment principal of fintech and crypto in Washington, D.C… The U.S. International Development Finance Corp. is looking for an investment attorney in Washington, D.C… LACI has openings for a program administrative manager for its incubation team and an equity innovation manager for startups in Los Angeles.

The Institute for Sustainable Communities is hiring a (remote) senior program officer… The Clean Cooking Alliance is hiring a U.S.-based consultant for its results-based financing accelerator… Sobrato Organization is looking for a senior investment associate in Mountain View, Calif… RMI seeks a (remote) program director for its energy transition academy… 3Degrees Group is recruiting a senior manager of business partnerships for renewable energy and climate… Closed Loop Partners is hiring an analyst / associate of private credit funds.

Prime Impact Fund is looking for an investment operations associate / manager in Cambridge, Mass… Kapor Capital is hiring a principal in Oakland… Twilio seeks an impact fund manager at… Village Capital is recruiting an associate for its Abaca entrepreneur and investor services in Mexico City… National Community Reinvestment Coalition is looking to fill multiple positions in Washington, D.C… Urban Institute is hiring a director of federal equity initiatives in Washington, D.C.

Surdna Foundation is recruiting a program associate for its inclusive economies program in New York… The Carrot Project seeks an agricultural business advisor… PolicyLink is hiring a program coordinator for community safety and justice in Oakland… My Climate Journey is looking for a head of community in the U.S… Verizon Forward for Good Accelerator is accepting applications for its disability innovation cohort.

That’s a wrap. Have a wonderful weekend. 

– Oct 1, 2021