The Week in Impact Investing: Hot Streak

TGIF, Agents of Impact! You deserve a break, and so do we. The ImpactAlpha team will be off next week. We’ll be back in your in-box on Monday, Aug. 7. 
🗣 Bring the heat. Only an economist can see climate change and water scarcity and become more optimistic. Rising awareness of the value of water brings innovation and investment, Hugo Contreras, who has led The Nature Conservancy’s water security efforts in Latin America, says on this week’s Impact Briefing podcast (see below). By that measure, the string of brutally hot days across the US, Europe and Asia, along with wildfires in Canada, boiling oceans in Florida, and floodwaters lapping the banks of India’s Taj Mahal, should be good news for efforts to move in a different direction.
A new $180 million philanthropic consortium called Invest in Our Future is providing catalytic grants to ensure that rural, tribal, communities of color and other under-resourced places can tap federal funds for the rebuilding that is required, as Amy Cortese reports. And Navajo Power is tapping the immense renewable energy potential in Indian country – and cutting tribal communities in on the benefits, as founders Brett Isaac and Michael Cox explain in a Q&A with Jessica Pothering.
Power is shifting in other ways as well. Elements of community ownership can help commercial real estate developments succeed, as Roodgally Senatus details in his story on LocalCode Kansas City and other efforts. As labor flexes its power in a strong jobs market, investors are looking for companies that can attract and retain employees with “quality jobs,” Dennis Price reports, perhaps auguring at least a partial reversal in the US’s decades-long increase in income inequality.
Private equity giant KKR this week touted the payouts to hourly employees in its exit from audiobook publisher RBMedia, part of its expanding employee ownership strategy. Our roundup of annual private equity impact reports found that other legacy firms like Bain, Apollo and TPG, give themselves good grades on climate, sustainability and inclusion. Those efforts are not yet cooling the planet. But they are among the unmistakable signs of a shift in the climate – for investments in solutions. –– David Bank
The Week’s Impact Briefing
🎧 Impact Briefing. David Bank speaks with Hugo Contreras, who helped lead The Nature Conservancy’s efforts in Latin America to value, conserve and enhance our most irreplaceable resource, in the next conversation in our series from the Salzburg Global Seminar, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Host Monique Aiken has the headlines.
Cash flows to ensure the water flows in Latin America. Quito, Ecuador, is more than 9,000 feet above sea level. Even higher are Andean wetlands that filter, store and slowly release glacier water used by the city’s residents. Until the creation of the Quito Water Fund, or FONAG, in 2000, no entity was charged with preserving and enhancing the obvious value of the critical watershed. “Watersheds tend to be in the middle of everything. But if they’re in the middle of everything, they’re just nowhere – no one’s responsibility,” sys Contreras, who for nearly a decade led The Nature Conservancy’s water security efforts in Latin America. “They don’t have resources allocated. They don’t have technical capabilities allocated. So there is an institutional battle. And finally, there is a market gap.”
Inspired by the Quito model, The Nature Conservancy, with the Inter-American Development Bank, FEMSA Foundation and the Global Environment Facility, has helped establish more than two dozen water funds throughout Latin America. Structures vary, but the idea is to create funding mechanisms – through tariffs, taxes or corporate use-fees – to support efforts to purchase parcels, reforest watersheds, change agricultural practices, recharge aquifers and create wetlands. “By monetizing the value, you are opening up an opportunity to bring capital into the sector,” says Contreras, an expert in water economics.
Paradoxically, the increasing scarcity and rising price of water makes Contreras more, not less, optimistic. “Let’s assume that Mexico City decides that by 2040, it will not use any more water than it’s using today. The only solution to that is to bring technology, efficiency and investment,” he says. “Whenever prices have risen in the history of any resource, there has been innovation, there has been investment going into the sector.”

The Week’s Call
Impact at HBCUs: Hubs of talent, innovation and Black excellence (video). Most historically Black colleges and universities were formed during the Reconstruction era. In the more than a century since, Spelman, Howard, Tuskegee, Morehouse, Xavier and other HBCUs have become hubs of talent, means of economic mobility, and sources of solutions from climate to public health. HBCUs are public and private, rural and urban, two-year and four-year, and graduate schools. “There’s a diversity of HBCUs, which means there’s a diversity of experts, there’s a diversity of innovations,” said The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mirtha Donastorg, who led the HBCU innovation beat at The Plug, on this week ImpactAlpha call.
Solution centers. Xavier University, for example, produces the most Black doctors of any higher educational institution in the country. “Our schools have a long and storied history of hitting far above our weight class,” said Carla Whitlock, who serves on the board of trustees of Tuskegee University in Alabama. “Investing in them, giving to them, increasing their endowments, is only going to push our community and our nation forward,” said Troy Duffie, who leads Milken Institute’s HBCU Fellows Program. Added Taj Eldridge of Jobs for the Future, “HBCUs are not only educating the students, but they’re also taking care of the community.”Plugged in. The call also served to welcome readers of The Plug to ImpactAlpha. Sherrell Dorsey, who founded the pioneering publication covering the Black tech ecosystem, has joined ImpactAlpha as a contributing editor to extend The Plug’s coverage, including of HBCUs, a special focus. ”We’ve worked together on several initiatives in the past,” Dorsey said on the call. “Being able to partner up with ImpactAlpha – all the great work that you all have been doing, the work that we accomplished at The Plug – it’s just such an honor to be in the room again with you today.”

The Week’s Impact Investing Dealflow
Deal spotlight: Global corporations push for recycled plastic. Half of the more than 300 tons of plastic produced globally each year goes to single-use purposes. More than 500 companies, including brands such as The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever and L’Oréal, have committed to using at least 25% recycled plastic in their packaging by 2025. Lack of supply for recycled plastic has hampered such efforts, according to a recent study by “New solutions must at some point address more attractive economics, reducing green premiums,”’s Ian Arthurs told ImpactAlpha. “As green premiums go down closer to zero, that will unlock demand and supply.”
This week, Singapore-based Circulate Capital backed India’s Lucro Plastecycle, which recycles and converts post-consumer plastic waste into recycled packaging, such as shrink wraps and polybags. Circulate made the investment through its Circulate Capital Ocean Fund, backed by corporate LPs including PepsiCo, Chanel, Coca-Cola, Chevron Phillips and Unilever. The follow-on investment will help Lucro “meet the growing demand for post-consumer recycled plastic packaging,” said Lucro’s Ujwal Desai. 

Circular economy. Also this week, Norfund invested in Nigeria’s Wecyclers, a woman-led company that offers subscription-based waste recycling in lower-income urban neighborhoods. Wecyclers also scored funding from the SDG Outcomes Fund as part of a spate of African development impact bonds. The Global Green Growth Institute backed an electronic waste recycling plant in rural Senegal. Nevada-based lithium-ion battery recycler Redwood Materials is in talks to raise $700 million, at an estimated $5 billion valuation. Share this post.
Agrifood investing. Women-led Supply Chain Capital closed its $40 million investment fund for tech ventures enabling a more sustainable food system.
Conservation finance. UBS Optimus Foundation provided $600,000 to Philippines-based Blue Finance for a “marine-focused impact performance loan” for coral reef restoration… ​​AXA’s alternative investments group earmarked $49 million to invest in native forest restoration in Brazil. 
Education and skills. BluLever Education scored funding to train South Africa’s artisans and trade workers. 
Energy transition. AeroSeal raised $567 million to make a sealant to help home and building owners cut energy waste and costs… Koloma raked in $91 million to drill for hydrogen stored underground…, a UK-based EV smart-charging app for drivers, raised $33 million in Series B funding… Nairobi-based Starsight Premier Energy Finance raised $20 million to build commercial and industrial solar facilities… Terabase and PVcase raised capital for solar design and construction… Baltimore-based Etch secured $7.5 million for its “closed loop” system to decarbonize natural gas and recycle the fuel for indefinite reuse.
ESG. Generation Investment Management led a $150 million funding round for OneTrust to help companies manage ESG requirements and navigate business privacy, security and ethics issues.
Financial inclusion. Nigeria’s raised $1.3 million to make it easier to underwrite and distribute affordable insurance products and process claims… Seedstars and German development agency GIZ launched Enhancing Financial Inclusion in Palestine… Culttivo raised $14.5 million to extend credit to Brazil’s small-scale coffee producers… FINCA Ventures invests in farmer livelihoods, financial inclusion and education… New York backed small business lending with a follow-on fund for CDFIs.
Investing in health. Desaisiv raised $2 million to expand health insurance in the Middle East… Five35 Ventures backed Zuri Health to expand mobile healthcare in Africa… Rwanda’s Kasha Global raised $21 million for its last-mile health products delivery service. 
Water and sanitation. Water and sanitation infrastructure developer Aquasantec International secured $25 million in mezzanine debt from Vantage Capital for water access projects in East Africa. 
The Week’s Impact Investing Talent
Low Income Investment Fund promoted Tyler Jackson to impact capital deputy director… Aries Clean Technologies, a waste-to-biogas company, appointed Jon Cozens, ex- of Mura Technology, as CEO… Gerry Anderson, ex-chairman and CEO of DTE Energy, joined ArcLight Capital Partners as a senior advisor and ArcLight Power Infrastructure board member… Sherry Madera, senior vice president of public policy at Mastercard, will step into a new role as CEO of CDP… Eric Nee is retiring in January after 17 years as editor of the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
The Week’s Impact Investing Jobs
💼 Share the week’s impact jobs. Want to post a job in The Brief? Drop us a note.
US East Coast
In Washington, DC: Bezos Earth Fund has an opening for a sustainable finance associate director… Open Road Alliance is hiring an investment officer… Invest in Our Future, a philanthropic initiative focused on the energy transition, is looking for an executive director.
In New York: VC Include seeks an executive director… Overdeck Family Foundation is recruiting a research and impact officer… Estée Lauder seeks a director of ESG data… Maycomb Capital is looking for an analyst.
Vanguard is hiring an investment stewardship lead analyst in the Philadelphia area… Health Forward Foundation is recruiting a principal impact strategist in Kansas City.
US West Coast
In San Francisco: Voyager Ventures is looking for an investment associate… Cooley LLP is looking for a director of social impact and sustainability… Northern California Grantmakers seeks a director for climate and disaster resilience. 
The Stanford Social Innovation Review is on the hunt for an editor… Blue Forest is hiring a grants development associate in Sacramento… Skoll Foundation seeks a program manager in Palo Alto. 
International locations
In London: VentureESG is hiring a research fellow to focus on materiality for venture capital… Goldman Sachs’ sustainable investing group seeks an asset management associate… State Street Global Advisors seeks an ESG strategist and vice president.
IFRS Foundation seeks a Montreal-based strategic affairs director to focus on multilateral development banks… Rally Assets has an opening for a finance and operations director in Toronto… AlphaMuni Foundation has an opening for an executive director in Nairobi… 60 Decibels is on the hunt for analysts and managers in Kenya, India and Latin America. 
ResponsAbility is on the hunt for an investment assistant in Peru… Northern Arc Capital has an opening for a senior associate in Mumbai… Also in Mumbai, GreenArc Capital is on the hunt for a vice president of engineering… Investing in Women is looking for an impact investing technical lead in Manila.
Remote jobs
Edison Energy is looking for a clean energy investments and advisory manager… The Nature Conservancy is looking for a climate and renewable energy program director for its Western US and Canada division… Global Fund for Women seeks a senior director of participatory approaches… The Center for Sustainable Finance and Private Wealth is recruiting a North America-focused training and engagement program manager.
That’s a wrap. Have a wonderful weekend. 
– July 28, 2023

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