My conversation with Esther Park of Cienega Capital for my Smart & Soulful Money® podcast brought me more clarity and also opened my thinking to what’s possible. I hope it does something similar for you! A few of my takeaways from our conversation include a more grounded idea of change based on growing up through the cracks (spaces of possibility) and how powerful and transformative this type of change can be. Part of this is a “whole systems” perspective—the opposite of monoculture ways of thinking and implementing.
Also, there is so much power and opportunity stored away in charitable foundations and other structures like donor-advised funds. Opening the flow of these resources, in a way that is wise and inclusive, can mean critical transformation for addressing so many needs we have—from climate change to racial equity to the many social needs of our day. We don’t have to be Rockefellers to be a part of creating (and incubating!) systemic changes.
Natural Investments has regenerative investments with forty-nine companies and funds that create social and environmental benefits in response to some of our society’s most pressing challenges. Regenerative, in this context, refers to private equity and debt investment opportunities with an explicit mission for positive societal and environmental impact. As of 2020, Natural Investment clients devoted $110M to regenerative investing, a 19 percent increase from the prior year.
One of the primary challenges facing investors seeking to make market-rate, high impact investments outside public markets is that most private investment structures have high minimum-investment requirements, often above $1,000,000 per investment, that put this type of investing out of reach for many investors.
To address this barrier, New Summit pioneered a private high-impact “fund of funds” model that provides a typical New Summit investor with exposure to 10-12 underlying private fund investments.
When available, a portion of client assets are directed to so-called “regenerative investments” in the private market. Natural Investments seeks funds and companies with an elevated business model that takes into account the public good. The authenticity of the model is usually backed by language in the corporate charter or third-party certifications verifying moral conduct at all levels: people, planet, and prosperity. The objectives foster a regenerative business structure at the outset, that can then be maintained through any economic environment.
2019 Social Impact Report
$89M in regenerative investments are spread across several main categories of impact.
First Nations Oweesta (or Oweesta for short) was founded in 1999 to support economic development in Native American communities across the United States by addressing a lack of financial infrastructure and money.
Oweesta, which means money or “item of exchange” in the Mohawk language, is a non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI)—a federally certified class of banks, credit unions, and loan funds that are committed to making affordable, responsible loans to historically underserved and disadvantaged communities. In their words, Oweesta’s mission is to “provide opportunities for Native people to develop assets and create wealth by assisting in the establishment of strong, permanent institutions and programs, contributing to economic independence and strengthening sovereignty for all Native communities.”
Since 2006, Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT has served small, family-owned organic farming enterprises by helping them grow their businesses, while supporting the growth and impact of the organic movement. The aim has been to increase the availability of nutritious organic foods while working to support long term soil health. As cofounder and CEO David Miller has said,” We want to help organic farmers provide an answer to the dead soil mono culture across the U.S.”
For over twenty-five years, Green Century Capital Management has been a leader in shareholder advocacy. This year, Green Century focused on two themes: sustainable agriculture and climate change. As part of its climate change advocacy, Green Century has been diligently working to promote plant-based proteins—as well as the preservation of tropical forests, the reduction of food waste, and a renewable energy transformation.
Plant-based proteins have received media attention in recent years due to the growing awareness that meat production is one of the main drivers of deforestation in the tropics. Globally, the production of livestock for human consumption generates 14% of the emissions that cause climate change.
By working with investors and agricultural companies,
Technically speaking, pollinators are “the biotic agents that move pollen from the anthers to the stigma to accomplish fertilization.” Very literally, the birds and the bees of the flowering plant world!
Of course, this is a bit of an oversimplification. While pollinators do include both birds and bees, this group also includes wasps, ants, flies, butterflies, moths, and some reptiles and mammals. Even gardeners can be pollinators, hand pollinating plants to prevent contamination and maintain pure genetic strains.
Some plants have co-evolved with the local pollinators, and the loss of native pollinators could lead to extinction of these unique plant species, as the pollinators and plants have evolved to be specialized for each other.
It is estimated that over three quarters of all farmed crops require animal pollination, so along with pollinator decline and the loss of specialized plants, we also face the crucial issue of farmed foods not being pollinated. The economic impacts of pollinator decline are already being felt in many areas. Where native pollinator species have become scarce, farmers have to replace them with managed bee populations, which involves added cost and work.
So, its clear that we are facing some problems with pollinator decline, but why is this happening? And, what can be done to restore pollinators to a healthy level?