Tag: Food & Farming

The 2020 GreenBiz 30 Under 30 List of Sustainability Leaders

If you’re looking for the light of inspiration during one of the darkest periods the world has seen in decades, you’ve come to the right place.

GreenBiz is proud to introduce their fifth annual cohort of twentysomethings who are sustainability leaders within — and without — their companies, nonprofits and communities. The Class of 2020 hails from seven countries, including Switzerland, the Netherlands, Brazil and Taiwan, and they are tackling diverse challenges — from cultivating a more sustainable food system to advocating for climate justice on behalf of disadvantaged communities to testing best practices for circular cities to negotiating impactful renewable energy contracts. The list of their accomplishments is long and growing longer by the day, and they’re just getting started.

Nine members of this year’s cohort work are affiliated with some of the world’s most influential companies, including Allbirds, Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, MetLife, Moody’s Investor Services and Saint-Gobain. Others are making waves in the business world from other perches, including government, consultancies, startups and environmental justice advocacy groups.

The GreenBiz 2020 30 Under 30 honorees were nominated by GreenBiz readers and community members around the world and selected by the GreenBiz editorial team. Grateful appreciation to the World Business Council for Sustainable Business and the Yale Center for Business and the Environment for helping us spread the word.

Please join GreenBiz in congratulating and celebrating the best and brightest of 2020 — at a time when we all could benefit from approaching challenges with fresh eyes.

Find the 30 Under 30 List here in alphabetical order.

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

Valuing Nature-A Handbook for Impact Investing-by William Ginn

Valuing Nature: A Handbook for Impact Investing

A new book by William J. Ginn, business strategy consultant and founder of NatureVest at The Nature Conservancy.

To address the climate and biodiversity crises, we must invest trillions in renewing large-scale infrastructure, from energy production to water delivery systems. Only the private sector has the ability to meet that extraordinary level of funding. While the business world has often exploited nature, NatureVest founder William J. Ginn argues that its entrepreneurial talent and financial capital are critical resources for developing solutions to global issues while protecting natural systems.

In Valuing Nature: A Handbook for Impact Investing, Ginn examines the scope of nature-based investing opportunities while presenting a practical overview of their limitations and challenges. With this strategy, the private sector can invest in the sustainable, equitable management of natural capital while earning financial returns.

Ginn presents a new set of nature-based investment areas to help conservationists and investors work together, including green infrastructure, forests, soils, and fisheries. He shows how investing in agriculture can improve the sustainability of our food and how we can use new land conservation tools, such as private investment partnerships, to meet large-scale conservation goals.

He acknowledges critiques of putting financial value on natural assets’ ecosystem services. However, Ginn argues that doing so is crucial to incenting new investments. With natural systems playing a critical role in mitigating climate change, the lack of proper recognition of these systems’ value leads to overuse and underinvestment – the opposite of the work we must due to preserve and restore them.

In the second half of the book, Ginn presents tools for investors and organizations to consider as they develop their own projects and provides tips on how nonprofits can successfully engage with nature-based impact investing. He covers lessons that impact investors can learn from other sectors, such as microfinance, about how to build the case for investing in natural capital. Ginn also offers guidance about raising capital for investment projects, covering key topics including business plans that generate returns, the right corporate structure, and the types of capital needed. Ginn argues that to continue attracting investors, organizations must measure the outcomes of impact investments. Acknowledging the difficulty of measuring results, he analyses the strengths and weaknesses of various metrics. Ginn covers five important legal issues for nonprofits and foundations that sponsor or offer impact investments, including adhering to your organization’s charitable purposes and managing investments from foundations and endowments.

Throughout Valuing Nature, Ginn highlights successful examples of nature-based impact investing in action. Case studies include the water-trading system in Australia’s Murray-Darling River Basin and the stormwater credit market in Washington, DC.

Valuing Nature provides a roadmap for those seeking to improve the management of natural systems through market-based strategies. With the environment degrading, Ginn shows how we can utilize private capital to achieve more sustainable uses of our resources.

 

William J. Ginn, is a business strategy consultant who has served in senior leadership positions in both nonprofit organizations and businesses. During his tenure at The Nature Conservancy, Ginn served as Chief Conservation Officer and then Executive Vice President, founding NatureVest, a partnership with private investors that has brought over $200 million of investment into conservation projects worldwide. He is the author of the 2005 Island Press book Investing in Nature: Case Studies of Land Conservation in Collaboration with Business.

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

Regeneration the Land and Native Communities with Bison-photo by Erika Larsen

Regenerating the Land and Native Communities with Bison

By Dawn Sherman, Native American Natural Foods

Dawn Sherman-TANKA-Native American Natural FoodsAs the demand for meat continues to escalate during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the store shelves grow bare and the food supply system finally shows the cracks of a system of largess. I’m seeing how sustainable, smaller production models, like Niman Ranch, are succeeding and supporting the families who work the land and raise the animals. I’m reminded of how my Native people lived with a deep commitment to the preservation of our food and land. The question of what we must do to impact the future of a sustainable food system can be answered by listening to my elders who whisper: honor the sacred Buffalo. Yes, the answer is BISON.

Bison are at the heart of our Native community. I’m so glad to see that there is a newfound appreciation for their role as an important species for healing our lands and restoring natural balance. With a population upwards of 30 million just a couple of hundred years ago, bison were on the brink of extinction by the 1880s with just a few hundred remaining. Through conservation efforts and an expanding market demand, there are now an estimated 500,000 of these giant mammals. Many bison have been revitalized by my own Native community on the Pine Ridge reservation.

I would like to share a true story with you about bison, my home reservation and a brand called Tanka. Tanka was founded in 2007 on Pine Ridge by owners Karlene Hunter and Mark Tilsen, who both embraced the lives and foods of the Lakota people. They looked to an ancient, indigenous recipe and helped modernize the bison and cranberry snack called wasna that we continue to use today in ceremonies and gatherings in a way that is restoring and regenerating Native lands, our people and our culture.

The Roots of Tanka: Wasna

Traditional wasna is a pounded mix of dried buffalo meat and berries that has long been a mainstay of the Lakota culture. Loosely translated in Lakota, wasna means “all mixed up” and the mixture has sustained my people for generations. Mark and Karlene saw promise in wasna as a snack that could have mainstream appeal while driving demand for the bison. They worked with the community – elders, business people, and the youth – to create the brand named Tanka. Named for the Lakota word for “outstanding” or “great,” the Tanka Bar offered a powerful protein-packed on the go snack that created the meat bar snack category. The news of the Tanka Bar was first reported in the New York Times in 2007 and officially launched at a pow wow in 2008. By 2015 sales had exceeded $5 million and brought employment to 15 members of the Pine Ridge community and additional staff throughout the US.

Regenerating Bison Populations, the Land, and Our Communities

The goal of Tanka has always been much bigger than just a snack business. The founders knew that if the endeavor proved successful, the Lakota people could build a more resilient future for the Pine Ridge community, starting with the bison.

By bringing back bison to the land, we are creating a self-regenerative income stream and one that also has a bountiful regenerative impact for the environment. Bison are wild animals that freely roam over thousands of acres as they forage, naturally aerating the soil and adding important nutrients through their manure. This helps builds soil health, which has a whole host of benefits including increased biodiversity, reduced run off, and increased organic matter. This organic matter captures carbon in the soil, keeping it locked in the land rather than in our atmosphere where it contributes to climate change. Many experts point to regenerative agriculture – including bison grazing on pasture – as an important part of the global warming solution.

New Partnerships, Slow Money Effort Supports Tanka’s Future

The Tanka Bar’s popularity and rapid growth brought out competitors who also saw opportunity in the new meat bar snack category. These new brands did not have our cultural connection to wasna, but they did have deeper pockets and the distribution network to grow quickly and reach markets we were not yet able to access.

Over the last five years, we found ourselves nearly squeezed out of the marketplace, struggling to stay alive.

We realized that to build a regenerative agriculture focused business, we needed regenerative capital. Tanka is not a business that is going to get you rich quick as an investor, but if given time, the benefits of our model will be significant, sustainable and much further reaching. When you invest in Tanka, not only will you see financial returns, but you also are investing in the Pine Ridge reservation and Lakota people. You are investing in the land, fair wages, biodiversity, climate change mitigation and more. From the soil to the people, the impact is immense.

Thankfully, we are finding new-found stability, particularly over this past year. We have found a unique structure to support Tanka’s success. We rely on a three-legged stool that provides a blended capital solution to support the Tanka ecosystem: the Tanka Co-op, a producer-owned cooperative; Native American Natural Foods, a mission-based organization dedicated to sustainable, Native food sources; and Tanka Fund, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to supporting bison producers throughout Indian country.

Jeff Tripician from Niman Ranch, and Dawn Sherman of Native American Natural Foods during a special blanket ceremony at the Edible Magazines Conference
Jeff Tripician from Niman Ranch, and Dawn Sherman of Native American Natural Foods during a special blanket ceremony at the Edible Magazines Conference in Santa Fe, NM celebrating their partnership.

Another important partnership is with Niman Ranch, a likeminded premium meat brand working to build a better system that benefits all along the food chain. This partnership is unique: this is not a merger or acquisition. Rather, Niman is providing technical support and supply chain development for Tanka. At the same time, Tanka will be helping Niman build more partnerships with independent family farmers, expanding their network of cattle ranchers and helping to develop a vibrant bison program.

Looking to the Future

We have also seen tremendous support from impact investors and foundations who see our regenerative agriculture approach as a meaningful way to support the Lakota people. I’m a second-generation Lakota woman leading this impactful company and I feel good about where we are going and the sustainable enterprise we are building. This is not a company that is in this for the short term. Our goals are long range and we are starting to recover our market share by adhering to our values and ensuring that our success extends beyond the sale of just our product, but includes being at the forefront of change and impact in Indian Country.

With a strong foundation established thanks to our three-pronged approach outlined above, we are buoyed for the future. As Covid-19 shows the cracks in the industrialized food system, the resilience of the Tanka model is more apparent than ever. Now is the time to invest in a better, regenerative food system.

Featured bison photo © Erika Larsen.

 

Article by Dawn Sherman, who brings over 25 years of business expertise and entrepreneurial skills to her role as CEO of Native American Natural Foods’ Tanka bar. A member of the Lakota, Shawnee and Delaware tribes, Dawn is keenly aware of the fundamental needs facing individuals at the community level on the reservation. Her South Dakota roots inform her decision making and she is dedicated to seeking improvements in the food systems that benefit the health and wellness of her indigenous community as well as the community at large. Dawn believes teamwork and meaningful collaboration are essential to success and looks to the operational Niman Ranch partnership as key to continuing the Tanka vision.

Previously, Dawn worked in key financial leadership roles in the automotive industry, increasing dealership portfolios as well as assisting in developing policies and procedures to streamline sales and financial efficiency.

She is a founding member of Tanka Resilient Agriculture Coop, a South Dakota collective dedicated to returning bison to lands, and improving the lives and economies of Native Communities. She is also a founding board member of The Regenerative Agriculture Alliance, an ecosystem of people and organizations committed to making sustainable ranching and farming a collective norm. She is also a board member of the Tanka Fund, a not-for-profit that supports tribal bison caretakers with direct grants for ranch planning, finance and operations. As the second generation of Native Leadership and as a Native woman, Dawn’s unique vision combined with her deep experience in the food industry, allows her the opportunity to give back to her own community and further her vision of food sovereignty for all.

About Native American Natural Foods, LLC

Native American Natural Foods, LLC, is focused on creating a family of nationally branded buffalo-based food products that are delicious and that promote a Native American way of wellness that feeds mind, body, and spirit. By adding value to traditional Native food products, using modern scientific methods and the least amount of processing possible, Native American Natural Foods innovates value-added products for the U.S. consumer marketplace. The Tanka Bar was responsible for creating the first meat snacking category in retail markets. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Niman Ranch - Raised with Care

About Niman Ranch

Niman Ranch is the largest farmer and rancher network in the Western Hemisphere to be 100 percent third-party-certified under the Certified Humane® program. Their community of more than 740 small, independent U.S. family farmers and ranchers adhere to some of the strictest animal welfare protocols in the industry. Follow Niman Ranch on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Featured Articles, Food & Farming, Sustainable Business

Slow Money conference in Longmont, CO 2017

WHOA NELLIE!

By Woody Tasch, Slow Money

Woody Tasch author and founder Slow MoneyJust as I was about to head from the kitchen to the office to write an article about Slow Money for this issue of the GreenMoney Journal, a story appeared on CNN about Whoa Nellie Farm in Acme, Pennsylvania. I had no choice but to start here.

When, due to Covid-19 supply chain disruptions, the farm’s Pittsburgh-based milk processor stopped purchasing their milk, they ramped up a 30-gallon-per-hour bottling and pasteurization operation on the farm and put out a call to their community. Before long, there was a line of cars down the street and they were expanding to 45 gallons per hour. “It has been wonderful to see the community coming together like this. Everyone is so happy to get their milk from a local dairy again, to know where their food comes from. No one wants to see us dumping milk…”

Whoa Nellie, indeed. Whoa, pandemic! Whoa, Wall Street! Whoa, Main Street! Whoa empty streets and empty skies! Whoa food grown for export! Whoa fast food and fast money and 30,000 Dow and runaway financialization and globalization! Have we lost our senses?? Will we rush back to business as usual when the pandemic is over? Or will this time be different?

The structural problems of the food system mirror structural problems in finance. Ultra-fast trading and ultra-pasteurization are twins. Over dependence on distant markets and complex intermediation make us insecure.

Thoreau wrote, “A man is wealthy to the extent he can afford to leave things alone.” Leaving aside the rich discussion we could have about that observation, let’s adapt the spirit of it thus: “A community is rich to the extent it can afford to feed itself.”

Whoa Nellie, indeed.

Since 2010, the Slow Money movement has been Whoa Nellie-ing its way towards a systemic response, encouraging groups of individual investors to come together to put money to work in support of small, diversified organic/regenerative farms. I use the backslash there because I am not particularly enamored of the recent rush to the term regenerative. That said, neither am I against it. It’s a perfectly good word. But I am concerned about the way we constantly feel the need to trade in common sense and direct action for new terminology and the latest distant shiny object, whether that object be a financial derivative or a new, fancy name for longstanding principles of sound cultivation and stewardship.

As just one case in point, check out the caption to the photo on the front page of the New York Times, April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day:

NYTimes--First Earth Day April22, 1970

I hope formatting will allow you to make it out, but in that photo caption are the words “a call for the regeneration of a polluted environment.”

Folks are now talking about regenerative economics as well as regenerative agriculture. The conversations are elegant, systemic, nuanced. Some come with elaborate models. Some come with formal certification schemes. To which we might wonder, in the spirit of Whoa Nellie, whether we are going to chase the rabbit all the way down the hole until we arrive at Certified Local. Or Certified Common Sense. Or Certified Neighborly. Or Certified Community.

That is coming off a bit crankier than I intend. But I am very concerned about whether we have the wherewithal, here in the home of fast food, here in the home of Wall Street and Silicon Valley, to bend the arc of history, 50 years after the first Earth Day, to take back control of runaway economic forces, runaway forces of globalization and urbanization and industrialization and militarization and commodification and consolidation and intermediation.

Whoa, Nellie!

Slow Money’s contribution to this cultural conversation is local and direct. Since 2010, more than $75 million has flowed, via volunteer-led slow money activities in dozens of communities, to over 750 local, organic farms and food enterprises, in amounts ranging from a few thousand dollars to a few million. Most recently, we’ve seen the emergence of SOIL groups—SOIL as in Slow Opportunities for Investing Locally—that take in charitable donations and make 0% loans by majority vote of donor members.

Eric and Jill Skokan Black Cat Farm and Farm Table Bistro Boulder
Eric and Jill Skokan, owners of Black Cat Farm and Black Cat Farm Table Bistro in Boulder, CO received the first 0% loan made by SOIL.

Today, kicked in the gut by the pandemic, we all find ourselves wondering if this time will be different. Earth Day felt different to the 20 million Americans who marched in 1970 in thousands of places around the country. Think about that for a second. 20 million Americans in thousands of places. And it felt different when Greta Thunberg stood in front of the UN General Assembly last fall and admonished us to stop chasing “fairy tales of endless economic growth.” It really did feel different.

For regenerative agriculture to be an effective agent for making things different this time, it will need to be accompanied by a process of re-localizing portions of the food system. For regenerative economics to make things different this time, we are going to have to re-localize meaningful aspects of the economy. When we hear the word regeneration let us also think of the word re-localization. Not as an alternative, but as a complement, empowering acts of completion and rebalancing that have the potential to make things different this time.

As David Brooks observes: “We’ve tried liberalism and conservatism and now we’re trying populism. Maybe the next era of public life will be defined by a resurgence of localism.”

I think of local investing, in general, and slow money, in particular, as vital grounding, a “homecoming” (to borrow from Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson) for the process that began as socially responsible investing and then became double-bottom-line investing and then triple-bottom-line investing and then impact investing. We are marching towards the greatest AHA! moment of all time. An awakening, an inspiration strong enough to break us out of the shell of Making a Killing so that we can breathe the air of Making a Living, connecting us in new ways to one another, to the places where we live, to the land. . .all the way down to the life in the soil, teeming with life. Hence my forthcoming book…

AHA!: Fake Trillions, Real Billions, Beetcoin
and the Great American Do Over:

If the need to relocalize the food supply was not widely apparent prior to the pandemic, it is now, as supply chain disruptions result in millions of gallons of milk being dumped daily and traffic jams at food banks around the country. In response to these disruptions, we can double down on the speed, power and scale of factory food production. We can call in the national guard. We can import a little less apple juice from China.[1] But going beyond such fixes, we also need to address the underlying vulnerabilities of a system that was designed not to feed the local populace, but to produce prodigious quantities of cheap agricultural commodities for export.

The next 50 years will be the epoch when diversity, decentralization, deceleration, and disintermediation come to the fore, not as replacements for the industrial-strength efficiencies of globalization, but as vital components of rebalancing, relocalization and resilience.

As we consider all of this, let’s use the current moment to realize that we were shutting down long before the Shut Down.

We were shutting down small towns. We were shutting down small farms. We were shutting down local newspapers. We were shutting down diversity in the name of efficiency. We were shutting down culture in the name of commerce. We were shutting down trust. We were shutting down home and hearth in favor of fast food. We were shutting down Here in favor of Everywhere and Nowhere. We were shutting down the real in favor of the fake.

Now may or may not be the moment to open up this part or that part of the economy. But it is definitely the moment to do what we can to begin making sure this time is different. Which means opening our hearts and minds to whole new ways of investing, in things that we understand, near where we live, starting with food.

 

Article by Woody Tasch, founder of Slow Money

Woody Tasch is the author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered (Chelsea Green) and SOIL: Notes Towards the Theory and Practice of Nurture Capital (Slow Money Institute). Tasch is former chairman of Investors’ Circle, a nonprofit angel network that has facilitated more than $200 million of investments in over 300 early-stage, sustainability-promoting companies. As treasurer of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation in the 1990s, he was a pioneer of mission-related investing. He was founding chairman of the Community Development Venture Capital Alliance. Utne Reader named him “One of 25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World.”

FOOTNOTES

  1. Some 60% of apple juice consumed in the U.S. is imported from China. From 1970-2005, total U.S. imports of apple juice increased from 27 million gallons to 428 million gallons. From 1995-2005, U.S. imports of apple juice from China increased from 2 million gallons to 253 million gallons. (Fonsah and Muhammad, Journal of Food Distribution Research, March, 2008)

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

Domini launches Domini Sustainable Solutions Fund

Domini Launches the Domini Sustainable Solutions Fund

 
Domini Impact Investments LLC, a U.S. pioneer in the impact investing field, recently launched the Domini Sustainable Solutions Fund, a new mutual fund dedicated to investing in innovative, solution-oriented companies contributing solutions to global sustainability challenges. The Fund is available to individual and institutional investors (tickers: CAREX/LIFEX).

The Domini Sustainable Solutions Fund is designed to help impact investors make a difference and meet their own personal financial goals through a global equity portfolio of companies that Domini believes can play an important role in addressing some of the world’s greatest social and environmental challenges. The Fund invests worldwide in public companies of any size, seeking investments that support one or more of its seven sustainability themes:

• Accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future

• Contribute to the development of sustainable communities

• Help ensure access to clean water

• Support sustainable food systems

• Promote access to health and well-being

• Broaden financial inclusion

• Bridge the digital divide

By investing in companies providing solution-oriented products and services aligned with these themes — from renewable energy systems and electric vehicles to breakthrough medical technologies, healthy and organic food, and lending for underserved communities — the Fund is designed to help create a more sustainable future and provide investors an opportunity to better align their portfolios with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By seeking investments that support the transition to a more sustainable economy, Domini also believes it can identify strong long-term investments.

Domini CEO Carole Laible comments, “This Fund was designed to address very specific themes that impact investors seek to address and corresponds to the demands of those investors as they pursue competitive returns, but also look to align their investments with their deepest concerns for people and the planet.”

For more information about the Domini Sustainable Solutions Fund, and visit domini.com

 

About Domini Impact Investments LLC

Domini Impact Investments LLC is an SEC-registered investment adviser specializing exclusively in impact investing. Domini serves individual and institutional investors who wish to create positive social and environmental outcomes while seeking competitive financial returns. Domini applies social, environmental and governance standards to all its investments, believing they help identify opportunities to provide strong financial rewards to its fund shareholders while also helping to create a more just and sustainable economic system.

Before investing, consider the Fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. Contact us for a prospectus containing this and other information. Read it carefully. The Domini Sustainable Solutions Fund is not insured and is subject to market, recent events, sustainable investing, portfolio management, information, mid- to large-cap companies, and small-cap companies risks. Investing internationally involves special risks, such as currency fluctuations, social and economic instability, differing securities regulations and accounting standards, limited public information, possible changes in taxation, and periods of illiquidity. You may lose money.

Domini Impact Investments LLC is the Fund’s investment manager. The Fund is subadvised by an unaffiliated entity. DSIL Investment Services LLC, Distributor, member FINRA. 04/20

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

Yvon Chouinard-Patagonia-Why Food?

Why Food?

By Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia

What’s an outdoor clothing company doing selling food? A similar question was asked of me in 1968, when we were blacksmithing new tools for mountain climbing, and suddenly started selling shorts, shirts and pants. Skepticism seems to rise whenever a company refuses to “stay in its lane,” but as an entrepreneur, I see business opportunities everywhere. As a lover of the outdoors, I see a way to save our home planet and its creatures—including us—from the destructive habits we’ve invented for ourselves.

To me, Provisions is more than just another business venture. It’s a matter of human survival.

I’ve been a longtime doom-bat about humanity’s prospects if we continue on the path we’re on now. As I write this, the pandemic we’re experiencing has warned me that perhaps the days of buying expensive gear and plane tickets to travel halfway around the world to fish, ski, climb and surf may be over, if not greatly reduced. But we still need to eat. In fact, I think the only revolution we’re likely to see is in agriculture, and I want to be a part of that revolution.

In its efforts to maximize efficiency and profit, modern industrial agriculture relies on annual monocrops, toxic herbicides and pesticides, synthetic fertilizer and wasteful water use, all of which are destroying topsoil much faster than it can be replaced. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, if we continue to degrade our soil at the current rate, we have only about 60 harvests left. Sixty harvests! Then what?

And what about the food we’re eating from this system now? Bland feedlot beef inoculated with antibiotics and growth hormones, factory-raised chickens, pale, flavorless eggs; GMO crops soaked with chemicals; fruit selected for size and growth rate over flavor or nutrition. Even if we could figure out how to extend the future of industrial agriculture, we do so at great cost: diminishing returns, millions of small farmers out of work, increasing danger to humans and our ecosystem from toxic chemicals and lower nutritional value.

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition demonstrated “reliable declines” in key nutrients found in 43 different fruits and vegetables over the past half century. Another paper showed that a person would need to eat eight oranges today to equal the Vitamin A our grandparents got from just one. In its review of these and other studies with similar findings, Scientific American states, “the key to healthier produce is healthier soil.”

Big Organic, which started out with good intentions, is now dominated by large companies searching for ways to grow more food and increase profit margins through technology. Sound familiar? If that’s the future, I say good luck trying to make decent wine from hydroponically grown grapes.

It seems to me that our priorities have gotten out of whack.

Fortunately, there is a better path forward. Regenerative organic farming practices yield large crops while building healthier soil, which can draw down and store more greenhouse gases. Free-roaming buffalo restore prairie grasslands, one of Earth’s great carbon storage systems. Rope-cultivated mussels produce delicious protein while cleaning the water where they’re grown. Place-based and selective-harvest fishing techniques allow us to target truly sustainable fish populations without harming less abundant species. As these examples illustrate, the more we roll up our sleeves and dig into the world of food, the more we discover that the best ways are often the old ways. We must, as the great environmentalist David Brower taught, “turn around to take a step forward.”

With Provisions, we make that turn and step toward a new kind of future. One filled with deeply flavorful, nutritious foods that restore, rather than deplete, our planet. A future with widespread adoption of Regenerative Organic Certification, which ensures that food is produced in ways that build soil health, ensure animal welfare and protect agricultural workers. In short, I’m talking about foods that are a key part of the solution instead of the problem.

That’s the revolution I want to be a part of. Why is Patagonia making and selling food? The real question, to me, is how could we not? I realize, now more than ever, that the requisites for a thriving business and thriving people are one and the same. Triple bottom line? Food, water, love.

Read the Patagonia Provisions Journal

 

Article by Yvon Chouinard, Founder, Patagonia

Photo by Tim Davis

Additional Articles, Food & Farming, Sustainable Business

Farming for the Future at Frey Vineyards-Katrina Frey

Farming for the Future at Frey Vineyards

By Katrina Frey, Frey Vineyards

atrina Frey-Executive Director-Frey VineyardsMay of 2020 presents a lush green face at the Frey Vineyards ranch in Mendocino County in northern California. It is two and a half years since the devastating wildfires of October 2017 (read Katrina’s 2018 article – Out of the Ashes). One still sees the burned silhouettes of stately Ponderosa Pine at the top of the ridges but progressing up the slopes are shrubby masses of tan oak, madrones and oaks that are stump sprouting from their strong pre-fire crowns. Frey Vineyards owns one thousand acres of land.

We farm one third of this and preserve the rest of the mountainous land to protect our watershed and provide habitat for native plants and animals. About 500 acres of the wild lands burned during the fire.

The new winemaking facility two miles down the road is leaping up as well. We hope to crush there this fall and welcome the public at the first of next year. The fires of 2017 destroyed Frey’s offices, bottling line, tasting room and sheds. In the new facility these will all be combined into one 42,000 square foot metal building powered by the sun. Expanded tank capacity will allow us to grow from processing 3000 Tons of grapes to 4000 Tons in the autumn of 2020.

An innovative BioFiltro wastewater treatment plant is installed and ready to process all of the wastewater of the winery. Putting earthworms to work, the system catalyzes the digestive power of worms and microbes to rapidly remove up to 99% of wastewater contaminants within four hours. The recycled water can then be immediately reused in the vineyards. Worm castings are a welcome by-product for incorporating into compost piles to improve crop yield, soil health, and carbon sequestration.

ew Frey Vineyards winery-catwalk over press
The catwalk over the press at Frey Vineyards’ new winery – courtesy of Frey Vineyards

Funds for the new winery have come from fire insurance, as well as strong wine sales. As the demand for organic food rises in the US, consumers are also drinking more USDA organic no sulfites added wine. Frey’s sales rose 8 percent in 2019, in spite of an overall sluggish wine economy. It is difficult to predict future wine sales for 2020 in light of the global pandemic, but in the short run, organic wine sales are rising as people are choosing to eat and drink pure products for their health and the health of the planet. We are seeing a spike in our direct-to-consumer sales, as people shelter in place, with the help of a glass of organic wine!

The Frey vineyard team is working long spring hours in the annual race to prune, frost protect during the cold nights, tie the vines to the trellises, and finish plowing before the hot and dry summer sets in. Frey Vineyards continues to be excited about the promise of regenerative agricultural practices to help mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon into the soil.

Cover crop seeds are planted every fall between the dormant grape vines-Frey Vineyards
Cover crop seeds are planted every fall between the dormant grape vines and grow with the winter rains.

Frey Vineyards farms 350 acres of certified organic grapes. This represents one third of our production. We buy the rest of our grapes from forty different local organic growers. All together it adds up to one thousand acres of certified organic land in Mendocino County. We do not fertilize our vineyards beyond working with soil fertility. A small amount of compost is added every few years, made from materials here on the ranch. Cover crop seeds are planted every fall between the dormant grape vines and grow watered by the winter rains. Leguminous cover crops such as fava beans, vetch and field peas add nitrogen to the soil while the roots of rye grass add tilth to the soil. We have noted that grape vines need to work a little harder to get what they need from a soil that is not too high in nitrogen. This translates into better flavors and wine quality.

Soil is the basis for terroir, the French word that means the taste that embodies the unique quality of a given piece of land. Soil health and the mysteries of the biology beneath the soil are still being studied. Science is demonstrating that most soils do not need the costly additions along with the heavy carbon footprint of importing minerals such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, but rather need soil biological life to improve the nutrient flow. Here at Frey Vineyards, we are committed to working with the soil food web to harness and improve fertility.

Frey Vineyards is a Demeter certified Biodynamic® farm, practicing agricultural methods that emphasize a whole farm system, biodiversity and soil improvement. Farm animals are incorporated into our land.

Cows graze on the edges of the vineyard, and sheep are allowed into the vineyard to feast on cover crops when the grapes are dormant. We recently added a small herd of grazing goats to help combat the proliferation of the invasive French broom shrub, Genista monspessulana, after the fires. It is forming impenetrable stands that are crowding out native plans and wildlife in our forestlands. Our hope is that the goats will reduce some of the mass, but we will also have to manually rip it out.

Frey Vineyards treehouses-tree swallow and bluebird eggs
A tree swallow perches on one of the 35 new birdhouses added to Frey Vineyards, installed to encourage species that provide natural control of harmful insects – and a new Western bluebird family has taken up residence below. Courtesy of Frey Vineyards

Another new project this year is the addition of birdhouses into the vineyards to function as a natural control over harmful insects. Designed to attract Western bluebirds, our 35 houses, achieved a 75% occupancy rate with bluebirds, violet green tree swallows and ash-throated flycatchers moving in and raising families. These species will eat the grape leaf hoppers whose population grows as the grapes begin to ripen. This fall we will install barn owl boxes in the hope that they will help to control the gopher population.

Farming is always challenging considering weather and market conditions, both beyond the farmer’s control. What we can count on is the knowledge that sound organic farming practices will build soil health and nourish future generations.

Stay connected with Frey Vineyard on Facebook.

All photos courtesy of Frey Vineyards

 

Article by Katrina Frey, Executive Director, Frey Vineyards Ltd. in Redwood Valley, CA. Since founding the pioneering organic and Biodyanmic® winery in 1980 with her husband, Jonathan, and brother-in-law, Matthew, she has worn many hats: grape picker, wine bottler and sales director. The winery has grown from producing 2000 cases to 220,000 cases of organic and Biodynamic® non-sulfited wines.

After graduating from Earlham College in Richmond, IN in 1973, Katrina moved to Covelo,CA where she studied Biodynamic farming under Alan Chadwick, the influential English horticulturist. Katrina was president of the board for Demeter Association USA, and past vice president of the CCOF Mendo/Lake Chapter. She has spoken about USDA organic wine at Expo West, Expo East and IFOAM conferences.

In March 2004, Mendocino County made history by passing a citizen’s initiative to ban the propagation of genetically engineered crops and animals. Katrina was a member of the strategy team and fundraising chair. She continues to work on issues surrounding GMO’s and organic crops.

With the Frey team, she is busy building a new state of the art winery after the wildfires of October 2017 destroyed much of the winery. Katrina is also enjoying tending the five honeybee swarms that arrived at Frey Vineyards this spring.

Featured Articles, Food & Farming, Sustainable Business

How to Spot Opportunities in Sustainable Food and Agriculture

By Michael Landymore, Impax Asset Management

The food and agriculture sector is in the early stages of a far-reaching transition toward more sustainable food production and consumption. Growing environmental and resource pressures, changing consumer demands, technological innovation and ever-tightening regulatory interventions are disrupting depletive practices and unhealthy preferences. This transformation is creating fast-growing insurgent companies and changing the business models of incumbent firms, creating compelling investment opportunities for active investors.

Drivers of Disruption

The food and agriculture sector both causes, and is vulnerable to, environmental degradation. Pressures are intensifying as growing populations and rising living standards drive increased consumption of resource-intensive foods. But awareness is rising, and consumption patterns are changing rapidly as consumers shift toward flexitarian diets that involve more natural and sustainably produced foods.

Meat alternatives are being developed rapidly, with sales of plant?based meats projected to expand by 25% per year over the next decade.[1] Similarly, for companies in the natural food space, the slowdown in the consumption of branded, processed food has had a significant impact.

Enormous volumes of waste produced by our food system exacerbate the above impacts. Up to one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, at an economic cost of up to $1 trillion per year.[2] There is growing consumer demand for solutions.

Food production and agriculture can contribute to climate change through deforestation, which reduces the planet’s natural carbon storage capacity, and through the sector’s use of inputs such as fossil fuels and fertilizers. Globally, livestock rearing is responsible for 14.5% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.[3] Agriculture-related tropical deforestation contributes to around 8% of GHG emissions.[4]

bees and comb
Excessive use of chemical nutritional and crop protection inputs has negative ecological and human health impacts.

Excessive use of chemical nutritional and crop protection inputs has negative ecological and human health impacts. Global use of pesticides has increased 81 percent.[5] Pesticides can destabilize ecosystems by altering the nutrient balance and reducing soil biodiversity, leading to declines in crop yields.[6] Decaying nitrogen fertilizers produce GHGs, while nitrogen and phosphorus runoff pollute groundwater and can lead to vast hypoxic “dead zones” in lakes and coastal waters.

Water scarcity is one of the most urgent food security issues facing many of the world’s countries. Globally, 70 percent of fresh water is used for food production-related irrigation, exposing the sector to changing patterns of precipitation. Around 1.2 billion people live in areas of physical water scarcity; an additional 500 million people are approaching this situation.[7]

Overuse of antibiotics — some 70 percent of antibiotics in the European Union are used in animal farming — is contributing to an antibiotic resistance crisis that is already costing Europe €1.5 billion per year in healthcare costs and productivity losses.[8]

Across the range of environmental and social impacts, governments are responding with policies and measures to improve the efficiency of food and agriculture production, reduce its environmental impacts and improve health outcomes.[9]

Opportunities

Fortunately, there is a global universe of companies that are helping to address the sustainability challenges of this sector — companies working to reduce costs by improving efficiency, lower environmental impacts, facilitate the provision of safe and nutritious food and promote animal welfare standards along the food value chain.

Incidents around adulterated foodstuffs have increased demand for laboratory food testing services and technology, resulting in a tripling in the number of tests over the last five years.

The natural foods category, including better-for-you snacks such as fruit and nut bars and seaweed crisps, is growing globally at a compounded annual rate of nine percent, gaining share from processed foods.[10] In response, large branded food manufacturers are developing new products and investing in the reformulation of existing products, replacing artificial ingredients with natural ingredients and removing ingredients linked to harmful health effects, such as sugar, fat and salt. Investment prospects in this area include companies involved in natural ingredients, dietary and nutritional additives, flavors, colors, emulsifiers, cultures and enzymes.

Numerous opportunities to reduce food waste exist across all parts of the food value chain. Post-harvest technologies such as grain handling, grain conditioning and storage equipment can help to reduce or eliminate losses from weather, pests and disease.

Extending the shelf life of perishable foods can have a dramatic impact on reducing food waste. We believe companies producing natural preservatives, such as lactic acid, are a good example of this.

A range of technologies and practices are being developed to reduce the inputs needed to produce food. One example is sensor technology that detects weed species and applies just enough herbicide to kill them but not more, thereby reducing chemical use by 80-90%. Similarly, drip irrigation can reduce water use by up to 60% while almost doubling yields.[11]

Crop imagery and biomass measurement from drones and satellites is another important development, as it can help farmers more accurately apply fertilizers. Better nutrition and animal care within the dairy industry can increase milk-to-feed ratios and reduce animal mortality, which can improve yields and reduce cattle emissions. These outcomes could help retain consumers who would otherwise switch to lower-impact alternatives.

Efforts to reduce plastics pollution and the use of fossil feedstocks are encouraging a shift away from single-use plastics to fiber-based alternatives, such as cardboard for fresh produce. Meanwhile, bioplastics such as polylactic acid can be derived from renewable resources including sugarcane and corn starch.

What to Look For

ESG risks in the food and agriculture sector include reputational damage and loss of contracts if linked to deforestation, as well as operational and supply chain risks related to physical climate change. To manage risks, companies must thoughtfully consider the nuanced complexities of each ecosystem when it comes to implementing policies on land use and biodiversity or when promoting reduction in agricultural land conversion.

The transition of the food and agriculture sector from a depletive economic model toward one that can sustainably feed a growing global population is firmly underway, and it is creating opportunities for well?positioned companies to outperform. Identifying companies that can offer solutions to the sustainability challenges of the traditional food value chain will help investors avoid the businesses being disrupted, resulting in an innovative universe of companies from which to compile a compelling investment portfolio.

 

Article by Michael Landymore, Senior Portfolio Manager, Managing Director, Impax Asset Management. Michael is responsible for the food and agriculture strategy at Impax Asset Management. He focuses on industry analysis, stock screening, company analysis and portfolio construction. Michael has been advising investors and companies in the food and beverage industry since 1982. He was part of the highly rated food equity analyst team at Investec Securities/Henderson Crosthwaite, subsequently with Rabobank corporate finance, and he most recently served as the manager of the Léman Focus Global Food & Agriculture fund at Helvetica Wealth Management Partners in Geneva. Michael has a degree in economics from King’s College, Cambridge, and is a chartered fellow of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI).

FOOTNOTES

  1. Yusuk Khan, “UBS Predicts Plant-based Meat Sales Could Grow by More Than 25% per Year to $85 Billion by 2030,” Business Insider, July 19, 2019.
  2. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Food Wastage Footprint,” 2014.
  3. Lisa Friedman, Kendra Pierre-Louis and Somini Sengupta, “The Meat Question, by the Numbers,” The New York Times, Jan. 25, 2018.
  4. World Resources Institute, “Tropical Forests and Climate Change: The Latest Science,” Working paper, 2018.
  5. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAOSTAT database, Pesticides Use.
  6. Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food (A/HRC/34/48), ReliefWeb.
  7. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) website, last accessed April 29, 2020.
  8. FAIRR, “Responding to Resistance: FAIRR’s Engagement with the Restaurant Sector,” 2017.
  9. The EU adopted regulations in May 2018 to ban the use of three of the most widely used neonicotinoids, a type of pesticide. In 2018, the United States government was ordered by a federal court to ban the extensively used pesticide Chlorpyrifos due to concern about its effects on the brain and nervous system in humans.
  10. Berenberg Research, “Ten Trends” report.
  11. Jennifer Chu, “New Design Cuts Costs, Energy Needs for Drip Irrigation, Bringing the Systems Within Reach for More Farmers,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writing in Phys.org, April 20, 2017.

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

ImpactAssets 50 Impact Investment Fund Mgr Showcase

ImpactAssets’ IA 50 Impact Investment Fund Manager Showcase

ImpactAssets logoImpactAssets recently released its ImpactAssets 50 2020 (IA 50), a publicly available, online database for impact investors, family offices, financial advisors and institutional investors that features a diversified listing of private capital fund managers that deliver social and environmental impact as well as financial returns.

To continue to shine a light on impact fund innovation, the IA 50 added a new Emerging Impact Manager category, which spotlights newer fund managers that demonstrate potential to create meaningful impact. The inaugural list includes 16 emerging fund managers across a variety of themes and geographies.

“With record applicants and assets under management, the IA 50 continues to reflect the rapid growth and interest in impact investing,” said Jed Emerson, ImpactAssets Senior Fellow, and IA 50 Review Committee Chair. “This year’s showcase includes eleven impact funds with more than $1 billion in assets under management. And to ensure we’re capturing the best future ideas, we’ve added emerging impact managers, who have the hunger, creativity and a willingness to explore alternatives that more seasoned fund managers may not.”

The IA 50 2020 saw a record number of private debt and equity fund manager applications. Managers who met the IA 50’s in-depth review criteria manage an estimated $39.8 billion in assets devoted to creating measurable, positive impact, up from $26.9 billion in 2019. Emerging impact managers direct nearly $400 million into cutting-edge strategies and high impact investments.

This Year’s Showcase Includes:

Investment Targets and UN Sustainable Development Goals: A total of 83% of managers targeted investment in people or places that are under threat or lack access to resources and opportunity, while 64% focused on underdeveloped markets where the market is relatively new, emerging, or subject to systemic challenges. Top UN SDG categories that fund managers focused on included 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth (68%); 1 – No Poverty (63%) and 10 – Reduced Inequalities (58%).

Diversity and Inclusion: While Wall Street continues to struggle with building diverse teams, 85% of IA 50 fund managers report that 25% or more of their investment professionals are women and/or from under-represented groups, while half have teams with 50% or more women and other under-represented groups. In addition, 75% of firms have 25% or more percent management teams that are women or from under-represented groups.

Impact and Financial Return: Impact fund managers remained focused on delivering both positive impact and investment performance, with 78% targeting market rates or above market rates of return. A total of 97% of impact fund managers delivered either in line or above their initial target returns.

Emerging Impact Managers

The newly-introduced IA 50 Emerging Impact Managers category represents fund managers that are in the early stage of their life cycle, and are often taking unique approaches to impact investing. Emerging Impact Managers may have less than $25MM in Assets Under Management and/or been operating for fewer than three years.

Emerging Impact Manager firms were selected according to a set of criteria developed to ensure a diverse set of firms with commitment to impact and representing a range of approaches, asset classes and impact areas. Particular consideration was given to firms that demonstrate a unique strategy, under-represented impact theme and diversity in leadership in view of the application pool.

• The emerging impact managers have an average AUM of $24.8MM. Of this year’s emerging impact managers, 75% were launched in the last three years.

• A quarter (25%) of managers list clean technology, alternative energy and climate change as their investment theme, while 19% are focused on small and medium business development, and 13% list racial equity as their investment theme

• A total of 69% of emerging impact managers report that 50% or more of their investment professionals are women and/or from under-represented groups and 75% report that 50% or more of their board members are women or from under-represented groups.

“As the impact investing field evolves, we can’t lose sight of innovation,” said IA 50 Review Committee Member, Julia W. Szw, CFA, of Julia W. Sze Consulting. “The emerging managers we selected have developed strategies in new sectors and geographies, are often led by women and people of color, and add new depth to the impact investment universe.”

In addition to Emerson and Sze, the IA 50 Review Committee is comprised of an expanded group of 14 impact investment experts and leaders, including Lauren Booker Allen, Vice President, Jordan Park Group Impact Advisory; Mark Berryman, Managing Director of Impact Investing, The CAPROCK Group; Ronald A. Homer, Chief Strategist, Impact Investing, RBC Global Asset Management (US) Inc.; Karl “Charly” Kleissner, Ph.D., Co-Founder of Toniic and KL Felicitas Foundation; Kathy Leonard, Senior Vice President, Investments and Senior Portfolio Manager, UBS; Malaika Maphalala, CPWA® Private Wealth Advisor, Natural Investments, LLC; Cynthia Muller, Director of Mission Investment, W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Stephanie Cohn Rupp, Managing Director and Partner, Tiedemann Wealth Management; Fran Seegull, Executive Director, U.S. Impact Investing Alliance, Ford Foundation; Liesel Pritzker Simmons and Ian Simmons, Co-Founders of Blue Haven Initiative; and Margret Trilli, President and CIO, ImpactAssets.

Sandra Osborne Kartt, CFA, Director, Investments, ImpactAssets and Jennifer Kenning, CEO and Co-Founder of Align Impact and IA 50 Senior Investment Advisor, led the ImpactAssets and Align Impact Investment teams in the application scoring and analysis process.

“The IA 50 is a proven and trusted way for investors to start exploring a subset of managers that are already working in this area and determining what interesting impact investments an investor can make today,” said Osborne Kartt. “We are excited by growing investor appetite as well as the diverse array of impact themes and strategies represented by this year’s list.”

 

About the ImpactAssets 50 The IA 50 is the first publicly available database that provides a gateway into the world of impact investing for investors and their financial advisors, offering an easy way to identify experienced impact investment firms and explore the landscape of potential investment options. The IA 50 is intended to illustrate the breadth of impact investment fund managers operating today, though it is not a comprehensive list. Firms have been selected to demonstrate a wide range of impact investing activities across geographies, sectors and asset classes.

The IA 50 is not an index or investable platform and does not constitute an offering or recommend specific products. It is not a replacement for due diligence. In order to be considered for the IA 50 2020, fund managers needed to have at least $25 million in assets under management, more than 3 years of experience as a firm with impact investing, documented social and/or environmental impact and be available for US investment. Additional details on the selection process are here.

The IA 50 Emerging Impact Manager list is intended to spotlight newer fund managers that may demonstrate future potential to create meaningful impact. Criteria such as minimum track record or minimum assets under management may not be applicable.

About ImpactAssets  ImpactAssets is a nonprofit financial services firm that increases the flow of capital into investments delivering financial, social and environmental returns. ImpactAssets’ $1.1 billion Donor Advised Fund and field-building initiatives enable philanthropists, other asset owners and their wealth advisors to advance social or environmental change through impact investment and philanthropy

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

Kate Finn - First Peoples Worldwide - Recalibrating Risk for Indigenous Women - GreenMoney Journal

Recalibrating Risk Assessment for Indigenous Women

By Kate Finn, First Peoples Worldwide

FirstPeoplesWorldwide-LogoRisk assessment is a ubiquitous tool to understand the impacts of investment. What past assessment tools have lacked, however, is a complete understanding of Indigenous women’s experiences of life in their communities. As we craft a new lens toward affecting a just transition for all, investors have an opportunity to recalibrate these tools to more aptly account for Indigenous women’s economic and social wellbeing. This necessarily includes a focus on the impacts of violence against Indigenous women in Indian Country.

In the spirit of recalibration, I’d like to start with a question. It’s about expectations. When you call 911, what happens next?

Likely, the call will be answered by a trained operator, who will then deploy first responders to your exact location in a matter of minutes. The expectation of a rapid and expert response is ingrained from an early age in many of our worldviews and the expectation itself provides a measure of safety and assurance.

How does this apply to investing? Because when you invest in a project in Indian Country, or in Indigenous communities worldwide, the women and children in those communities do not have that same experience, nor do they have the same expectation of a safe response.

The set of assumptions they carry are different. And, economic development and investment, as they have proceeded historically, only confirm their experience of violence and community instability.

Moving forward, investors have a critical role in either endorsing or dispelling this reality for Indigenous women and children.

We are the Voice, photo by Allie Fredericks

To start, Native women and children do not have an expectation of basic safety and security in many parts of Indian Country. Murder is the third-leading cause of death of American Indian and Alaska Native women and, in some places in the United States, the rates of violence on the reservations can be ten times higher than the national average. Studies show that four out of five Native women are affected by violence in their lifetime. This reality has resulted in an epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) throughout North America. In 2016, 5,712 cases of MMIWG were reported to the National Crime Information Center.

Part of the reason for the outsized rates of violence against Indigenous women is that tribes do not have the authority to hold non-Native perpetrators accountable for their crimes in Indian Country. Federal, state and tribal authorities have distinct responsibilities that shift depending on the case. So, when Native women call 911 or file a missing persons report, the first questions aren’t about safety but rather to determine whether there will be a response deployed at all.

For these reasons, criminal investigations in Indian Country are slow to start, if they begin, and they rarely result in prosecution. Of the thousands of MMIW cases logged in 2016, only 116 cases were registered in the US Department of Justice’s missing persons database. Violence against Indigenous women and children occurs with seeming impunity. Status quo, as it has been created through history and policy, is that no one is on the other line answering their call for help.

This experience is magnified by extractive investment and development practices. A Bureau of Justice Statistics study found that, as a result of the oil development in the Bakken region, serious violence crime increased by 30 percent in the oil-producing counties but decreased by four percent in the non-oil producing counties. Increase of violent victimization by offenders who were strangers to the victim increased by 53 percent in the region. In short, development often brings violence to the area that would not otherwise be in that place.

Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (Bakken/Dapl) near New Salem, North Dakota, photo by Tony Webster

The increase of violence and human trafficking attendant to development is particularly devastating because it contributes to the cumulative impact of violence in a community. It brings more violence, it brings more trauma, and, at the end of the day, Indigenous women are in their home left to sift through those impacts; often with little economic resources gained from the development inflicted on their community.

Thus, investors focused on implementing just transition must not only seek to do no harm by evading extractive industry development near Indigenous communities, but must seek out opportunities to do better by Indigenous women and children to harness their strengths in the short- and long-term.

The first step is to reframe consent as it is conceived in the sexual violence prevention field. The #MeToo movement has reinforced our shared social norm that individuals have the ultimate decisional authority over their body to give or to withhold consent as to any act in an intimate scenario. This definition at the individual level is exactly the same as consent at the collective level, where Indigenous Peoples have a collective right to give or to withhold consent as to the social, cultural, and economic issues that uniquely affect their wellbeing. This is Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). Believing and then acting in accordance with Indigenous Peoples’ experiences and expertise as to their social and environmental resources is exactly the way the transition into a new energy economy will be made just.

The second step is to back investments that are Indigenous-led or are driven by Indigenous leaders. Indigenous leaders are chosen representatives for their communities and are, therefore, in the best position to evaluate the ways that investment will affect the economic, social, and culture balance in those places. These leaders know what happens when someone calls 911. They know whether the local law enforcement infrastructure will be overwhelmed, or not. They know what giving or withholding consent means for their community. Investors that integrate that expertise into a social risk assessment are prioritizing long-term wellness over short-term profit.

This also means proactively investing in Indigenous and women-led opportunities. The platform set by Native Women Lead is a powerful example of the way that Native women are multiplying opportunities for economic empowerment and leadership for all Native women. Their analysis shows that Native American women are the critical drivers of Indigenous businesses that contribute $11 billion to the economy. Indigenous women have power and intention to shape culturally connected communities now and in the future. Invest accordingly.

Finally, investors must not assume that renewable energy development will be necessarily different than fossil fuel industry development. It is entirely possible that green energy investment will proceed without the FPIC of Indigenous leaders, or without consideration of the opportunities created or denied Indigenous women in the communities where the resources are located. In other words, renewable energy development could confirm expectations of violence. Again, recalibrating assessment to proactively consider Indigenous women’s needs and expertise will guard against repeating the extractive model of development.

These steps are difficult but turning away from these realities only begets more violence. The statistics demonstrate as much. Stepping into a new direction requires leadership to invite Indigenous participation into a process of risk assessment in a way that bridges worldviews to open new possibilities to community wellness. Investors can then leverage financial vehicles to accumulate benefits, not trauma, for generations.

 

Article by Kate R. Finn, a Staff Attorney for First Peoples Worldwide. She most recently served as the inaugural American Indian Law Program Fellow at the University of Colorado Law school where she worked directly with tribes and Native communities. Kate holds a J.D. and a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Colorado, and a B.A. from Princeton University.

Kate’s work encompasses building healthy Native communities through economic development initiatives and addressing violence against indigenous women. She has co-authored several articles on the intersection of resource development and violence against women in Native communities.

Prior to attending law school, Kate served as a Program Coordinator with the Denver Victim Services Network ensuring that victims of crime in the Denver metro area had access to a comprehensive network of services. She worked on the local level to connect service agencies and advocated at the federal level for adequate protections for victims of crime. Kate is an enrolled member of the Osage Nation.

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

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