The Brief | September 23, 2022

The Week in impact investing: Trillions

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact! 

🗣 Opportunity knocks. Policy signals shifted this year’s Climate Week conversation from risks, costs and obstacles, to growth, solutions and upside rewards. Corporations and investors keying in on the low-carbon transition increasingly are using the T-word: trillions. Gina McCarthy, President Biden’s outgoing climate advisor, called it “a paradigm shift: The private sector no longer sees climate action as a source of job losses, but rather as an opportunity for job creation and economic revitalization.” Corporations are eyeing $4.8 trillion in new markets for products and services in the energy transition over the next couple of decades, according to a survey of 400 S&P 500 companies by CDP. Nature-positive, resilient solutions in food and agriculture could generate $4.5 trillion per year by 2030 in new business opportunities, according to the U.N.-backed Race to Zero alliance (laggards could lose a quarter of their value). Decarbonization can save up to $15 trillion, as renewable energy and storage replace fossil fuels over the next two decades, suggests a new University of Oxford study. Low-cost wind and solar power met more than one-tenth of global electricity demand for the first time in 2021, according to BloombergNEF. Big corporate purchasers like Amazon are boosting clean energy deployment. Global attitudes towards the climate crisis have “crossed a threshold,” former vice president Al Gore told the FT. Once the world reaches net zero, temperatures could stop rising within three to five years. Says Gore, “That’s a tremendous source of hope.” 

Other must-reads on ImpactAlpha:

  • Leave it in the ground. What’s the most eco-friendly way to mine gold? Not to mine it. A blockchain-based finance company headquartered in Singapore is buying up mining claims in Canada for the express purpose of not digging for gold, David Bank reports.
  • Bamboo wipes. A startup in the Netherlands (The Good Roll) is teaming up with a fund manager in Ghana (Wangara Green Ventures) to demonstrate the green, resilient, local economic impact of… toilet paper, reports Jessica Pothering.
  • Portfolio-first stewardship. Faced with systemic threats like antimicrobial resistance and climate change, institutional investors may be better off tanking a few of their holdings to boost returns and reduce risks across the rest of their portfolios, reports Dan Keeler.
  • Green bank. The U.S. Inflation Reduction Act’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund has $27 billion for state green banks and other community-based lenders. Eric Hangen and Michael Swack of the Center for Impact Finance at University of New Hampshire offer five principles to ensure that green banks reach low- and moderate-income people. 

🎧 Impact Briefing. Host Monique Aiken is joined by David Bank, who has been in New York taking the pulse of investors and other stakeholders at Climate Week. Plus, the headlines. 

The Week’s Agent of Impact

Suzanne Biegel, GenderSmart: Making markets work for women and the world. Women are hot… investments. So declared ImpactAlpha back in 2014, when we used quote marks for investors unfamiliar with “gender lens” investments in—and for—women, for the benefit of all. Back then, there was little data on the size or scope of gender-lens finance. Today, one study tallied $18 billion in commitments to private gender-focused funds. “I’m tracking over 300 private market funds and growing,” Suzanne Biegel, the field-building founder of GenderSmart, tells ImpactAlpha. Many are on their second or third gender-lens funds. “There is a body of evidence that says, ‘When we get capital into the hands of women entrepreneurs, good things will happen,’” Biegel said on a 2016 Agents of Impact podcast

Biegel’s advocacy for gender-lens investing began in 2006 after a career in the corporate, venture and philanthropic sectors. She founded Catalyst at Large and, later, GenderSmart to increase the flow of global capital benefitting women and girls. Biegel, in partnership with Wharton Social Impact Initiative, helped establish Project Sage, one of the earliest benchmarks for private equity, venture capital and private debt funds with a gender lens. She joined the board of the 2X Challenge, an initiative of development finance institutions that launched in 2018 to mobilize $3 billion for gender-lens investments in emerging markets. 2X has facilitated more than $10 billion and last year re-upped its pledge to $15 billion. Biegel’s GenderSmart will reconvene its global summit in London Oct. 18-19 (sign up). After that, GenderSmart is merging with the 2X Collaborative, led by Jessica Espinoza, to “give a unified, more powerful voice to the gender-lens investing community.”

Educating and investing in women may be the key to meeting nearly every one of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and addressing the monumental challenge of climate change. Biegel says she’s excited by gender-lens fund managers with “passion, grit, commitment to values and smarts.” She warns investors and other actors about complacency. Women-led funds still face bias compared to their male counterparts. Blended, and catalytic capital still plays an important role in advancing the market. “Be a first mover,” she says, encouraging investors to back first-time fund managers so they can go on to raise second and third funds. “Help them in every way that you can to succeed,” she says. “There is still so much to be done.” 

  • Keep reading, “Suzanne Biegel, GenderSmart: Making markets work for women and the world,” by Jessica on ImpactAlpha and share the story on Instagram. Tune into all of ImpactAlpha’s Gender Smart coverage.
  • Answer the Call. Join Biegel, along with Leila Charfi of Actawa Ventures in Tunis, Anna Raptis of Amplifica Capital in Mexico City, Lelemba Phiri of Africa Trust Group in Cape Town and Nicole Garcia of USAID Invest, in conversation with ImpactAlpha’s Jessica Pothering and David Bank about “Creative capital for gender-smart investments,” Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 9am PT / 12pm ET / 6pm Cape Town. RSVP today.

The Week’s Dealflow

Deal spotlight: Inclusive fund managers. First-time impact fund managers tend to outperform more experienced peers. This week, VC Include selected a dozen impact-oriented venture capital and private equity funds led by general partners with diverse backgrounds for its two-month education and mentoring fellowship program. Separately, Alphabet, through its growth fund CapitalG, allocated the final $40 million of its $100 million commitment in 2020 to seven Black venture fund managers investing in Black entrepreneurs. Among the recipients are Serena Williams’ Serena Ventures, Black Tech Nation Ventures and Nasir Qadree’s Zeal Capital Partners. 

  • Overcoming hurdles. This week, RareBreed Ventures, Rogue Women’s Fund and VitalizeVC joined forces to raise $10 million for their funds through a shared special purpose vehicle. Emerging and diverse managers are getting creative to overcome historic barriers to fundraising. Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, an Indigenous-led and owned venture capital firm, secured $46 million in a first close of its second fund to invest in Indigenous-led enterprises. Investors include Bank of America, the TELUS Pollinator Fund for Good and others.
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Clean energy. Husk Power Systems scored $6 million in debt to build solar-hybrid microgrids in rural India… KKR led India-based Hero Future Energies’ $450 million raise to expand into battery storage and green hydrogen… PearlX raised $70 million to rent and install solar systems for multifamily renters and single-family homeowners in the U.S.

Electrify everything. Brazil’s Leoparda Electric secured $8.5 million to build a network of swappable battery stations for electric two-wheelers in Latin America… Yulu raised $82 million to expand its rental fleet of electric two-wheelers and battery swapping network in India.

Financial inclusion. Kenya’s Turaco raised $10 million to provide insurance to underserved businesses and consumers in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda… Miami-based neobank Majority raised $37.5 million to provide financial services for unbanked immigrants without U.S. documentation… Pie Insurance raised $315 million to provide workers’ comp coverage for small businesses.

Fund news. A joint partnership between OMERS Infrastructure and Spring Lane Capital will invest in sustainable food, water, energy, transport and waste businesses in North America… Prime Movers Lab secured $500 million to invest in companies reinventing energy, transportation, infrastructure, agriculture and manufacturing.

Impact tech. Paris-based Innovafeed raked in $250 million from ABC Impact, Temasek and other global investors to farm insects for animal and plant nutrition… Washington, D.C.-based GiveCampus raised $50 million to make it easier for nonprofit K-12 schools, colleges and universities to raise funds.

Inclusive economy. CNote raised $7.3 million to tap corporate cash for community development… Common Future acquired Community Credit Lab for combined community wealth-building… HCAP Partners raised $353 million to take its good jobs strategy nationwide… PowerToFly raised $30 million to upskill and connect underrepresented talent with jobs.

Investing in health. Remedial Health scored $4.4 million to digitize pharmacies in Nigeria and other parts of West and East Africa… Zócalo Health, a virtual primary care platform for Latino patients, snagged $5 million from investors.

Low-carbon transition. Estonian carbon data platform Arbonics scored $1.8 million to help forest and landowners in Europe generate income from forest-based carbon credits… Future scored $5.3 million to reward consumers for reducing their carbon footprints… RenewCO2 snagged $10 million to make no-carbon plastic and chemical products.

The Week’s Talent

Christopher Harris, ex- of TIAA, joins Zevin Asset Management as a client portfolio manager and will join the firm’s investment committee… Anna Lerner Nesbitt, ex- of World Bank Group and Meta, joins the Climate Collective as CEO… Jacquelyn VanderBrug, ex- of Bank of America, joins Putnam Investments as head of sustainability… Emma Kulow, a former ImpactAlpha fellow and ex- of CapShift, joins ACCELR8 as an associate.

The Week’s Jobs

The Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator is hiring a government and university relations manager in Los Angeles and several other roles… WaterEquity seeks a remote marketing associate… Abrdn is looking for a fund accounting product management analyst in Philadelphia… DBL Partners seeks an associate in San Francisco… Social Finance seeks a vice president of impact investments in Boston.

Affirm is looking for a capital markets senior manager… In New York, Anheuser-Busch is hiring a director of community impact, Veris Wealth Partners is hiring a wealth manager, and BlackRock Investment Stewardship seeks an analyst… 17 Communications is looking for a part-time remote research assistant… GreenBiz Group is recruiting an ESG analyst… Close Group Consulting is looking for a manager/director.

That’s a wrap. Have a wonderful weekend. 

– Sept. 23, 2022