There has never been a time where the word ‘unprecedented’ gets used so often in a single year. 2020 was such a year, the year where the world was caught by surprise with the Covid-19 pandemic: with millions losing their lives, tens of millions getting infected, and hundreds of millions of people’s livelihoods have suffered through job losses and pay reduction.
2020 was also the year of accelerated digitalisation with companies adopting a work-from-home policy to remain operational. While skilled workers could switch to remote working arrangements at ease, countless blue-collar workers continued to struggle to find their relevance in a pandemic-ridden environment. Widening the income gap between the haves and haves not, and when there is a crisis hits whether economic or health, it is often the people from the low-income communities that get hit the worst.
Last year, we saw a tremendous surge of interest in sustainability and ESG-related investment activities. Notably, in renewable and clean energy – as evident by the 700% gain on Tesla stock price, in part boosted by Biden pro-ESG policies from his presidential victory.
Between 2013 and 2019, the impact investing market has grown at an annual rate of 27%, according to figures reported by GIIN. We shall expect no less for years to come considering the increased emphasis on multi-stakeholders approach to investing. As we enter the phase of mass vaccination, the world continues to be complex and uncertain.
To help shed some light into the year of 2021, we have reached out to 13 impact investing leaders and professionals – and asked them “On the impact sectors you are focusing on, what do you expect to see in 2021.”
Amy Domini - Founder & Chair of Domini Impact Investment
The impact investing space has achieved the founders’ goals of creating positive societal and ecological change. 2021 will continue to see the trend, so evident in 2020 towards the launch of a myriad of companies, publicly traded, that have sprung from the venture capital provided by caring investors. It is now possible, in a way that was unthinkable just five years ago, to construct and maintain a portfolio of highly impactful, highly relevant, and highly profitable companies. Where are the best opportunities? I like the technologies that assist off-the-grid or mini grid power. I like the software that help distance learning, whether pre-school, college, or professional.
My research leads me to medical solutions that are simple and more affordable for the most widespread of needs. Sustainably harvested and distributed food supplies excite me. Opportunities to link communities together, through software, public transit, or public spaces excites me too.
These next few months will see many more success stories brought into the public domain, and that is important because that is where the power to create permanent betterment can most easily be established. It also means that the demand for these solutions-oriented companies will continue to climb, rewarding them with higher valuations, which in turn will influence older and more traditional corporations towards greater attention to the societal and ecological outcomes of their operations. Thus, impact investing will change the course of business management, making the world a better place.
What greater human-made power is there than the power of finance for good? Finance has instantaneous communications networks and traverses the planet. Through all nations and currencies, cultures and complications, financial service companies operate seamlessly and efficiently. As the demand for positive impact grows, so too does the efficacy of delivering what is good and proper. As the influence and logic of impact investing has grown, we have seen this taking place. The tipping point is here.
Amy Domini is Founder and Chair of Domini Impact Investments. She is widely recognized as the leading voice for socially responsible investing. In 2005, Time magazine named her to the Time 100 list of the world’s most influential people. In 2006, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree from Northeastern University College of Law. Yale University’s Berkeley Divinity School presented Ms. Domini with an honorary doctorate in 2007. In 2008, Ms. Domini was named to Directorship magazine’s Directorship 100, the magazine’s listing of the most influential people on corporate governance and in the boardroom.
Ms. Domini is a past board member of the Church Pension Fund of the Episcopal Church in America; the National Association of Community Development Loan Funds, an organization whose members work to create funds for grassroots economic development loans; and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the major sponsor of shareholder actions. She is a member of the Boston Security Analysts Society. She has been a frequent guest commentator on CNBC’s Talking Stocks and various other radio and television shows.
She has been the portfolio manager for Domini’s separately managed accounts since 2013, co-portfolio manager of the Domini Impact Equity Fund since 2018, and co-portfolio manager of the Domini Sustainable Solutions Fund since 2020.
Ms. Domini holds a B.A. in international and comparative studies from Boston University, and holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation.
Rodney Schwartz - Founder & CEO at ClearlySo
Impact sectors: Energy & the Environment; Education, Training & Employment; Healthcare & Wellbeing; Responsible Consumerism.
The outlook for impact investing in 2021 is robust– in fact, things have never looked so good for the impact investing sector. To a large extent, this is a consequence of Covid and that it has accelerated long term trends already in motion–it has also highlighted structural inequalities in our system, the dramatic human implications and the need to address these. As a result, there has been a surge in investor interest in impact investing. On the investor side this is coming from large financial institutions who are tumbling over themselves to launch new impact funds or rebrand existing funds. ClearlySo advises these fund managers and assists them as a placement agent. We have noticed a dramatic surge of interest from family offices. According to a recent report from Campden Wealth, 50% of global family offices with an average net worth of around $700 million are active in impact investing, and about 23% already have made impact investments (and are considering further), while “16% are pursuing impact as their primary portfolio strategy”.
As an impact investment bank, we also assist companies in four Industrial sectors which generate significant impact by helping those firms raise the capital they require. These sectors are showing signs of economic vibrancy despite the slowdown. Health is obviously strong, especially in business models that are beneficially impacted by the virus or have a telehealth focus. In the education sector, which is one of our strongest areas, anything with an online learning aspect has performed exceptionally well, as have other online business models. Last year we helped Bibliu (a digital learning platform that makes textbooks and reading materials more accessible) raise $10 million. The renewable energy sector was subdued in 2020, however under a Biden Presidency, with fears of global warming increasing, this sector should see surging interest in 2021 and beyond and see some exciting transactions in the near future. Lastly, Responsible Consumerism has also seen heightened interest, with demand for firms like Oddbox, a home delivery service for fruit and vegetables and FuroSystems, an e-bike and scooter company.
Rod Schwartz is CEO and founder of ClearlySo, with a background in equity research, management, investment banking and venture capital. Joining Wall Street in 1980, he rose to become the number one ranked financial services analyst at PaineWebber and then held senior management posts at Lehman Brothers and Paribas, before leaving the sector in 1997 to found the fintech-oriented VC firm Catalyst. A pioneer in the impact investment marketplace, he transformed Catalyst into a social business consultancy, which in 2008 morphed into ClearlySo, a business designed, “to help create 100 Justgivings”. This seemed an exciting new style of company, which achieves significant impact as well as great financial returns. Rod also teaches Impact investing at the Said Business School (Oxford) and the ESMT (Berlin), and is Former Chair of Shelter, The Green Thing, Spacehive and Justgiving, in addition to having served on many fintech boards.
Catherine Chen - Founder & MD of AvantFaire Investment
Impact sectors: SDG 17 Partnership and SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and communities, and SDG 13 Climate Actions
AvantFaire Investment Management is a licensed asset management in Hong Kong making private equities investments. Our investment strategy in 2021 focuses on three areas: SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities, SDG 13 – Climate Actions and SGD 17 – Partnership whose success is about creating collaborations and synergies among governments, international organizations and private sectors which are where we will put much of our research and relationship management efforts on.
As 2021 is a setting year to the next decade, we along with many other impact investors are aware of the urgency in tackling climate changes. We look for investment concepts in green transition, green economy and sustainable solutions which can mitigate climate risks.
We expect to see more multi-national action points, and more importantly, investment projects which are made available for private investors to participate. We also perceive the need to search for a new way of sustainable living which leads to our pursuit of the creation of sustainable cities and communities by 2030 set by SDG 11. In the next year , we anticipate more piecemeal innovation surrounding the “Smart City” concept such as efficient transportation, energy management and Fintech.
Over a longer-time horizon, we will see the sustainable cities and communities theme to broaden itself to development countries. In the next decade, through our investments, we also set our target to improve the humanity and dignity of developing countries and help them to leapfrog economic development, technologies inclusion and management system to facilitate green urbanization and other initiatives that could create more harmony between human and nature.
Catherine is a serial entrepreneur and has founded AvantFaire Holding and Impactlytics with strong presence in Hong Kong and Canada. Catherine previously worked in the Royal Bank of Canada and Noah Holdings Limited. Catherine holds an MBA from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, an MSc in Economics and a BSc in Economics and Statistics from University College London and the Financial Risk Manager (FRM) designation. Catherine received the Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award from the University of Toronto in 2017 for her long–term commitment and contribution to the local community.
Tao Zhang - Co-founder of Dao Foods
Impact sectors: Plant-based and alternative protein food
Dao Foods International is an impact investment firm that aims to help entrepreneurs develop exciting new plant-based and clean meat products in China to reduce the consumer demand for animal agriculture. Dao Foods believes that supporting talented entrepreneurs targeting the 400 million millennials in China with new, exciting, and delicious alternative protein products is a huge business opportunity with massive social and environmental impact.
We believe that China will soon repeat the growth we have witnessed in the international alternative protein sector over the last few years, with the right investment and steering. We are excited to work with all interested stakeholders to accelerate investment in China-focused entrepreneurs who aim to increase the availability of great-tasting plant-based and alternative protein products in China.
At the same time, this industry is so nascent, and the concept of alternative protein is far from being mainstream in terms of consumer awareness compared with the U.S. or European market. In China, mainstream consumers are not necessarily trading plant-based food, mostly plant-based food that their counterparts in the West tend to buy and eat. Although China has a long history of plant-based foods, China’s traditional plant-based food concept is quite different from the plant-based food concept gaining popularity in the West. The product category is not there, so consumer awareness is not there yet. This situation explains why Dao Foods launched our Dao Foods Incubator early last year to identify, nurture, and to invest in an army of business savvy and mission-driven entrepreneurs to help create this product category in China first and foremost.
Tao Zhang is a co-founder of Dao Foods International, Inc., a cross-border impact venture established to invest in eco-friendly plant-based and alternative protein food ventures in China, selected as one of the 15 startups disrupting the global meat industry by The Grocer in 2018. In November 2020, Dao Foods topped the list of China’s Top 20 Innovation Fund announced at the International Future Agrifood Summit.
Additionally, Tao Zhang is the founder and managing director of Dao Ventures, a cross-border impact investment, advisory, and accelerator group with co-headquartered offices in China and the U.S. He was also a co-founder of China Impact Fund (CIF), China’s first impact fund specializing in supporting environmental SMEs.
Before this, he was the Global COO of New Ventures, the environmental entrepreneurship center at the World Resources Institute. In this role, he successfully led New Ventures in Washington, D.C., and its local centers (Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, and Mexico) to double investments into New Ventures companies to nearly $400 million in two years.
Audrey Selian - Director of Artha Impact
The portfolio and strategy that we have developed at Artha Impact include bets taken on early stage businesses operating in agriculture, health, skills, education, energy and a few other sectors in India. Our focus in 2021 will be exclusively on the first three, with a view to better understanding, where possible, how technology can support the resilience and intrinsic strengths of operating models focused on the ‘last mile’. Our focus will also be on understanding the challenges of cracking distribution models, end-user finance, supply chain challenges and after sales service in a COVID-19 context.
As investors, we seek to work with like-minded peers, and collaboration around deal discovery and diligence is more important than ever if we seek to continue effective capital deployment; the year ahead will bring only more urgency to figuring out how we do all this differently. We expect our Artha Networks SaaS tool to be part of the answer both for ourselves and for our partners, peers and clients.
Audrey is co-founder of Artha Networks Inc., and also serves as Director, Artha Impact at Rianta Capital Zurich. She has managed Rianta Capital’s impact investment portfolio since 2006. Audrey sits on the board of several of Rianta’s portfolio companies in India and serves as a trustee and advisor for several non-profits and funds. She has launched and has led the growth of the Impact for Breakfast network, and has designed and run the Artha Platform launched in 2008. Audrey has a background in management consulting with PricewaterhouseCoopers. Her entrepreneurial experience includes several years spent in business development, marketing and sales at an NSF-funded software start-up. Audrey holds a PhD in Technology Policy & Development Studies from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, and is a frequent speaker at impact finance events. Audrey is based in Geneva.
Dirk Meuleman - CEO of Phenix Capital
Within the last decade, institutional asset owners have increasingly made commitments to investment funds with the dual mandate to make positive impact, alongside risk-adjusted market rate returns. Analysis of the 1,600+ investments funds listed on our Impact Database indicates that the impact fund market continues to grow rapidly across asset classes, in both scale and scope. As 2020 has shown, there is still a need for significantly more capital to help finance the implementation of the 2030 Agenda as well as the Paris Agreement.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of accelerating the transition towards a resilient net zero emissions economy. Platforms such as the United Nations-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, and recently launched Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative, indicate a shift from commitment to action. Improved policy frameworks, a set price on carbon, and more ambitious science-based targets, are still required for this shift to be successful, as highlighted in our latest report Pathway to Net-Zero: An Institutional Lens.
COVID-19 has also brought to light health and economic inequalities across markets. Capital flight from emerging markets has left certain populations especially vulnerable to unemployment, food insecurity and lack of quality healthcare. Impact investors were among the first to address these challenges, however, the pandemic recovery will require much more efficient and equitable deployment of both public and private capital.
As impact investment strategies become more sophisticated, there is a growing need for more robust impact measurement frameworks that measure outcomes, both negative and positive. Concerns around impact washing have also led to the development of new impact verification tools.
Dirk Meuleman is CEO at Phenix Capital Group. Phenix Capital Group is an investment consultant that catalyses institutional capital for the SDGs through their institutional impact conferences, impact fund database, impact due diligence tool, and placement services. Prior to Phenix Capital Group, Dirk was a portfolio manager of private equity and infrastructure at Shell and MN pension fund, which is the third largest Dutch pension fund. Together with this extensive experience as an institutional investor, Dirk has sat on the advisory board of over 20 private equity funds. Dirk holds degrees in International Business Administration, Entrepreneurship and Public Administration from Erasmus University in Rotterdam.
Jessica Robinson - Founder of Moxie Future
Impact sectors: Climate, environment, gender
Early in 2020, there was real concern that the COVID pandemic would negatively affect the sustainable and impact investing trajectory as investors refocused on short term needs. The good news is that this has not happened. In fact, we are observing the opposite trend, as investors move at greater speed towards integrating environmental and social considerations into their portfolios and processes. I believe these actions will continue to increase through 2021, and so I am starting the new year with much optimism.
In line with my focus through Moxie Future and my upcoming book – Financial Feminism: A woman’s guide to investing for a sustainable future – I remain convinced that women, as investors, will be at the forefront of this growth. Women can drive the dialogue on how to reconsider the purpose of capital. But I also think that the experience of 2020 requires that we ask philosophical questions about the role and remit of our financial systems so that these systems deliver positive benefits to the majority.
Through 2021, I believe we will see more impact investment products being launched, particularly as research and evidence continue to rebuff old-school myths. Mainstream media will focus attention on some of our biggest concerns such as climate change and modern slavery. This was not happening 10 years ago. Actually, it wasn’t happening five years ago.
At the same time, we will have access to more information – on companies, on corporate practices and on who is doing what. We will also have access to tools and platforms that can make investing easier and more democratic. In turn this will drive people to increasingly think about how we can change financial decisions to reflect our personal values as well as our concern for the state of our world.
Jessica Robinson is the Founder and Managing Director of Moxie Future – the world’s first insights, education and community platform empowering women as responsible, sustainable and impact investors. As well as running Moxie Future, Jessica works as a strategic advisor to institutional investors, think tanks and governments on all things relating to green finance, sustainability and responsible and impact investment. Through varied roles, Jessica has lived and worked in the U.A.E. (current), Asia (in particular, China and Hong Kong), Europe and North America, and across a range of different markets and regulatory environments.
Chris Wedding - Managing Director of IronOak Energy Capital
I’m excited to see the climate tech and carbontech sectors mature.
These impact sectors – which cover a wide array of industries from renewable energy and advanced transportation to agtech and carbon upcycling – feel different than what we saw in the first cleantech boom of 15 years ago. I think most investors have learned their lessons – e.g., mitigate CapEx risk, outsource manufacturing initially instead of building your own, secure customer orders before building units, tranche investments based on successful milestones, and be realistic about timelines.
As for climate tech, PwC’s 2020 report notes that this sector has seen $60B invested between 2013-2019, with an 84% CAGR, and 1,200+ active climate tech startups, including 43 unicorns valued at $1B+. In addition, we see major corporations – such as Amazon, Walmart, and Microsoft – and dozens of countries make new commitments to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This activity is likely to stimulate even more investment, more startups, more corporate partnerships, more exit opportunities, and importantly, more resources to tackle climate change.
As for carbontech, some analysts expect this sector to be a trillion-dollar opportunity in the decades ahead. The Circular Carbon Market 2020 report highlights 300+ carbon capture or upcycling companies (that have collectively raised $2.2B), 122 investors (that are managing $195B of assets under management), 61 active corporate investors (with $4.4T of aggregate revenue), and a $6T total addressable market globally for carbon-to-value products (i.e., converting carbon emissions into useful fuels, building materials, or plastics).
In both of my businesses, IronOak Energy Capital and Entrepreneurs for Impact, I see firsthand the growing caliber of savvy founders, smart investors, and motivated customers in these sectors. But, to be sure, we’re just at the beginning of a long race. Both exciting opportunities and creative destruction lie ahead.
Dr. Chris Wedding has over $1 billion of investment experience in renewable energy, cleantech, and green real estate. In addition, he has taught 40,000 professional students about ESG investing, corporate sustainability strategy, and impact startups. He is the Founder of Entrepreneurs for Impact, an executive coaching mastermind program for climate CEOs; the Managing Director of IronOak Energy Capital, an investment banking and advisory firm focused on energy and environmental solutions; and a faculty member at Duke University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His newsletter, ZERO, covers climate finance and startups, plus personal development and productivity.
Farid Baddache - CEO of Ksapa
Impact sectors: Climate, Inclusive Growth, Human Rights, Circularity
If 2020 was the year chips all fell into place, 2021 will kickstart action against the 2030 Global Agenda. The last 12 months exemplified the impacts of interwoven climate, social and digital crises; 2021 will deliver actionable tools for the decade to come. Where multinationals piecemeal emissions targets, the civil society responded with public outcry.
Investors called for board restructuration. In 2020, companies raised unprecedented capital. They also faced mounting pressure from multilateral organizations and business and asset managers coalitions demanding action, not words. 2021 will likely be a year of greater sovereign engagement across ESG impact, Human Rights Due Diligence, corporate accountability and biodiversity commitments.
2021 will spell out high-level ambitions and face scrutiny from all sides. The greater risk is no longer being the first mover, but loosing relevance altogether. Ksapa believes a prime solution lies in collaboration, to move faster, better and deeper. Indeed, our 2 flagship programs combine strategy, financing tools and aggregate expertise to unlock traditional obstacles of lack of time, funding and knowledge.
Take our Scale Up Training, Traceability and Impact (SUTTI) initiative. To positively impact not just the real-economy, but actual farmers, Ksapa aligns public-private investors and industrial buyers as part of a collaborative effort. Much in the same way, our VCHET scheme focuses on financing the energy transition across the value chain. Designed with a long-term and integrative logic, the VCHET aligns the resources of industrial sponsors, third-party investors and banking partners and bridges various areas of topical expertise.
In 2021 as before, Ksapa’s purpose is to contribute to mainstreaming economically, socially and environmentally-sound models. We are only emboldened in our drive to combine ESG, sustainability advisory and impact investment services toward completing the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Farid Baddache has a global profile with +20 year experience in sustainability combining corporate experience (consumer sectors, industries), NGO, academic, development, and consulting. Farid has designed and implemented programs for 150+ clients across 100+ countries, working with top decision makers pursuing transformational changes for their organizations, improving resilience and competitiveness of their businesses given their climate and human rights agendas. Author of several books and resources on business, sustainability and responsibility, Farid is member of several stakeholder panels & think tanks, and is board member of impact investment funds. Connect with Farid Baddache on Twitter at @Fbaddache
Lauren Burnhill - Managing Partner Emerald Peak Private Equity
The trend we see is not so much sector specific as it is a renewed focus on transforming inefficient operating models and, in particular, around intentional and material impact. ESMA, the European Securities Market Association, is advancing the concept of “double materiality” which would place financial and extra-financial concerns into a single framework. The need for a single framework is reflected in high-level industry dialogue on integrating ESG across investment processes, as well as discussions on how to integrate ESG and impact. Every investment can derive alpha from looking at gender and climate and many impact investments could achieve more by taking a holistic and intentional approach to not just measuring impact, but also to creating long-term positive value.
Lauren Burnhill is an experienced practitioner of inclusive, sustainable and responsible investement. Given the interconnectedness of planetary and individual economic and social wellbeing, Lauren advocates for appropriate long-term financing to unlock inclusive, gender-forward, climate resilient economic growth for communities around the world. After world-changing successes in “Access to Finance” — financing programs for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises “MSME” — she pioneered the concept of “Access to Life” finance to develop new investment approaches to sectors like health, education, affordable housing, healthy and secure food systems, clean water and sanitation, renewable energy and basic infrastructure that need growth investment capital.
As Managing Director of Emerald Peak, Lauren is developing an impact PE methodology customized to private markets investing in smaller, underserved economies in Latin America & the Caribbean. The integration of ESG and impact throughout the investment process ensures that investment can create not only financial value, but also material extra-financial impact.
Lauren holds a Masters in Social Change and Development from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and an MBA in Finance and Strategic Planning from Wharton.
Grant Trahant - Founder of Cause Artist
Through the impact investors I have interviewed over the last year or so, using technology to impact regions around the globe will continue in 2021. Fintech, edtech, and innovations within the textile industry will play a major role in uplifting citizens and scaling entrepreneurship around the world.
FinTech – With the recent acquisition of Paystack by Stripe, Africa will continue its growth in the global startup scene in 2021, becoming a new hub for tech talent and inspiring other regions around the world to invest in its own entrepreneurial ecosystems.
EdTech – As the world continue its hybrid shift to work and learn from home, remote education and hybrid learning models will see tremendous innovations. Look for large capital allocators to invest within the EdTech sector around higher education, skills training, and distance learning.
TextileTech – As the fashion and apparel industry becomes more and more aware of its damage to the environment they will be looking for opportunities to become better corporate citizens. This means investing in new ways to create fabric, ship items, and have greater transparency within their supply chains. Impact Investors have a huge opportunity in this space to further innovate on the ability to take plastic waste and turn it into high end fabrics at scale.
Conscious consumerism is poised for huge growth in 2021, putting their purchasing power to work by supporting brands and companies dedicated to sustainable manufacturing, transparency, and environmental awareness.
Grant is the founder of the social impact lifestyle platform Causeartist. To date the platform has been read in over 200+ countries and Grant has interviewed over 600+ impact entrepreneurs from around the world, highlighting innovations in ethical fashion, climate change, ethical technology and impact investing. He is also the host of the Investing in Impact podcast where her interviews impact investors from around the world on their journeys and strategies.
Darshita Gillies - CEO & Founder of Maanch
Impact Sectors: Corporations, Investors, Funders, Receivers
As we move further into the Decade of Action, I expect that working towards the Sustainable Development Goals will become even more of a mainstream priority. Recent years have shown increased attention towards investments producing not only profit, but also positive impact on people and planet. This is no longer seen as an “added extra”; but necessary for our future- after all, an investment isn’t an investment if it destroys our planet. I believe this trend will continue and grow into 2021; spurred on by the #buildbackbetter movement and the current emphasis on social and racial justice and equality. It is because of this that Maanch’s M INVEST products are currently such a key focus.
There is a growing move towards sustainability, responsibility and transparency. In 2021, this will continue to move beyond traditional CSR, towards TSI. In line with this, my team and I at Maanch are building latest strategic thinking on corporate impact into our solutions to help the drive towards greater overall impact. We are developing a new set of solutions for companies within M INVEST (especially high growth ones with ambitions for their corporate responsibility) to help them identify and visualise their impact across business operations. Our one-click overview allows for easy visualisation & reporting, thus accelerating impact-centric decisions and net societal impact.
Another trend I expect to see grow in 2021 is stakeholder primacy. Businesses are increasingly recognising that they need to deliver value to all stakeholders, not just shareholders, but still need a lot of guidance in doing this. Maanch will work with those who want to be a force for good as well as for growth and give them the necessary insight and tools. Our M INVEST solutions support this by allowing progress to be shared and tracked with internal and external stakeholders.
Listed among 100 Most Influential in UK-India Relations, and 100 Most Meaningful Business, Darshita is Founder & CEO of Maanch- a multi-award winning global impact platform. Professionally a Chartered Accountant, Investment Banker, Executive Coach and FinTech-Blockchain Specialist, Darshita serves on the Boards of several For-Profit and Non-Profit organisations. She is known for her inclusive leadership and innovative approach to solving systemic challenges. Personally, Darshita credits her accomplishments to the resilience built into her character through her humble upbringing in India. Now a Global Citizen, she spearheads endeavours that converge finance and technology to deliver planetary wellbeing and prosperity.
Nikhil Parikh - Founding Partner of Anise Partners
Impact Sector: Green Investing/Advisory in Southeast Asia
Developing markets that are most impacted by environmental pressures are also often the epicenter of innovative green-friendly technologies and enterprises. For example, countries in the Southeast Asia region are making great advances in eco-plastics, clean water, and sustainable farming/seafood cultivation. Moreover, these countries have access to natural resources, manufacturing capabilities and skilled labor to contribute to the global supply chain for “here-to-stay” green technologies,(e.g., EV cars) Nevertheless, when attempting to raise capital or expand operations outside domestic borders, sustainability companies in developing markets are often overlooked by Western ESG investors and strategic partners. This is often due to larger political and economic risks.
In order to attract greater funding, governments in developing countries will adopt more ESG-friendly policies. Particularly in the post-COVID area, governments see ESG investments as an opportunity to increase foreign cash flows while reducing dependency on environmentally damaging industries. Such policies include enacting laws to improve governance, transparency, and disclosure of environmental and social risks.
We believe these government policies will provide impact investors and strategic partners greater visibility into opportunities in these markets. At Anise Partners, our Sustainability clients in Southeast Asia have seen a significant increase in government engagement in assisting international expansion and capital raising efforts. At the same time, local governments are also more proactive in wooing green technology industries in order to reorient supply chains into their backyards.
For example, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has led an aggressive push to become the world’s largest producer of nickel-batteries for the EV industry. This includes enacting a new Omnibus Job Creation law to make it easier to do business in Indonesia. The government is also in direct talks with Tesla to invest in Indonesian nickel mining and processing capabilities. Both Widodo and Elon Musk have signaled that any deal would include global ESG standards to ensure mining and production is done in an efficient and sustainable way.
Nikhil Parikh is the Co-Founder of Anise Partners. He is responsible for the firm’s operations, growth strategy and management of a diverse portfolio of US- and EU-based corporate clients. Nikhil has 15+ years of experience leading Fortune 500 companies and private ventures in areas of international expansion, strategic development and brand management. Previously, Nikhil was the Chief Marketing Officer of The Zest Group, a PE-backed Asian F&B venture. He was also a Regional Director at Visa, where he led emerging market strategy for the Asia Pacific and CEMEA region. Prior to Visa, Nikhil managed the North America men’s luxury brands portfolio for L’Oréal. Nikhil has an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.