Tag: Food & Farming

ImpactAssets Adds New Private Debt and Equity Impact Investment Options

ImpactAssets announced in September 2017 the addition of new lower minimum, high-impact investment options within the ImpactAssets Giving Fund (www.impactassets.org), its donor advised fund.

The four private debt and equity investments are managed by leading impact investing managers and seek to generate significant social, environmental and financial returns for clients of The Giving Fund. Investment choices address a range of impact and investment themes across geographies. These ”Deep” impact investments enable clients to use philanthropic dollars to generate potentially significant social, environmental and financial returns.

“Through these professionally managed funds, donors can provide critical ‘gap-filling’ resources by channeling capital to strategies that are not typically funded by traditional capital markets or by philanthropy,” said Tim Freundlich, President of ImpactAssets. “In many instances, client investments fuel high-impact, for-profit enterprises to develop their businesses to the point where more traditional financing becomes available to them.”

“These funds appeal to donors who want a hands-on, tangible approach to impact investing with experienced asset management and solid track records,” said Sandra Osborne, Director of Investments, ImpactAssets. “The ImpactAssets Investment Committee has thoroughly reviewed each fund, bringing nearly 100 years of combined impact investment experience to the process.”

The funds, available individually for as little as $25,000, have significantly lower minimums than traditional private debt and equity, which often requires $250,000 to $1 million minimum investments. Donors can also access the funds through the turn-key ImpactAssets Impact Portfolios. The funds include:

Iroquois Valley Farms Blended Private Debt Note: A private debt fund that blends two Iroquois Valley Farms’ note offerings: a long-term note (7.5 year average duration) and the recently offered Soil Restoration Note. The long-term note supports new sustainable farmland investments. Iroquois Valley launched the Soil Restoration Note in 2017 to offer lower lease rates for its current and future farmers transitioning their farming practices to organic and sustainable practices. www.iroquoisvalleyfarms.com

EcoEnterprises Fund III Venture Fund For Nature: The EcoEnterprises fund includes private debt, mezzanine and quasi-equity holdings, and will invest in a diversified portfolio of 15-18 companies across 8 countries in Latin America. Launched in 2017, the fund takes a proven community-based, biodiversity-aware investment approach to the next level. www.ecoenterprisesfund.com

Sarona Frontier Markets Fund III: A private equity fund of funds offering that targets delivery of top-quartile returns by investing growth capital in more than a dozen private equity funds and companies that benefit local communities and the environment. Launched in 2016, the fund invests in local private equity teams who identify and help grow high-quality companies, employing progressive business strategies and operating to the highest business, ethical, social and environmental standards. www.saronafund.com

These three funds replenish more than 12 private debt and equity funds that successfully funded and closed on the Giving Fund platform. They join long-time anchor fund, MicroVest Short Duration Fund, a private debt fund that offers short- and medium-term debt and term deposits to low-income financial institutions (LIFIs), including microfinance institutions and other regulated and unregulated financial institutions in emerging and developed markets. Launched in 2010, the fund is structured to meet the demand from LIFIs for flexible short-term lending and provide investors with a liquid product in microfinance. www.microvestfund.com

ImpactAssets also added MicroVest and Iroquois Valley Farms to its Community Investment Pool, providing investors with a liquid, high impact investment option. The additions help to diversify impact and investment exposure to the pool, which includes the Calvert Foundation Community Investment Note.


About ImpactAssets:  ImpactAssets is a nonprofit financial services firm that increases the flow of capital into investments delivering financial, social and environmental returns. ImpactAssets’ donor-advised fund (“The Giving Fund”) and field-building initiatives enable philanthropists, other asset owners and their wealth advisors to advance social or environmental change through investment and granting.

About The Giving Fund:  The Giving Fund is an innovative donor advised fund that empowers donors to increase the impact of their giving by combining it with strategic sustainable and responsible investing to build a sophisticated philanthropic endowment. Donors recommend how The Giving Fund’s assets are invested across a range of leading impact investment options including community investment, turnkey portfolios, private debt and equity funds, seed venture and custom investments. The Giving Fund currently has $350M in total assets.

Additional Articles, Food & Farming, Impact Investing, Sustainable Business

Giving Capitalism a Social Conscience: An Interview with Muhammad Yunus

By David Bornstein, New York Times

For more than 40 years, Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi founder of the Grameen Bank and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize[1], has been asserting that the most powerful way to eradicate poverty is to unleash the untapped entrepreneurial capacity of people everywhere. “Poverty is not created by poor people,” he says. “It’s created by the system we built. Poor people are like a bonsai tree. You take the best seed from the tallest tree in the forest, but if you put it in a flower pot to grow, it grows only a meter high. There’s nothing wrong with the seed. The problem is the size of the pot. Society doesn’t give poor people the space to grow as tall as everybody else. This is the crux of the matter.”

Yunus has recently written a new book, “A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions[2] in which he argues that capitalism is in crisis and remains moored in a flawed conception of human motivation. He proposes a far more robust role in the economy for “social businesses,”[3] which he defines as “non-dividend” companies “dedicated to solving human problems.”

At 77, Yunus shows no signs of slowing down. He reports on an astonishing array of work he has been involved in — supporting and codeveloping social businesses (often in partnership with large corporations) in Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, France, Haiti, India, Japan, Uganda and numerous other countries.

“We need to abandon our unquestioning faith in the power of personal-profit-centered markets to solve all problems and confess that the problems of inequality are not going to be solved by the natural working of the economy as it is currently structured,” Yunus writes.

“This is not a comfortable situation for anyone, including those who are on top of the social heap at any given time. Do the wealthy and powerful … like having to avert their eyes from the homeless and hungry people they pass on the street? Do they enjoy using the tools of the state — including its police powers and other forms of coercion — to suppress the inevitable protests mounted by those on the bottom? Do they really want their own children and grandchildren to inherit this kind of world?”

I sat down with Yunus in early October to discuss his new book.

David Bornstein: This is both a solutions book and a warning call. What is the danger?

Muhammad Yunus: Wealth concentration. In the book, I cite an Oxfam report that says that eight people own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the world. Recently, I saw a newspaper report that said now it’s just five people [4]. There are two things to be concerned about: the concentration of wealth and the increasing speed of this concentration. We didn’t notice it when 5,000 people or 50,000 people owned more wealth than the bottom half of the world. Now it’s five people. In a year or two it will be just one person. This is the speed at which it is happening.

The capitalist system is a machine which sucks up wealth from the bottom to send it to the top.[5] It’s not the fault of individuals at the top. They follow what the system asks them to do: chase money. But in the process, wealth at the top grows like a giant mushroom owned by fewer and fewer people — for the simple reason that the more they have, the more they get. Wealth is a magnet. If you have a little magnet, you attract a little wealth. If you have a big magnet, you attract more. And this wealth mushroom is worse than the atomic mushroom cloud. It will destroy our politics, it will destroy our society, it will destroy our economy — because concentration of wealth goes with concentration of power. This will generate tremendous anger at the bottom, and that anger will disrupt everything. Brexit is the outcome of this anger. Same with the recent U.S. election. Now see the German election. This mushroom is a ticking time bomb. We need to spend many sleepless nights over it.

D.B.: You say that this problem lies at the root of capitalist theory.

M.Y.: The capitalist system is based on a fundamental flaw, on misinterpretation of human beings. In capitalist theory, it is assumed that man is entirely driven by self-interest. That’s definitely not the description of a real human being. Human beings are selfish, and at the same time they are equally selfless, if not more. They want to help others. Adam Smith wrote this in “The Theory of Moral Sentiments.”[6] He was a professor of philosophy. He was interested in morality. Then he wrote a completely different book that talked about self-interest and the “invisible hand.” The first book was forgotten. He never integrated the two books.

D.B.: If we integrated these ideas, what would be the implications?

M.Y.: Capitalism is all about options. But in the economic system, there is only one kind of business: business to make money — and it’s made more extreme by saying it produces best results when one maximizes profit. When we introduce the selflessness of people in the business world we get another option. Alongside conventional business, we add another type of business that will allow us to express our selflessness through business. The exclusive goal of this business, which I call social business, is to solve people’s problems. My book is full of examples of this.

D.B.: I suspect some readers will think, “This sounds idealistic.”

M.Y.: Actually it’s very practical. Hard-nosed business people come to me all the time and volunteer to create social businesses. Like the Canadian company McCain Foods. They wanted to create a social business jointly with us. They have 60 percent of the French fry market in the world. Jointly we are doing a social business in Colombia. Many Colombian farmers struggle to make a living, like in many other countries. Campo Vivo,[7] our social business, helps farmers grow potatoes and vegetables with high yields.

After that, they created another social business in France, where 26 percent of potatoes are wasted because they’re of a wrong shape for the French fry-making machines. Once McCain put on social business glasses, they started seeing new possibilities. They created Bon et Bien [8] to buy up these potatoes and produce potato soup. They hire youth who have been unemployed. Then they noticed that 30 percent of vegetables grown across Europe are thrown away because they don’t have the right shape for supermarkets. They are called “ugly vegetables.”[9] The social business company buys up these throwaway vegetables and chops them up, making small packages of ready-to-cook vegetables. They could make money from this, but they decided not to — to make the soup and vegetables good and cheap.

D.B.: Ordinary businesses solve problems all the time. What do we gain by removing the profit motive?

M.Y.: If you remove the personal profit motive and think only about solving problems, you will suddenly see lots of possibilities that you didn’t see before. If selflessness becomes the driving force behind development of technology instead of personal profit, suddenly technology transforms into an enormously powerful force to change the world very rapidly. Then artificial intelligence will be developed to solve health care problems of people instead of taking away jobs[10]. If you focus on the selfless part of human beings, the whole economy changes.

D.B.: Where’s the financing to come from?

M.Y.: From many directions. Charity money can be a major source. Many are creating social business funds. Personal wealth can be an important source. Hedge funds or insurance funds, pension funds, could take 1 percent of their fund and invest it in social business, with no expectation of personal profit. You’d release enormous amounts of money.

D.B.: What do you say to business leaders who are interested?

M.Y.: Try it out. Use part of your wealth or corporate social responsibility money or foundation money to invest in social businesses. One may convene a design competition for businesses that address one of the sustainable development goals that you care about. You’ll get lots of business ideas. Pick one or two and start investing in them. Not for publicity purposes. Make sure it really solves people’s problems. You’ll also learn a lot about yourself by doing it.

D.B.: How is your work in the United States, Grameen America, going?

M.Y.: We started in 2008. By the end of next year, Grameen America will have lent almost $1 billion to 100,000 borrowers, with repayment remaining nearly 100 percent. Over the next 10 years, Grameen America would like to double from 20 to 40 branches. Even with that modest growth, it can reach 500,000 borrowers by 2028. If more generous funding were available, it could reach a million borrowers. If it had a limited banking license, it could take deposits like we do in the Grameen Bank and its expansion will not be limited by availability of funds.

D.B.: You see young people as one of the “megapowers” that can transform the world. Why youth?

M.Y.: Their minds are open. They are not so protective of the capitalist system. They can think boldly. They have a lot of power, they understand technology, and they have a hunger to do something significant.

D.B.: What would you like to see schools do?

M.Y.: Bring into the curriculum the idea that business doesn’t have to be profit maximizing. You can design it to solve people’s problems while you recover your costs and recycle your money. They can have assignments to design businesses to solve problems: how to bring clean water to a village; how to bring education, literacy, housing or health care to a remote community; how to make a crowded slum a decent place where there is health care, education, good roads. There are many universities setting up social business centers and teaching this. Every business school should be offering both conventional M.B.A.s and social M.B.A.s.

D.B.: You attract people around the world who are challenging traditional ideas about business. What do you find they have in common?

M.Y.: Excitement. Once you’re bitten by this social business bug, you can’t stop. If making money leads to happiness, making other people happy leads to super-happiness.

D.B.: When you look ahead 10 years from now, what do you envision?

M.Y.: I’m guessing or hoping that at least 1 percent of the economy will become a social business economy at the global level. If you can establish that, the bug will have bitten. The only way will be up.

D.B.: Do you think you could have become very wealthy if you’d pursued that goal?

M.Y.: Could be. I’ve created a lot of businesses. But I don’t own a single share in any company anywhere in the world. I’m not missing anything. I’m doing things that I care about, and people pay attention, people want to learn and listen, and, after all, what is life all about? To make billions of dollars? For each of those five people who hold more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the world, their wealth is equivalent to the wealth of 750 million people! What do you do with that? Eat? Have homes? Listen to music? Give it away? For me, in the world of economic activity, social business is the most creative way to be happy, to enjoy life.


David Bornstein (https://davidbornstein.wordpress.com) is the author of ” How to Change the World ,” which has been published in 20 languages, and ” The Price of a Dream: The Story of the Grameen Bank ,” and is a co-author of ” Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know .” He is a co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network (https://www.solutionsjournalism.org), which supports rigorous reporting about responses to social problems.

Read the Fixes columns: www.nytimes.com/column/fixes

Fixes looks at solutions to social problems and why they work

Article Notes:

[1] www.nobelprize.org/mediaplayer/index.php?id=2034


[3] https://www.bcg.com/publications/2017/innovation-strategy-business-social-sector-designing-social-business-benefits-core.aspx

[4] https://www.salon.com/2017/06/15/now-five-men-own-almost-as-much-wealth-as-half-of-worlds-population_partner/

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/07/opinion/leonhardt-income-inequality.html

[6] https://www.adamsmith.org/the-theory-of-moral-sentiments/

[7] https://thecitypaperbogota.com/features/colombia-transforming-the-land52512/8998

[8] http://www.bipiz.org/en/advanced-search/mccain-supports-local-employment-and-fights-food-waste-with-bon-et-bien.html

[9] http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/03/global-food-waste-statistics/

[10] http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/academic/The_Future_of_Employment.pdf

Article Source: Yunus Centre (from the Fixes Column, October 10, 2017, NY Times)

Additional Articles, Energy & Climate, Food & Farming, Sustainable Business

Urgent Needs for 2018

By John Streur, President and CEO, Calvert Research & Management

Aligning the capital markets more directly with the urgent needs we face as a society to halt environmental destruction and reverse decades of worsening inequality must be our priority for 2018. Alignment needs to occur at every level, across the global markets.

Despite the tremendous efforts behind the Paris Climate Accord, formalization of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and a long history of other efforts to change the course of climate change and inequality, we are not making nearly the progress needed. The 1,700 signatories to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment, which represent $70 trillion of assets and a wave of press about environmental, social and governance-oriented investing, have not gotten us on track. Even another documentary by Al Gore has not done the trick.

It is essential that we develop the tools to strengthen our investment system, getting much more capital moving away from laggard companies into companies that can drive positive change, and to make systemic changes to raise the bar for all companies. This is especially important now because the responsible and impact investment movement is being joined by massive mainstream investment firms, and the largest banks in the world are entering this business. If the tools are inadequate, we will all be gravely disappointed and the responsible and impact investing movement will fail. However, we also have an excellent opportunity to strengthen the tools and the system as we are joined by the mainstream.

Tool Number One: Data and Transparency

We need to develop information systems that allow company management, consumers, regulators, the public and investors to have insight into the social and environmental impacts that companies are creating. Various efforts are underway to create tools that are helpful in this regard and can be leveraged to translate global norms into a framework that can be used to measure how responsibly businesses are operating.

Calvert recently completed a case study with this goal in mind, linking the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) materiality matrix with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SASB has developed a materiality-focused approach that aligns well with the investment research approach of Calvert, emphasizing sustainability issues that we believe will most impact a company’s financial performance over the long term. The SDGs provide a similar, parallel framework for nation-states and national programming, which emphasize key development goals, the achievement of which is necessary to reach sustained, equitable, economic growth and prosperity for all citizens.

Calvert’s mapping exercise identified common themes between SASB Standards and the UN SDGs. This involved matching each of SASB’s disclosure topics on financially material ESG issues and related accounting metrics, across SASB-defined sectors and industries, with the SDGs and related targets. We found that a substantial portion – 71 percent – of SASB metrics map to the SDGs and their related targets, which helps us to identify industries in which the SDGs are most likely to be financially material. This enables us to see a clearer path to investments most likely to achieve the SDGs and related positive societal outcomes, as well as those that may be better positioned to generate positive financial outcomes.

In addition, initial assessment finds that 66 percent of SASB accounting metrics could be mapped, with varying degrees of exactness (ranging from “proxy” to “exact match”), to ESG data vendor indicators. This insight brings to light the information gap that exists between an evolving corporate disclosure environment and traditional investor resources. It also highlights that, as the web of disclosure requirements and standards for corporations grows larger and more complex, finding commonalities between these standards can benefit companies and stakeholders by distilling what is most relevant and material. You can read the full study on www.calvert.com

In addition to these efforts, company managements need to develop internal reporting tools in order to provide information that their teams can use, and investors and all other stakeholders can see, in order to drive change. These tools need to tie the specific sustainability efforts to financial impacts at the company.

The resulting information needs to be made transparent for two major reasons. First, we need to know if we have priced carbon, water, pollution and various social impacts properly; understanding the financial impacts within companies is critical to building this understanding. Second, investors and consumers need to see these relationships in order to properly price stocks and bonds, and to understand the total costs of products. For instance, if one company uses materials grown in ways that destroy the rain forest, and another company uses sustainable raw materials, we need to know the economic impact and adjust prices to prevent the first company from reaping profits at the expense of the environment and society. Otherwise, this situation will persist and we will never make real progress.

All the current efforts related to sustainability reporting are voluntary, and are not tied together in any coordinated manner. We need to coalesce around a set of standards and drive the development of information management systems to create the relevant data. In 2018, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board’s standards will be formalized and we really need companies to get started using them.

Responsible investors also need this information in order to drive impactful corporate engagement. We need to spend more of our engagement time pressing for change, as opposed to asking for disclosure.

Tool Number Two: Impact Reporting

As we strengthen our information systems, we will be able to provide impact reporting to multiple parties. In order to achieve the changes we need to address inequality and climate risk, we need people to understand the impact of their product purchase decisions, employees to understand the impact of their day-to-day business decisions, boards to have information to properly oversee management’s sustainability effort, investors be able to differentiate the quality and financial materiality of competitive companies’ sustainability efforts, and regulators and the public to hold companies accountable for their impacts. The entire system needs to tie together, just like our current financial reporting system connects.

You should be able to understand that one product you purchase has a different set of social and environmental impacts than another product, as well as the difference in the price tag. And investors should be able to see that their portfolio has a specific set of environmental and social impacts relative to a benchmark, as well as at the individual company holding level. Only when we create this type of transparency and information flow can we hope to drive the changes needed.

I believe that if investors are provided with information about the amount of toxic pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, adverse health impacts and death, human rights abuses, severe controversies, and other social and environmental impacts of their investments, many more investors will be motivated to change their portfolios. The same holds true with consumers; if your credit card or bank statement shows the contribution to social and environmental impact, you likely will begin to make different choices.

We’re still at the early stages, but once impact reporting gets started, the logical result is that investors will start to ask more questions. Shining a little bit of light will make people more eager to know the whole story, and the amount of disclosure and transparency will continue to increase. This should also have a positive effect on shareholder engagement. Armed with a complete information system, it will be much easier for engagement teams to ask for real change. And increased transparency and reporting will likely encourage more concrete and positive outcomes. The more people know what to look for, and the easier it is to measure progress, the more likely we will be able to influence the changes we need.

David MacKay, who wrote “Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air” in 2008 to draw early attention to a potential fossil-free energy system, said, “If everyone does a little, we’ll achieve only a little.” We are long past the stage where a little bit of Responsible Investing can help protect the environment and society along with our clients’ investment dollars. Instead, the coming year will see our clients demand that we do a lot, and provide them with data that proves we are performing as we promise. With better data and transparency, and more developed impact metrics, we can help accelerate the rate of progress, which is essential on every level.


Article by John Streur, president and chief executive officer for Calvert Research and Management, a wholly owned subsidiary of Eaton Vance Management specializing in responsible and sustainable investing across global capital markets. John is also president and a trustee of the Calvert Funds as well as a director of the Calvert Foundation and member of its Risk Management Committee. He guided the creation of the Calvert Principles for Responsible Investment, the Calvert Research System and the Calvert Indices, and has placed focus on investment research and emphasis on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors integrated with investment decisions. He joined Calvert Research and Management in 2016.

John began his career in the investment management industry in 1987. Before joining Calvert Research and Management, he was president and chief executive officer with Calvert Investments. He has managed socially responsible investments at the request of institutional clients, including public funds, religious institutions, and college and university endowments since 1991. Previously, he was president, director and principal of Portfolio 21, a boutique firm specializing in global environmental investing, and spent 20 years at AMG Funds (and its predecessors), a firm he co-founded and where he served as president, CEO and chair of the Investment Committee.

John is a Founding Member of the Investor Advisory Group of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board and serves as a director on the board of the Environmental Media Association, whose mission it is to motivate the entertainment industry to educate the public about environmental issues and sustainability through all forms of media. He is a member of the FMC Corporation Sustainability Advisory Council.

John earned a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The views expressed are those of John Streur and are current only through the date stated. These views are subject to change at any time based upon market or other conditions, and Calvert disclaims any responsibility to update such views. These views may not be relied upon as investment advice and, because investment decisions for Calvert are based on many factors, may not be relied upon as an indication of trading intent. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Calvert Research and Management is registered as an investment adviser with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission.

Energy & Climate, Featured Articles, Food & Farming, Impact Investing, Sustainable Business

LIFT Economy named to the “Best for the World” 2017 List

LIFT Economy was recently recognized for creating extraordinary positive impact as a business based on an independent, comprehensive assessment administered by the nonprofit B Lab. Honorees are featured on B the Change, the digital Medium publication produced by B Lab, at http://www.bthechange.com. LIFT Economy was honored on three separate lists: the 2017 Best for the World Overall list, the 2017 Best for Workers list, and 2017 Best for the Long Term list.

The Best for the World Overall list is the most prestigious. This means that LIFT Economy (www.lifteconomy.com) scored in the top 10 percent of more than 2,100 Certified B Corporations across all categories on the B Impact Assessment. LIFT’s mission is to create, model and share a locally self-reliant economy that works for the benefit of all life.

The B Impact Assessment measures a company’s positive impact on its workers, community, customers and the environment. To certify as B Corporations, companies like LIFT Economy must complete the full assessment and have their answers verified by B Lab.

The full B Impact Assessment evaluates a company’s environmental performance, employee relationships, diversity, involvement in the local community, the impact a company’s product or service has on those it serves, and more.

The 176 Best for the World Overall honoree companies come from 75 different industries and 25 countries. Additional 2017 Best for the World Overall honorees include: Patagonia, Beneficial State Bank, Cooperative Home Care Associates, and Dr. Bronner’s.

“Companies like LIFT Economy exemplify what it means for a business to be a good citizen,” says Jay Coen Gilbert, co-founder of B Lab. “We’re proud to recognize their achievement. Best for the World is the only list of businesses making the greatest positive impact that uses comprehensive, comparable, third-party-validated data about a company’s social and environmental performance.”

A total of 846 Certified B Corporations were named 2017 Best for the World Honorees, including: Seventh Generation, National Co+op Grocers and Business Development Bank of Canada. Forty-eight countries are represented, including Afghanistan, Kenya, Nicaragua and Turkey.

Today there are more than 2,100 Certified B Corporations across more than 130 industries and 50 countries, unified by one common goal: to redefine success in business. Any company can measure and manage social and environmental performance at http://bimpactassessment.net

More on the 2017 BEST FOR THE WORLD Honorees

846 Companies Leading the Way to a Shared and Durable Prosperity for All

There is little debate about the future world in which we’d like to live: It is a world in which all people enjoy high-quality jobs with dignity and purpose; safe and neighborly communities that enrich our families; and a healthy environment for us and our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Yet, like David facing Goliath, we too face forces that can feel unbeatable: the overwhelming power of amoral global capital markets; failing political institutions; and rising inequality, sea levels, discontent, and violence, both seemingly random and institutional.

As business leaders and as citizens, what will we choose to do in our moment of decision?

We don’t have to bend to conventional wisdom; nor do we have to stand alone. There is a global movement of people using the power of business to achieve a higher purpose than profit maximization. They strive to use business as a force for good: good for workers, good for communities, good for the environment. They redefine success in business by competing to be not just best in the world, but best for the world.

Today, leaders of this global community standing up to Goliaths are honored on B Lab’s annual Best for the World list. You can also read stories highlighting honorees from this year’s lists and review the Best for the World criteria here – https://bthechange.com/bestfortheworld/home

The 2017 Best for the World List

A total of 846 businesses across 52 industries from 48 countries are recognized on the full list of 2017 Best for the World honorees. The categories include: Best For the World Overall, Best for Workers, Best for Community, Best for Customers, Best for the Environment, Best for the Long Term, and Best for the World: Changemakers.


by B Lab on B the Change on Medium

Access the full list and read more about them here-

Additional Articles, Energy & Climate, Food & Farming, Impact Investing, Sustainable Business

Six New Issuers Join ImpactUs Marketplace

Financial technology provider ImpactUs announced in Sept and October the onboarding of six additional issuers to its impact investing platform, ImpactUs Marketplace. The Marketplace is a community-driven fintech platform offering institutions, individuals and financial advisors an extensive range of private impact investing opportunities.

The first four issuers* are mission-driven organizations dedicated to building strong, healthy and successful communities. Information on the other two issuers is below.

Coastal Enterprises, Inc.: A national leader in rural business development, CEI helps to grow good jobs, environmentally-sustainable enterprises, and shared prosperity in Maine and across the country.

Enterprise Community Investment, Inc.: Enterprise Community Investment, Inc., part of the Enterprise Community Partners family of companies, improves communities and lives by bringing capital to developments that make well-designed homes affordable.

Iroquois Valley Farms REIT: An early adopter of the ImpactUs Marketplace, Iroquois Valley Farms has added its REIT to the platform to enable investors to directly support the growth of the organic food movement by supporting regenerative organic farmers.

MicroVest Capital Management LLC: Founded in 2003, MicroVest applies a commercial framework to investing in unbanked and under-served markets to address financial inclusion by investing in financial intermediaries serving unbanked and underserved communities around the world.

* Some of these issuers’ offerings are only available to accredited investors. Investing in private investments requires high risk tolerance, low liquidity concerns, and long-term commitments. Investors must be able to afford to lose their entire investment.

“These four organizations are now part of the growing number of mission-driven institutions realizing the power that technology, coupled with formal investment administration services, can have in broadening their reach to current and prospective impact investors,” said Reginald Stanley, President and CEO of ImpactUs.

“While ImpactUs Marketplace is the platform through which these issuers seek to receive investments, these organizations are central to furthering our mission of creating thriving communities,” said Liz Sessler, Vice President of ImpactUs. “The issuers allow investors to seek returns in the form of affordable housing and healthcare, employment, sustainable agriculture, microfinance and more.”

ImpactUs provides the technological infrastructure to seamlessly connect investors and advisors with mission-driven institutions, providing end-to-end transactional and capital management capabilities. As a broker dealer, ImpactUs harnesses technology to make impact investing more accessible.

ImpactUs Marketplace is open to investors looking to increase their purpose-driven investments. Those interested in learning about these investment opportunities and more can log onto www.ImpactUsMarketplace.com to register.

The foundational support necessary to launch ImpactUs was provided by some of the leading organizations in the social impact sphere, including MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Kellogg Foundation, Enterprise Community Partners and City First Enterprises.

ImpactUs Marketplace Welcomes Two New Issuers to its Online Impact Investing Platform

At the SOCAP17, impact investing’s leading industry conference, in October financial technology provider ImpactUs (www.impactusmarketplace.com) has announced two new issuers to its impact investing platform, ImpactUs Marketplace—a community-driven site that offers institutions, individuals and financial advisors an extensive range of private impact investing opportunities.

The two issuers* are mission-driven organizations dedicated to building strong, healthy and successful communities.

Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF): LIIF is a national community capital organization that has invested more than $2 billion to build healthy, vibrant communities and create pathways of opportunity for over 2 million low income people.

Meow Wolf: An arts and entertainment company that creates immersive, interactive experiences to transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of story. This certified B Corp transforms community spaces with 400,000 visits in the last 12 months at its Santa Fe, New Mexico location. The company provides living wages to artists, advancing the arts and creative economy.

* Some of these issuers’ offerings are only available to accredited investors. Investing in private investments requires high risk tolerance, low liquidity concerns, and long-term commitments. Investors must be able to afford to lose their entire investment.

The new issuers added to the platform mark a milestones for ImpactUs. Meow Wolf is ImpactUs’ first early-stage venture and first issuer that brings a creativity lens to impact investing through the ImpactUs Marketplace. The Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) is the first Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) on the platform available to non-accredited investors.

“These two organizations are the newest examples of a growing number of mission-driven institutions that are expanding their reach to prospective impact investors and bolstering support for their current investors by utilizing our technology and administrative services,” said Reginald Stanley, President and CEO of ImpactUs.

“Organizations like these are vital to our shared-mission of creating flourishing communities through impact investments. We’re excited to make our services and technology available to help these institutions connect with investors that share their vision for vibrant and supportive communities,” said Liz Sessler, Vice President of ImpactUs. “Investors can seek both financial and impact returns in the (areas or sectors) of affordable housing, healthcare, employment, and now, the arts, through these issuers.”

Those interested in learning about these investment opportunities and more can log onto www.ImpactUsMarketplace.com to register.


About ImpactUs  ImpactUs Marketplace simplifies the impact investing process. It provides investors, advisors, and impact organizations greater choice at accessible costs while directing more capital to funds and projects that seek to deliver community, societal, and environmental benefits. Every day, ImpactUs connects investors with purpose, creating more equitable and thriving communities.

The information contained in this press release does not constitute an offer or solicitation and may not be treated as an offer or solicitation (i) in any jurisdiction where such an offer or solicitation is against the law; (ii) to anyone to whom it is unlawful to make such an offer or solicitation; (iii) if the person making the offer or solicitation is not qualified to do so. The issuers named in this press release can only be marketed in certain jurisdictions only.

All securities related activity is conducted through ImpactUs Marketplace LLC a registered broker-dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, located at 1875 Connecticut Ave., NW 10th Floor, Washington, DC 20009. ImpactUs does not make investment recommendations and this communication should not be construed as a recommendation for any security offering named in this press release. Private investments are only suitable for investors who are familiar with and willing to accept the high risk associated with private investments. Securities sold through private investments are not publicly traded and are intended for investors who do not have a need for a liquid investment.

Enterprise Community Investment, Inc. (“ECI”, together with its affiliates, “Enterprise”) is a Maryland corporation exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”). ECI’s business lines include, among other things, directly and through its affiliates, the syndication of Low Income Housing Tax Credits, multifamily mortgage financing and other structured finance products. ECI’s directors are appointed by Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. (“Partners”).

Partners is a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Code and is a founding member of ImpactUs Marketplace LLC, a Delaware limited liability company (“ImpactUs”), a registered broker-dealer and a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. ImpactUs’s Board of Directors (the “Board”) appointed a manager and CEO, who manages the company’s day to day affairs.

Additional Articles, Food & Farming, Impact Investing

It’s Monday Morning

By Timothy Karsten, Life and Business Strategist

It’s Monday morning, the beginning of a new week. The day starts with greeting the sunrise from our garden that faces to the East. A few minutes of taking in the energy that provides us so many benefits every day, and then some meditation, establishes the foundation for all else. Next is a stroll through the garden to see what flowers have opened up and/or fruits and veggies that have emerged and are ripe enough to pick. A little clean up is needed to remove dead leaves and flowers, all to support the harmony and beauty of the environment.

Once this routine is complete, it is time to enter into the technological universe for a moment, a quick review of Bloomberg.com and WSJ.com. What is happening on the global stage and in the financial markets? How are the markets doing and how might global factors and the events of the day impact the people that I work with?

These rituals reflect the journey I take day to day…continually discovering how to better integrate the worlds of organic creativity and spirit with the complex interplay of finance, business, and human relationships.

Once breakfast, fitness, and other practices are complete, it is time to jump into all of the dialogues a day brings – how is the financing coming for your business? What are customers saying about your new product line? How is the sales team managing the slowdown due to seasonal changes? How are you going to go about hiring a new CFO in your portfolio company? How are the meetings going in Singapore in building out the joint venture? Which organizations should be funded to address the hurricane’s devastation in the US and earthquake in Mexico? How are your portfolios doing?

All of these highly practical and important concerns often need immediate attention and focus and all involve the use of capital. And yet, it’s the deeper conversations we often want to get to – how do you reach alignment with your spouse on what to do with your assets and your overall philosophy to money, spending and gifting? How do you inspire and motivate your team to embrace your values and the path you want to take your venture? How do you move them from short-term capital gain to a long-term perspective? Where do you need to develop the leadership skills you are lacking and how are you going to gain mastery? Where are the opportunities for your greatest impact? What is weighing on your heart and mind? These are the “getting to the core” inquiries and usually bring about the most growth and source the biggest challenges.

I first learned about the “bottom line” from my maternal grandfather who was a financial services entrepreneur at the age of 22 and lived an entire century from 1900 to 2000. No matter what the topic of conversation, whether it was what I was doing with my life or what was happening in the world, he would always drive me to answer the question, “what is the bottom line?” Having grown up in the financial services world, there was a bottom line value to everything and he applied this thinking to every aspect of life. Life was not that complicated for him – same marriage for over 60 years, same career 70 years, same assistant for 35 plus years, same business partner for over 50 years, same home city for 100 years, Chicago. Now, those are some bottom line numbers!

There was no avoiding the truth with him. He would question me until he was satisfied with the answers and more importantly that I had looked at all the issues and arrived at the correct “bottom line.”

Years ago when double and triple bottom line first started being discussed in the investment world, I brought the concept to my grandfather for discussion. While quite open minded when it came to many issues, he had a difficult time grasping this expanded definition and conversations usually ended with our agreeing to disagree. In retrospect, I believe that keeping it to one bottom line was his way of keeping things simple, which fit with his Midwest moderate approach to all life.

Today, out of necessity, we are embracing the expanded definition of what makes up the bottom line. It would be interesting to know if he would still resist adapting the new formulas or embrace them. My hunch is that he would look to business and financial leaders and ultimately, make his own decision.

Grandfather was a big influencer for me about money and wealth as well as for other family members. He was generous and caring. He wanted to inspire us to find our own ways to fulfillment and not indulge us. He clearly set the example in how he lived, healthy until his 98th year.

Some of the key messaging he passed down to my parents and hence to me and my siblings include: live well, adventure the world, be open to meeting and helping strangers, be responsible to those you love, and be caring and compassionate to those in need. These all have become core values within my family, in how we relate to one another, relate to others, and support projects and businesses through our philanthropy and investments.

My mother has further carried the torch and shown me how to live the balance of being a person of wealth – while she has always enjoyed the wealth she has had the privilege to steward, her greatest joy has come in her giving, both to her family and more so through philanthropy. Of primary importance has been her supporting the empowerment of women and girls throughout the world. She often would find obscure projects supporting women in remote regions of the world to achieve economic independence or experience educational opportunities previously unavailable.

My Mom and Grandfather taught me a great deal. In particular, they have influenced me in the practical and giving domains. And, as with everything in life, family can provide you a solid foundation, with traditions and values to carry you onwards. But also, family has its limits forcing us to venture forward into the unknown to explore and expand our definitions of self, relationship, community and more.

Beyond family, there are many other avenues to explore for the practical and also an understanding of the spiritual and emotional roles that money can play to create a fuller life. Money and wealth is indeed a domain to master – both for the pleasure and experiences and for the richer and deeper meanings found in self–expression and relationship with others and the world.

The influences of our rituals, the news, our families, our business associates and advisers impact the many choices in a day we make about money; how to earn, spend, invest and gift it. Living a healthy, integrated life around money and wealth is an everyday practice. Some days it is smooth. Some days it is choppy. Just like the sea. The good news is there is another Monday morning around the corner.


Article by Timothy David Karsten  (www.timothydavidkarsten.com), who guides leaders, executive teams and families of influence to solve life’s complexities and challenges and live optimally.

Mr. Karsten works with businesses, non-profit leaders, individuals and families of influence and their teams from the US, Europe and China to maximize global reach and impact. For over 30 years, Timothy has worked with family trusts, investment strategists, asset managers and private foundations. He is also a private investor in technology and media companies. He happily shares his home in Pacific Palisades, California with his wife, Karinna, and their Jack Russell Terrier, Sparky. When Timothy is not busy raising the bar of expectation and performance for his clients and the companies he invests in, you can find him entertaining friends and family, playing music, discovering unknown roads and mountain trails around the world, and enjoying the magic of his organic gardens.

Featured Articles, Food & Farming, Impact Investing, Sustainable Business

Farmer by Farmer, Investor by Investor, Regenerating America’s Farmland

By Teresa Opheim, Board Manager, Iroquois Valley Farms

In northern Montana, Doug and Anna Jones-Crabtree restore soil health while growing organic heirloom and specialty grains, pulse and oilseed crops on 4,700 acres. A thousand miles away in Central Minnesota, the Main Street Project sequesters carbon as it transforms 100 acres of bare ground to a permaculture farm alive with hazelnut trees and foraging chickens.


These two farms are dramatically different, but both are part of Iroquois Valley Farms’ quickly expanding network of farmers who are growing healthy food and stewarding the land. They and our 40 other farms around the country are proving to investors that the biggest “regenerative” investment opportunity in the world is to move away from the dead soil monoculture toward ecological-driven organic operations and that the solution is supporting organic farming agri-preneurs.

Iroquois Valley Farms starts with the farmers, who choose the land that they need to run profitable farms on. Our company purchases the land and rents it to the farmers (they can buy it from us later if they chose) or we provide financing so that the farmers can hold title. Eighty percent of our farmland investment portfolio is owned farmland; 20 percent is mortgage assets. Our company takes advantage of the appreciation of farmland over the years, plus a steady supply of income from rental and mortgage payments. In a sense, we focus on both growth and income for our investors.

We are purposefully structured to allow broad-based ownership, so that the smaller investor can both diversify into organic farmland and support the production of healthy food on living soils. Our 300-plus investors are individuals, family offices, foundations, faith-based investors and more. We are excited to be reaching the growing number of millennial investors as well.

Our company has a pipeline of farmers nationwide who want our help. You can make this happen in two ways:

•  Equity Shares in our Real Estate Investment Trust (we moved from an LLC format to a REIT this year). The target distribution yield is 2-3 percent. Redemption rights are available after seven years, allowing for returns driven by asset appreciation.

•  Soil Restoration Notes™, a three-year fixed income security that pays 1.5 percent per annum semi-annually. We use a portion of the Soil Restoration Note™ proceeds to help our farmers restore conventional degraded farmland to organic health. We know that the faster they make that transition, the more quickly they restore their soils, sequester carbon and return profits to themselves and the company.

Here’s what makes this 10-year-old company the leader:

•  Iroquois Valley Farms is fiercely focused on farmers: Our farmers — most from multi-generational farm families — make their own business decisions and run their own operations. We support farmers as entrepreneurs; we are not asking them to be laborers in someone else’s farmland investment business plan. We help them through their challenges so that they will thrive. All of us need them to stay on the land — they are the innovators (researchers call them “early adopters”) whom other farmers look to become better stewards.

•  Because of our farmer-focus, we are in this for the long term—for, as the Iroquois Nation says, the next seven generations. We are NOT a farmland trading company. Our model is not the quick fix, quick profit thinking that got us stuck in the dead zone monoculture that is the current ag industry standard. We provide family farmers the land security that will help them regenerate soils, rebuild communities, and continue to pass on their family farms to their farming children.

•  Millennials are our stars. In a country of rapidly aging farmers, we are proud to report more than 70 percent of our tenants are millennials. We are eager to help more. There is no shortage of young farmers who want to make this world a better place, and they deserve secure land tenure. Yet these young people report that a lack of land access and capital are their top two challenges, according to the National Young Farmers Coalition.

We thrive on diversity. Our farmers grow nuts, berries, beans, corn, hay, wheat, rye and more; they milk cows and raise beef cattle, chickens, hogs, and ducks. They farm from Maine to Montana and many places in between. With the addition of the Main Street Project to the Iroquois fold, we have begun adding ethnic diversity to our portfolio as well, as the Main Street Project serves Latino farmers. Diversity is our strength and a good investment as well. Our farmers’ varied enterprises, locations and farming systems mean we “don’t have all of our eggs in one basket,” which is particularly important given the severe climatic events we are all experiencing.

Iroquois Valley Farms is perfectly positioned to respond to a number of major trends over the next 25 years:

• There is a massive turnover of farmland occurring. Farmland owners are expected to transfer 91 million acres in the next five years (another 57 million acres will be included in landowners’ wills), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Much of this land will be transferred within families, but when the land does come on the market, it will be sold quickly. Small and mid-sized farmers need the resources and agility of Iroquois Valley Farms to help them get – and stay on – the farm.

Organics is the fastest growing sector of the U.S. food industry, according to the Organic Trade Association; as companies like General Mills will attest, they simply cannot get enough raw product to serve their consumers’ demands for healthy food. Millennials are driving that change in habits—more than 50 percent incorporate organic foods in their diet, according to the Organic Trade Association. Iroquois Valley Farms is helping meet that demand, which will only grow as these values-focused young people age.

• We have left ourselves and the next generation a climate change challenge we are just beginning to understand. Iroquois Valley Farms isn’t waiting for the federal government leadership on this most serious of issues. Our farmers are working creatively in so many different ways to sequester carbon—from pasture-based systems, to extended rotations of crops, to permaculture crops like hazelnuts. These farmers don’t have a choice if they want to save their soils—they are on the front lines of intense rains and lingering drought.

• And finally, a most hopeful trend: Impact investors and so many others are acting quickly and effectively to protect the future of our planet. The success and projected growth for Iroquois Valley Farms proves that many of us aren’t putting up any longer with the industrial agriculture system that results in fewer and larger farms, disdains farmers and their livelihood, and treats our soils and water as expendable. We are a movement that will not be stopped.

For more information, visit www.iroquoisvalleyfarms.com or call Alex Mackay, Director of Business Development and Investor Relations, amackay@iroquoisvalleyfarms.com


Article by Teresa Opheim, Board Manager of Iroquois Valley Farms and manager of a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant, which supports the development of the Soil Restoration Notes™. She is the former Executive Director of Practical Farmers of Iowa, editor of the book The Future of Family Farms and author of Your Farmland and the Future: Setting Goals, Taking Action.

Additional Articles, Food & Farming, Impact Investing

LOCUS Impact Investing is Empowering Foundations To Build Prosperous, Vibrant Communities

New consulting, financial advisory and services organization offers comprehensive solutions to help foundations unlock new sources of capital, generating more impact in local economies.

New consulting, financial advisory and services organization offers comprehensive solutions to help foundations unlock new sources of capital, generating more impact in local economies

Leading community development financial institution (CDFI) Virginia Community Capital (VCC) and the nationally recognized Center for Rural Entrepreneurship (CRE) announced in June the launch of LOCUS Impact Investing (LOCUS), a new social enterprise to empower place-focused foundations to invest their capital locally to build prosperous, vibrant communities.

We are entering a new era in philanthropy and community investing that requires different, more comprehensive solutions,” said Teri Lovelace, LOCUS President. “LOCUS Impact Investing provides an on-ramp for foundations around the country that want to engage in local investing for impact, but who currently lack the financial expertise or resources to do so.” Increasingly, place-focused foundations—or philanthropies whose efforts are concentrated in a geographic location—are looking to complement traditional grantmaking with direct community investments, and they seek to do so in a way that manages risk and aligns with their charitable purposes. To unlock this new source of capital effectively for the benefit of communities, foundations need access to a different set of capacities.

LOCUS can help these foundations by assessing the landscape for deals, conducting financial due diligence on specific deals and partners, providing investment services (sourcing, servicing, monitoring and impact tracking) and building internal foundation capacity for continued impact investing. “We are pleased to see LOCUS, led by a longtime member of Mission Investors Exchange, bringing its resources to help meet the needs of foundations in this sector,” said Melanie Audette, Senior Vice President for Mission Investors Exchange.

Mission-Aligned Investing Expertise

LOCUS pairs VCC’s mission-aligned investing expertise in Virginia with CRE’s national community economic development expertise. CRE brings field-tested expertise and resources in entrepreneurial development and community development philanthropy. VCC, as a regulated financial institution and a certified CDFI, created over $915 million of project impact in underserved communities and grew $15 million to over $218 million in assets dedicated to building prosperous, vibrant communities.

Collectively, the two organizations have worked with over 30 CDFIs and empowered more than 40 foundations to expand their assets and engage in community economic development, unlocking local capital for community impact. Building on the collective expertise of VCC and CRE, LOCUS offers a continuum of solutions for foundations and donors as they define their role in this new era of community investing.

As Virginia Community Capital looked to leverage its experience with local investing to a broader national audience, we found in the Center a partner with a national reputation and deep experience in community development philanthropy essential to the successful launch of our new social enterprise, LOCUS,” said Jane Henderson, CEO of Virginia Community Capital. “Through LOCUS Impact Investing, we believe we can empower more foundations to explore and engage in local investing for impact.

Ultimately, LOCUS will serve as a supportive partner as foundations and donors embark on local investing for impact. With this support, place-focused foundations will be better equipped to make community investments (program- and mission-related investments) that build prosperous, vibrant communities.


Learn More About LOCUS

To learn more about LOCUS, visit – www.locusimpactinvesting.org or follow us on Twitter @LocusImpact and on LINKEDIN.

Virginia Community Capital is a regulated financial services holding company that operates a non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and a for-profit bank, Community Capital Bank. As a CDFI, VCC provides credit and financial services to people, businesses, and communities not served by mainstream lenders. Community Capital Bank is the first regulated bank in America to earn the designation of a Benefit Corporation (B Corp.) setting a new model for the financial industry.

The Center for Rural Entrepreneurship helps communities throughout the U.S. and Canada build a prosperous future by supporting business, social and civic entrepreneurs. We work in partnership with communities to provide research-based, asset-focused, comprehensive and customized economic development strategies emphasizing entrepreneurship and community development philanthropy. The Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization operating under Virginia Community Capital.

LOCUS Impact Investing operates three related entities under the umbrella of Virginia Community Capital. LOCUS Capital is a benefit corporation and registered investment advisor providing financial services (due diligence, servicing, monitoring and reporting) for direct mission investments. LOCUS Solutions is a 501(c)(3) organization that can support place-focused foundations to achieve greater impact by actively engaging in community economic development through mission-aligned investing. LOCUS Foundation is a 501(c)(3) foundation that can help individuals and other foundations use donor-advised funds for direct economic and community development investments.

Ann Chaffin – ann@locusimpactinvesting.org
Phone (402) 730-6785

Additional Articles, Food & Farming, Impact Investing

The Next Quarter Century’s Organic Marketplace

By Gary Hirshberg, Chairman and Cofounder, Stonyfield Farm & Chairman, Just Label It

In 1977, during the heyday of the emerging “alternative energy” movement, I attended a solar greenhouse conference where I remember one of our little tribe’s pioneers opined about how much less exciting the solar “revolution” was going to be when it finally went mainstream. “I know what’s going to happen,” architect Steve Baer of Zomeworks pronounced – “solar collectors are going to be advertised in Sears newspaper inserts! I’m going to hate it but I’ll know we have arrived.”

I had the exact same thought about the organic sector when news of Amazon’s Whole Foods bid broke. A lot of pioneers and purists aren’t going to be thrilled about this, but the pathway for mainstream expansion of organic is now absolutely clear.

Before we look ahead, let’s set the context by first reflecting back over the last quarter century. Twenty-five years ago, in 1992, Stonyfield enjoyed 52 percent annual growth to $10MM in net revenues and our first-ever profitable year after a painful 9-year start-up. We’d created a beautiful little company and brand. Our only problem: we had no supply and no demand. At that point, very few consumers were familiar with the benefits of organic, and certainly no idea about why they should pay more for it. Today, Stonyfield’s annual net revenues are closing in on $400MM.

The overall organic sector has followed the same impressive trajectory. According to the Natural Foods Merchandiser, in 1992 organic sector sales were $1.54B. Organic food sales have enjoyed double-digit growth every year since the 1990’s, topping out at $47B in 2016 and on pace for another roughly 10 percent growth this year, when they will likely cross the $50B mark. The organic sector now makes up about 5 percent of US retail food sales.

We’ve come a long way in the last quarter century from the era when organic goods could only be found in dusty bulk cases in poorly-lit and somber natural foods stores. According to the Organic Trade Association:

• 81 percent of U.S. families now choose organic food at least sometimes.

• 51 percent of parents surveyed said the cost of organic products was one of the key factors in limiting their organic purchases, a sharp drop from the previous year in which 62 percent said organic items were sometimes too expensive for their household budget.

• Retailers now understand that the organic consumer is a more valuable consumer – Families who include organic products on their grocery list on a regular basis spend an average of $125 per week at the grocery store, compared to $110 per week for those not buying any organic items.

In short, the trends are good. But where is all this headed? As an entrepreneur, I lean optimistic, and so here are a few of my bullish predictions for where the organic marketplace will be in 2042.

First, several megatrends will combine to keep the annual US sales of organic foods growing at a robust rate. While the organic sector will not likely continue growing at the double-digit rates we’ve seen for the last 20 years, for the following reasons, we will certainly see no less than a 5 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) per year for the next quarter century.

The key drivers will be:

Increased awareness about the negative health impacts and costs of widespread agrichemical exposures. Consumers (particularly adult former millennials) and a new generation of public health officials will grow increasingly alarmed at the explosive increase in consumer exposure to agrichemicals, particularly herbicides that have been found to be likely carcinogens. Thanks to the dramatic increases in usage of genetically engineered crops designed to increase resistance to glyphosate (the active ingredient in Round Up) and other herbicides, the USGS now reports that glyphosate is present in 70-100 percent of the rainfall during growing seasons. And the over-use of this formerly effective weed-control tool has led to widespread weed resistance, leading to skyrocketing use of other even more dangerous compounds. Correlations between chemical exposure and a wide range of auto-immune diseases, increased allergies and even IQ development will demonstrate that eating organic is a powerful way to protect us all, but especially children. And in an ironic twist, chemical and agribusiness industry efforts to prevent government from banning pesticides linked to cancer and brain damage (such as the current capitulation on chlorpyrifos) will result in more consumer support for organic certification to protect us from dangerous chemicals. Organic will be seen by more and more public health professionals as a potent way that average consumers can reduce the health risks from exposure to pesticide residues.

In a sea of misleading and bogus “green” claims, Organic Certification will remain the only reliable standard for consumers seeking real, clean foods. As the next generation of adults becomes even more suspicious of industrial agriculture and food production, new green claims will proliferate. As the only government-enforced standard, organic will be the only claim that means something real. Certainly there will be periodic sensationalized reports of breeches and shortcuts by agribusinesses trying to “cheat” the standard, but because larger and more powerful corporate and financial investors will continue paying very high multiples to purchase organic brands and supply chains, there will be pressure on the FDA, USDA and Congress to close loopholes, increase enforcement and generally tighten organic certification standards to protect their ROIs. Congress will realize that it is far easier to improve on a 2001 standard than to try to agree on new ones. And while some forces will try to argue that new genetic crop manipulation like CRISPR should be allowed under organic standards, consumers will reject this idea and instead force companies to strengthen traceability right back to seed development.

Dramatically increased appreciation of the role that organics can play in mitigating the effects of climate change. From significantly better soil carbon sequestration to reduced enteric bovine methane emissions, and many other benefits, organic will become widely understood as the most sensible agricultural approach to mitigating and adapting to increased global warming. As climate change leads to more economic hardships that hit average consumers, policy makers will promote organic as a key societal priority. New carbon markets will lead to the proliferation of measurement and financial technologies that pay organic farmers more for storing soil carbon and this added source of revenue will lead to a surge in the number of farmers converting to organic certification, further increasing supply.

Better data on the benefits of organic production. Despite the last quarter-century’s growth, the organic sector is only beginning to benefit from rigorous long-term studies on the benefits of organic farming practices. We now know, for instance, that organically raised cows live and remain productive twice as long as their conventional counterparts; that chemical pesticide residues are dramatically lower in organic products; that organic soils provide more nutrition to crops, conserve more water and promote more biodiversity. Especially because the next generation of adults will be more aware of the connections between human activities and our environment, as well as the imperative for more sustainable food and farming practices, organic will receive more private and public research dollars which will enhance overall appreciation of these health and environmental advantages.

Lower cost organic offerings. Amazon did not pay over $13B to continue running Whole Foods in a business-as-usual manner. While the number of their outlets will increase, I believe that the bulk of Whole Foods’ offerings will now become available to consumers through a wide range of on-line, direct-to-your-home-and-workplace channels, whether as products and ingredients, or as completely prepared meals. This will force all other retailers and restaurants to climb on the freight train, and we will start to see organic and non-gmo foods everywhere that foods are sold. There will be fewer brands, and more private label generic offerings, but overall the market will grow, and as a result a large suite of on-farm services – veterinary and animal welfare; biological pesticides, enhanced soil management tools, etc. will become available. Farmers will likely be receiving lower farm-gate pay prices, but their net margins will actually improve due to the efficiencies leveraged by the increased size of the organic marketplace and supply chain.

In summary, if organic maintains a 5 percent CAGR, the US organic sector will grow to $151B by 2042. Assuming that the overall food market grows by 1 percent per year (to $1.1 Trillion), that will mean organic will comprise 14 percent of total US retail food sales. And of course the above- mentioned factors could lead to faster growth – if for instance organic food and fiber sales grow 7.5 percent per year (well below the sector’s traditional double-digit CAGR), we will be looking at a $267B sector closing in on 25 percent of US food sales. Of course, the organic marketplace will be far larger as the proliferation of lower cost organic goods will also lead to increased share of the food service, restaurant, meal kit and other quick serve, direct to consumer channels.

And of course, with population growth, we won’t be cooking and preparing foods the way we do now, so most of our nutrition will be coming in the form of prepared pouches, purees, drinks, bars and pellets that you can pick up literally everywhere – at every electric charging station, low friction public transit stop, solar-powered undersea village and urban rooftop-produced farmstand.

I’m going to hate it, but I’ll know we have arrived.


Article by Gary Hirshberg, Chairman and Co-Founder of Stonyfield Farm, the world’s leading organic yogurt producer, and the author of Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World (Hyperion, 2008). Gary frequently speaks on topics including sustainability, organic agriculture and the profitability of green business.

Gary led Stonyfield from its 1983 infancy as a seven-cow organic farming school to $360 million in annual sales when he stepped down as CE-Yo at the end of 2011. During his tenure Stonyfield enjoyed a compounded annual growth rate of over 23 percent by consistently producing superior products and using innovative marketing that blended the company’s social, environmental, and financial missions. Gary arranged the sale of Stonyfield to Danone in 2001, and then after staying on as chief executive for an additional decade, moved into the Chairman role and also became the Managing Director of Stonyfield Europe, launching organic brands in France, Ireland, Italy and Spain. He resigned from his Danone responsibilities in March 2017 when Danone was required by the US Dept of Justice to divest its Stonyfield holdings. Gary remains Stonyfield’s Chair under the new ownership Lactalis.

Gary serves on several corporate and non-profit boards, including Blue Apron, Forager, Late July, Orgain, Peak Organic Brewing, Sweetgreen Cafés, Sweet Earth Natural Foods and UNreal chocolates as well as Advisory Board member for Applegate.

In terms of non-corporate activities, he is Chairman and a founding Partner of Just Label It, We Have the Right to Know, the national campaign to label genetically engineered foods, and is co-author of Label It Now – What You Need to Know About Genetically Engineered Foods (New Word City, 2012). He is also the Chairman of Organic Voices, a consortium that seeks to eliminate consumer confusion about the benefits of organic. In 2011, President Obama appointed him to serve on the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, where he served until February 2017.

Gary has received 12 honorary doctorates and numerous awards for corporate and environmental leadership including a 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award by the US EPA. He was named a Yale Gordon Grand Fellow, one of “America’s Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs” by Business Week and one of the top ten, “most inspiring people in sustainable food” by Fast Company. Gary was featured in the successful 2009 documentary “Food, Inc.”

Gary is the husband of writer Meg Cadoux Hirshberg, and the father of three adult yogurt eaters, all of whom now work in organic and sustainability ventures.

Featured Articles, Food & Farming, Sustainable Business

Benefit Chicago Fund Announces First Round of Impact Investments

>> Back to July 2017

The for-profit subsidiary of a West Side nonprofit that provides transitional jobs for the formerly incarcerated in its production of local honey and honey-infused skincare products; a company that employs adults with autism founded by the father of an affected child; a collaborative created to renew a corridor that was once the heart of entertainment and shopping on Chicago’s south and southwest side – these are three of the beneficiaries of the first loans to be made by the impact investment fund established for Benefit Chicago.

A collaboration of The Chicago Community Trust, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Calvert Foundation, Benefit Chicago was created to expand the pool of loans and investments available to mission-directed for- and nonprofit entities, which, due to the communities or populations they serve, often find it difficult to access capital from commercial sources.

Benefit Chicago Executive Director William Towns today announced loans totaling $12 million to six Chicago area organizations: AutonomyWorks, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI), Garfield Produce Company, IFF, the Southwest Corridor Collaborative of LISC Chicago, and Sweet Beginnings, the for-profit subsidiary of the North Lawndale Employment Network.

“We are excited by the diversity of the borrowers and the initiatives they submitted for financing,” Towns said. “Some are established, well-known organizations; others relatively new, but all represent the opportunities for and commitment to development in every part of Chicago and to the well-being of residents.” Towns stressed that the announcement today is just the first of many loans to come over the next months. “We’ve already received more than 80 applications. While not all can or will be financed, they underscore the creativity and energy of organizations throughout the region.”

“The loans announced today confirm recent research and our own experience,” said Julia Stasch, President of the MacArthur Foundation. “Our region benefits from the great diversity of organizations that generate jobs and provide essential services and from the broad range of individual and institutional investors eager to help facilitate their growth and ensure their success.”

“The history of our three organizations is rooted in connecting financial resources to the causes and places people care about,” said Terry Mazany, President and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust. “Through Benefit Chicago, we’ve combined forces to help bring needed financial capital to organizations that are poised to innovate, expand, and grow. Investors in donor advised funds at The Chicago Community Trust are among those who are eager to help our neighborhoods and their residents thrive.”

Towns went on to describe the distinctive way the initiative works. “Through the investment fund created by the MacArthur Foundation, we benefit from individuals with significant experience investing in Chicago’s rich and diverse community of nonprofits. Through the Trust, we tap into deep concern for the vitality of the Chicago region and Chicago’s generous philanthropic community. And, Calvert Foundation’s Community Investment Note makes it easy for investors—large and small—to put their money to work for the benefit of the city that they love.”

Through Calvert Foundation, Towns explains, individuals, corporations, and institutions are able to buy Community Investment Notes that support making impact investments in Chicago. MacArthur has committed $50 million of its own assets to the fund, and The Chicago Community Trust has purchased a $15 million Community Investment Note. Individual and institutional investors have purchased an additional $12 million in Notes, with other potential investors eager to see the kinds of investments the fund will make.

“Through our Community Investment Note, investors of all stripes have been able to participate in making impact investments in Chicago,” said Calvert Foundation President and CEO Jennifer Pryce. “From individuals investing only $20 online, to institutional investors placing $2 million with us, ours investors have expressed strong interest in supporting Chicago. We think this can serve as a model for impact investing in other cities.”

Towns stressed that, while many applications remain in the Benefit Chicago pipeline, the application and lending processes are ongoing, and new applications are encouraged. With guidance from a Community Advisory Council, Benefit Chicago representatives will also engage in strategic outreach to identify potential borrowers in specific communities or sectors. All applicants must meet eligibility requirements that include serving a community of need, providing metrics for measurable outcomes, and demonstrating the ability to repay the loan or provide a return of capital, as well as other standard loan terms. The loans announced today are expected to be documented and closed within the next few weeks.

Towns said that while Benefit Chicago has already raised $77 million of the anticipated $100 million fund, he encourages investors and donors, large and small, to learn about the opportunities to invest. “Whatever the size, all are expressions of a commitment to Chicago, our neighborhoods, and our people,” Towns said.

Individuals, institutions, or organizations interested in purchasing Notes, or organizations interested in applying for financing should visit www.BenefitChi.org . Benefit Chicago accepts investments and loan applications on an on-going basis.

More about the Borrowers

AutonomyWorks is a for-profit social enterprise that provides meaningful employment for adults with autism. The organization contracts with national and international marketing organizations that need detail- and task-oriented employees to effectively support their digital and online marketing efforts. The $600,000 loan will be used to expand marketing and training activities to increase the number of people hired

CNI is a Community Development Corporation (CDC) and certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that engages in comprehensive revitalization work in Chicago’s economically challenged neighborhoods. CNI is best known for its multifaceted redevelopment efforts in the Pullman community. Proceeds from the $2 million loan will be used in part to facilitate the completion of the 111th Street Retail Gateway in Pullman, which is currently under construction.

Garfield Produce Company is an indoor, vertical hydroponic vegetable farm that creates sustainable local employment and generates wealth in disinvested neighborhoods through the production and sale of high quality fresh produce year-round. Garfield Produce will use its $500,000 loan to expand production capacity and hire additional employees.

IFF is a mission-driven lender, real estate consultant, and developer, which finances a variety of nonprofit sponsored community facilities projects that range from affordable housing and schools to community centers and commercial buildings. The $5 million loan will help finance a variety of projects, including a children’s theatre in the Near West Side neighborhood, a child care and family services facility in Humboldt Park, and a youth sports and education facility in Bronzeville.

LISC Chicago is a leading national community development intermediary, raising funds that are invested through community-based organizations throughout Chicago. LISC Chicago will use the $3.5 million loan to support the Southwest Corridor Collaborative (SWCC), a new community partnership focused on revitalizing the 63rd Street corridor from Cottage Grove Avenue to Pulaski Road and on Halsted from 63rd through 79th Street.

Sweet Beginnings, a wholly owned for-profit subsidiary of the North Lawndale Employment Network, uses the production of beelove™ – a line of honey-based products – to provide job training to community residents who, due to former incarceration or other circumstances, have found it difficult to procure gainful employment. The $500,000 loan will be used to expand production and sales, which will make it possible to increase the number of individuals served and their length of employment.


Find additional information about these borrowers at www.BenefitChi.org

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