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April 2017 Impact Investing News Roundup

This month’s News Roundup makes for an exciting kickoff to Q2, where we continue to see innovation and passion among diverse global networks that are engaged in mission-related investing initiatives. Divesting and clean energy remain in the top headlines for Environmental news, while access to technology remains a heavy theme in Education. Emerging from Calvert Foundation and Upstart Co-lab is a nod to the creative class with an Impact Capital report focused on place-based investing for creative places and businesses; and Ford Foundation commits $1 billion of its endowment to mission-related investments over the next 10 years.

Let us know if we missed an important headline by emailing [email protected].

Environmental News

  • Investments in renewable energy projects have grown five-fold over the past 12 years to $287 billion. However, there is also a rise in allegations of human rights abuses linked to renewal energy projects. A survey by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre found that only five in fifty companies surveyed recognized international standards for informed consent.
  • Wind energy now produces 5.5% of the electricity in the U.S. according to the American Wind Energy Association. An additional 21,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity are now under construction or in advanced development – enough to power an additional 5 million U.S. homes. Texas is the wind energy leader in the U.S., with a wind power capacity of 21,000 megawatts.
  • Enough utility-scale solar power was added to the U.S. in 2016 to power over 2 million homes according to a report from the Solar Energy Industries Association.
  • Green Century Capital Management, in collaboration with Trillium Asset Management and 350.org, has released a new fossil fuel-free investing guide for environmentally and socially conscious investors. Make a Clean Break: Your Guide to Fossil Fuel Free Investing.

Financial Wellness News

  • A survey by The National Financial Educators Council found that lack of financial knowledge costs Americans an average of over $9,700 throughout their lifetimes. One in three respondents mentioned a lifetime loss over $15,000.
  • Remittances – the money immigrants send home to their families and friends – totaled $429 billion in 2016. Startups are beginning to attempt to make this process easier (think something similar to Venmo) and less expensive by reducing transaction fees (which currently average 7.45% globally).
  • Accion has released a report showing how data can lead to greater financial inclusion: Unlocking the Promise of (Big) Data to Promote Financial Inclusion.  A recent report by the Omidyar Network suggests that in the world’s six biggest emerging economies alone — China, Brazil, India, Mexico, Indonesia, and Turkey — big data has the potential to help between 325 million and 580 million people gain access to formal credit for the first time.

Education News

  • According to a report from Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, 74% of students globally have little or no internet connectivity while 221 million students are being taught in a language that is foreign to them. Google.org is granting $50 million to education tech nonprofits that strive to create equal access to education globally.
  • Purdue University purchased Kaplan University, one of the largest for-profit universities, for $1. Purdue has also agreed to give a percentage of its revenue back to Kaplan for the next 30 years as part of the deal. Purdue will be transitioning Kaplan into a public non-profit university in the Purdue system. Purdue hopes to expand its online offerings as a result of the acquisition.
  • More than six million students were enrolled in at least one online distance learning course in Fall 2015, an increase of 3.9% over 2014 according to a study by the Digital Learning Compass.

New Offerings

  • Calvert Foundation has announced a new business line, Capital Aggregation. The Capital Aggregation business pools capital from multiple institutional and accredited investors, in the form of syndications and participations in fixed income transactions, to enable investment at scale in mission-driven organizations.
  • ImpactUs announced the onboarding of the first issues to its impact investing platform, ImpactUs Marketplace. The Marketplace is a community-driven full-service platform offering institutions, individuals, and financial advisors an extensive range of private impact investing opportunities.
  • LISC, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) is tapping the bond market to raise $100 million in capital that it will use to help energize local economies. LISC is the first CDFI to do so.
  • The Reinvestment Fund, another CDFI, recently announced the pricing of $50 million in general obligation bonds.

Recent Reports

Updates from Industry Players

  • The Omidyar Network has pledged $100 million to combat misinformation and hate speech and to promote civic participation.
  • The Ford Foundation is committing $1 billion of its endowment over the next ten years to mission related investments. The Foundation Center estimates that there are more than 86,700 grantmaking foundations in the U.S. with over $865 billion in assets. However, only a small percentage have used impact investing strategies for their endowments.