Tag: Sustainable Business

Reaping the Promise of Regenerative Agriculture by Craig Wichner - Farmland LP

Reaping the Promise of Regenerative Agriculture

By Craig Wichner, Farmland LP

Craig Wichner founder of Farmland LP(above) Baby lambs and their moms are an essential part of managing pasture rotations on cropland. Rather than grow corn and soy and ship it to a feedlot somewhere (ideally far away where no one can smell it), we keep the sheep directly on the farmland. The grasses and clovers convert the sun’s energy into sugar in the sweet leaves, and the sheep and cattle directly convert it to weight gain, without a corn harvester nor a transportation truck. It’s just as efficient for weight gain and results in a much higher quality product (omega 3 oils vs inflammatory omega 6 oils in corn kernels). Oregon farm (A2R farm).

 

I spent my summers growing up on a farm, and it grounded me well for the career I pursued in science, technology and real estate investing. But in 2008, with the birth of my daughter, I realized we’re not leaving the planet in great shape for her generation. I began to look at farmland again, with fresh eyes.

I dug into the data on farmland, and what I found shocked me. We may intuitively know that organic is better than conventional agriculture, but the hard-core numbers show that our agriculture system is broken. More than half of U.S. crop acreage grows only two commodity crops—corn and soy. More than 90 percent of that corn and soy is genetically modified and reliant on, even designed for increasing the use of toxic pesticides. Only 0.6 percent of American-grown corn is consumed by humans, while over 130 times that amount (80 percent) goes into ethanol or animal feed. Meanwhile, maxing out farmland on one crop—”monocropping”—is extremely harmful to the environment, contributing to topsoil erosion, water pollution, and other negative outcomes.

That’s how Farmland LP began. We saw how we could combine regenerative agriculture with savvy real estate management practices commonly found in the property sector. And today we’re the largest organic farmland manager in the country, with the highest sustainability rating among all global firms in HIP Investor’s worldwide universe of 10,000 corporations.

Rotational Grazing-Farmland LP
Cattle in rotation-intensive grazing are put in a small area to encourage rapid and full feeding on the grasses, stimulating new root and leaf production – with the roots acting to pump carbon into the soil (roots are made from sugars and carbohydrates created by photosynthesis, so the mere act of growing roots into the soil is “pumping carbon into the soil”). The cattle rotate back onto fields every 30 days or so, just in time to prevent the grasses from going to seed, and thus keeping them in their rapid-grass-and-root-growing stage. Oh and the cattle gain weight quickly resulting in premium quality grass-fed and grass-finished beef. Oregon farm.

 

Regenerative farming involves nurturing the land through healthy soil biology, crop rotations, pollinator habitat, and other science-based practices focused on making that land more vital and productive to the roots. For us, this means we look at each 20 to 40 acre field on each farm and identify its ideal crops and develop a 10-year crop rotation plan to increase soil health, plant happiness and the best economics.

Blueberries with pollinator habitat wildflowers every seven rows
The Burns Farm in California plants pollinator habitat every seven rows in our organic blueberry fields. Having native pollinators is shown to increase blueberry yields by 15% (so it’s not just to look pretty).

 

For example, for 50+ years one 4,200-acre farm we purchased had grown simple commodity crops in rotation: alfalfa, industrial corn and processing tomatoes for tomato paste. We assessed each field and identified a wide array of crops that could be grown. One of the worst patches of ground was salty and had poor soil quality, but we determined that olive trees would be happy there and found an olive oil farmer to tenant the land, increasing our potential income from a few hundred an acre to a thousand an acre once the trees matured. Next to those fields was ground that had more acidic soil that was perfect for organic blueberries – so we established a relationship with the leading organic blueberry company and grew them ourselves, increasing revenues and profits 10 to 30-fold. The olives and blueberries grow adjacent to organic vegetables in rotation to keep the farmland constantly regenerating, alternating with pasture and livestock rotations. Drip irrigation, rather than the traditional flood irrigation, not only saves water, but also helps the plants with fertilization and minimizes weeds between rows.

Olive tree farm, very drought tolerant at Burns Farm-courtesy of Farmland LP
Olive trees originated near the border of Turkey and Syria, preferring poor quality soils over rich soils (where they produce poorer oil and are more prone to disease), and being highly drought tolerant. They can produce for a long time, with some tees dated to 3,500 years old. These trees are growing well on 200 acres of our lowest-quality soil…hopefully poor enough to get the highest quality olive oil for our farmer-partner and us. Burns Farm in California.

 

Our mission at Farmland LP is to demonstrate that regenerative agriculture is more profitable than commodity agriculture and maximizes returns for investors. In doing so, we propel the regenerative movement forward, attracting more and larger investors – especially institutional investors – and the impact widens. The U.S. has $2.7 trillion worth of farmland, the same economic value as all of the apartment buildings in the country, or all of the office buildings, and yet less than two percent of that farmland is institutionally owned.

Even the most environmentally conscious and impact-driven investor seeks financial returns. Decade after decade, farmland as an asset class has provided top-decile returns with low volatility. Over the past 85 years, farmland has delivered 11 percent annualized returns unlevered, with half of those returns coming from cash flow and half from appreciation. As an asset class, it has outperformed the stock market, private equity and venture capital, with low volatility and minimal leverage. It is expected to continue on this trend in the future.

The environmental benefits are equally impressive. In a USDA study, Farmland LP’s first fund—yes, the same one with the seemingly simple olives, blueberries, and rotating organic vegetables—demonstrated $21.4 million in net ecosystem service value benefits using regenerative farm management practices at scale. We also tallied a double bottom line return of 7.3 percent annual ecosystem gain on top of 9.9 percent annualized net economic gain for investors.

But the supply of this essential asset class is shrinking. While urban land has nearly tripled since 1949, U.S. cropland has declined by 18 percent to 392 million acres. The decline is happening as the population that cropland needs to feed has more than doubled to 330 million people. It takes roughly one acre to feed one person, and while historically the U.S. has been a food-exporting nation, we are approaching a deficit. We will have to use our farmland smarter to grow healthy food in ways that that are more profitable and more productive, while improving the health of the soil, water, and ecosystem we live in and rely on.

Meanwhile, the demand for organic continues to grow—and alongside it, the profit that’s possible from regenerative farmland. In our farm’s inaugural harvest, the blueberries yielded roughly 300,000 pounds of fresh fruit and $900,000 in revenue. Certified Organic, regenerative agriculture is the reason that our rents went from just $300 per acre for conventional farmland, to renting for $700 per acre for organic farmland while being fully leased.

What’s clear from our experience is that regenerative agriculture yields organic food people want, healthy soils our kids will need, and sequestered carbon too keep our climate recognizable…all while delivering strong, market leading financial returns too. That’s a formula for a strong future.

 

Article by Craig Wichner, Founder and Managing Partner of Farmland LP, one of the largest farmland managers and the largest organic farmland manager in the U.S. Founded 12 years ago, Farmland manages 15,000 acres of high-quality farmland in Northern California, Oregon and Washington valued at over $175 million.

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

IA 50 2021 free database logo

ImpactAssets’ IA 50 Impact Investment Fund Managers List

Industry’s first publicly available, searchable resource of impact investing fund managers sees record number of applicants and assets, reflecting the innovation and exponential growth that the IA 50 has helped to spotlight over the past decade.

 

ImpactAssets logo

ImpactAssets recently released the ImpactAssets 50 2021 (IA 50), a free online database for impact investors, family offices, financial advisors and institutional investors that features a diversified listing of private capital fund managers delivering social and environmental impact as well as financial returns.

This year marks the tenth edition of the IA 50, and despite a tumultuous year, total assets under management (AUM) among selected fund managers jumped to a record $228 billion in 2020, up from $181 billion in 2019. Thirteen managers selected in this year’s showcase reported assets exceeding $1 billion. By comparison, in the IA 50’s inaugural year, assets totaled just $6.8 billion.

The IA 50’s Emerging Impact Manager list, which debuted in 2020 and spotlights newer fund managers that demonstrate potential to create meaningful impact, also saw significant growth. The number of emerging fund managers across a variety of themes and geographies included in this year’s list grew to 41, up from 16 managers in 2020. Total AUM increased to $917 million, up from $397 million last year.

“When we launched the IA 50, we knew there was tremendous potential for impact investing, but realized many interested investors weren’t aware of the incredible range of impact fund managers available to them. As the field has evolved, we have also become aware of the large number of innovative fund managers not identified via our traditional networks,” said Jed Emerson, ImpactAssets Senior Fellow and IA 50 Review Committee Chair. “More recently we have expanded the lens of our process to capture more breadth and diversity of impact fund managers and in doing so have also chronicled the progress made by impact investors as well as the work that still needs to be done.”

This year’s list revealed several investing trends:

CDFIs Take Center Stage –  Seven Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) were selected in this year’s IA 50, reflecting the critical role CDFIs have played during the COVID-19 pandemic — from distributing PPP loans to supporting small businesses within rural, indigenous and low-income communities, and communities of color. These organizations represent both national and locally-focused community funders and manage a combined $18.7 billion in assets which are catalyzed for creating jobs, building affordable housing and financing community services in underserved low-income communities.

New Category –  In another reflection of the growth of impact investing, the IA 50 added a new Emeritus category this year highlighting 27 managers with a combined AUM of $8.8B. These fund managers have been on the IA 50 for at least five years; 10 managers have been on the list for all 10 years of the IA 50. The Emeritus list enables the IA 50 to continue to recognize the important contributions of these established managers, while making room for deserving new managers.

Investment Targets –  In 2020, the global pandemic and subsequent economic downturn affected communities worldwide, and IA 50 fund managers focused on some of those hardest hit.? A total of 63% of managers targeted investment in rural communities, while 54% specifically benefitted people of color and 48% were focused on advancing women-led businesses. Two-thirds (67%) of managers said their firm focused on underdeveloped markets where the market is relatively new, emerging or subject to systemic challenges. 

Diversity and Inclusion –  ?While fund management remains overwhelmingly non-diverse, IA 50 fund managers are leading with diversity. This is especially true of the IA 50 Emerging Impact Managers, where 51% reported more than half of their investment professionals were women and 54% said more than half of their investment professionals were people of color.

Impact and Financial Return   ?Impact fund managers remained focused on delivering both positive impact and investment performance. A total of 87% of IA 50 fund managers targeted market rate or above rates of return and 92% delivered either in line or above their target returns. Emerging Impact Managers reported similar results, with 63% targeting market rates of return or above, and 98% delivering either in line or above their initial target returns.

“The growth we’ve seen in the IA 50 over the past decade is reflective of the growth, maturity and increased diversity of the impact investing industry as a whole,” added Sandra Osborne Kartt, CFA, Director, Investments, ImpactAssets. “Along with the Emeritus and Emerging Impact Manager lists, this year’s IA 50 represents the vast array of impact themes and strategies available to impact investors today.”

In addition to Emerson and Osborne Kartt, the IA 50 Review Committee is comprised of an expanded group of impact investment experts and leaders, including Lauren Booker Allen, Senior Vice President, Impact Advisory, Jordan Park Group; 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; Malaika Maphalala, CPWA® Private Wealth Advisor, Natural Investments, LLC; Cynthia Muller, Director of Mission Investment, W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Rehana Nathoo, Founder & CEO, Spectrum Impact; Stephanie Cohn Rupp, CEO and Partner, Veris Wealth Partners; Fran Seegull, Executive Director, U.S. Impact Investing Alliance, Ford Foundation; Liesel Pritzker Simmons, Co-Founder and Principal of Blue Haven Initiative; Julia Sze, CFA, Impact Investor, Julia W. Sze Consulting and Margret Trilli, President and CIO, ImpactAssets.

Osborne Kartt 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.

 

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 2021, fund managers needed to have at least $25 million in assets under management, more than three 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 available 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.

 The IA 50 Emeritus Impact Manager list illuminates impact fund managers who have achieved consistent recognition on the IA 50. 

About ImpactAssets

ImpactAssets is the leading impact investing partner for individuals, families and philanthropists tackling the world’s greatest challenges by investing in the world’s brightest ideas. We make it easy for our clients to “discover, connect and invest” in game-changing entrepreneurs and funds. Founded in 2010, ImpactAssets increases flows of money to impact investing with our 100% impact investment platform and field-building initiatives, including the IA 50 database of private debt and equity impact fund managers.  

The ImpactAssets Donor Advised Fund is an innovative vehicle 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. The Fund currently has more than $1.4 billion in assets in 1,400 donor advised funds, working with 350 wealth advisors across 60 financial services firms.

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Claire Smith-Beyond Investing platform

Beyond Investing–World’s First Vegan Investment Platform

Summary

Beyond Investing logoClaire Smith (pictured above), the founder of the Beyond Investing platform, is a financial markets veteran of 35 years, whose career takes in JP Morgan Chase, UBS, Albourne Partners as well as running her own consulting business for 5 years. The Beyond investment management companies, formed in 2017, comprise Beyond Advisors, parent of Beyond Investing LLC, the advisor to the world’s first cruelty-free and environmentally friendly ETF and Beyond Impact Advisors, a specialist in investing in plant-based and cruelty-free start-ups and animal-replacing foodtech and biotech. In addition, Claire has co-founded Beyond Animal, a tech platform with the aim of accelerating the growth of the vegan economy, through the provision of a funding portal for vegan businesses which benefits from a FINMA No Action letter and FCA regulatory cover.

Background

Claire took a Masters in Chemical Engineering and Business Management at Imperial College London but moved into finance in 1985, since working in chemicals and oil refining, the primary jobs available to chemical engineers at the time, were unappealing given her concern for animals and the environment. Initially trained as a credit analyst at Chase Manhattan Bank, Claire switched into options dealing in London’s embryonic options markets, developed warrants trading and issuance, and ultimately ran the London convertible sales desk in 1995, structuring multiple bespoke derivatives transactions before leaving UBS in 1998.

After a period of time as a freelance journalist, during which she published over 125 articles in the financial press, and consultant on fund research to London funds of funds, Claire joined Albourne Partners in 2004, assuming responsibility of quantitative equity strategies, taking in systematic quantitative equity, convertible arbitrage and volatility and hedging strategies. She was admitted to the partner program in 2007 and became a shareholder of Albourne in 2010.

In her philanthropic work, Claire founded 100 Women in Finance in Geneva in 2007 and oversaw its growth in Switzerland through till 2014, as a member of the London Board, organizing over 100 events, including seven Galas which raised well over $1 million for charity. Claire served on the Board of AVVEC, a Geneva-based charity that provides support to victims of domestic violence. She is the President of Beyond Cruelty Foundation, formed in 2018 to campaign for zero animal exploitation and to fund safe havens for animals. She co-founded a group to campaign against testing of GMO canola seeds in the English countryside in 1999.

Mission

Claire is motivated to use her skills in the financial arena to invest for a kinder, cleaner, healthier world. Being vegetarian/vegan since the age of 15, her primary area of focus is the avoidance of animal exploitation, with associated benefits for human health and the environment, in particular climate change and preservation of biodiversity, a global problem. The investment thesis of the platform is to deprive companies that cause harm to animals and the environment of investment and to deploy capital towards those companies who are engaged in plant-based or animal-replacing products and services.

Change in society comes from an alignment of three levers, Consumers, Citizens and Capital. Consumers have a role to play in choosing sustainable and cruelty-free products, provided these are made available on the market. Citizens can campaign for laws, regulations, subsidies and fiscal policies to be amended in favor of protecting animals and the environment. Capital is a vital piece of the puzzle, since what gets financed gets done, and conversely, the withdrawal of financing constrains damaging companies. Claire aims to direct global Capital flows in such a way that support the efforts of Consumers and Citizens and enable the growth of companies providing solutions and the decline of companies whose practices harm animals and destroy biodiversity.

Around the world there is a clear trend for Capital to become more conscious and multiple investing structures need to be set up. Vegans have till now had nowhere to put their money given the near absence of fund products that address their concerns. Equally, vegan founders have been starved of capital to fund and grow their businesses. It is these needs that Claire seeks to address through her Beyond initiatives.

The Platform

As opposed to focusing in one narrow area of financial markets, the Beyond Investing platform seeks to provoke capital flows across the spectrum of capital markets and funding.

Within the large cap space, Beyond Investing designs cruelty-free and climate-friendly investing programs in public equity markets and is the architect of the US Vegan Climate Index, a stock index which screens out all animal exploitation and fossil fuel and other causes of harm to humans and the environment, from a US market benchmark. The first instrument on this Index was listed on the NYSE as the US Vegan Climate ETF (ticker: VEGN) in September 2019. With around 280 stocks, and largely market cap-weighted, this product provides a solution for retail and institutional investors who wish to embed cruelty-fee and environmentally friendly principles in their core US large cap allocation.

The US Vegan Climate Index is the first of a range of stock and bond indexes that enshrine the same set of policies, in Europe, Asia, emerging markets, and globally.

Whereas in current stock markets, there are few purely vegan and cruelty-free companies, there are several impending IPOs in the space, due to their rapid growth. To exploit this growing market sector, Beyond Investing has created a small to midcap growth strategy, called the Vegan World strategy, by sifting through global listed equity markets for companies whose products already adhere to vegan principles and could benefit from increasing demand for cruelty-free products. This portfolio of 30-60 stocks provides a thematic play on the vegan theme, spread across the entire food and materials supply chain.

At the bottom end of the scale, Beyond Impact’s vegan venture capital offering is proactively seeking out high potential start-ups and early stage growth companies whose products are superior, scalable and sustainable and thus have the potential to save many animals lives, as well as targeting exceptional investment returns. Since 2017, the portfolio has made investments in 23 companies segmented across themes of cultivated and plant-based replacements to products derived from animals, healthy vegan convenience foods, animal testing alternatives and cruelty-free lifestyle products.

Lastly, Beyond Animal seeks to provide funding solutions through drawing in a wider audience of investors. Beyond Animal will leverage the commitment of the vegan community, as well as the broader support of sustainable and impact investors globally, to provide access to funding to companies across all sectors and geographies, provided that their products accelerate the transition to a kinder, cleaner, healthier world.

Important Information Regarding VEGN

It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. Shares of any ETF are bought and sold at market price (not NAV), may trade at a discount or premium to NAV and are not individually redeemed from the Fund. Brokerage commissions will reduce returns. Investments in mid-cap securities involve additional risk such as limited liquidity and greater volatility. The index methodology may cause the Fund to underperform the broader equity market or other funds which do not utilize such criteria. The Fund’s return may not match or achieve a high degree of correlation with the return of the underlying Index. To the extent the Fund utilizes a representative sampling approach, it may experience tracking error to a greater extent than if the Fund had sought to replicate the Index. The fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses must be considered carefully before investing. The prospectus contains this and other important information about the investment company, and it may be obtained by calling 1-800-617-0004 or visiting www.veganetf.com . Read it carefully before investing. Beyond Investing LLC is the adviser to the US Vegan Climate ETF. VEGN is distributed by Quasar Distributors, LLC.

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Green Century Funds celebrates 30th Anniversary-GreenMoney

Green Century Funds Celebrates their 30th Anniversary

Green Century is pleased to commemorate its 30th anniversary in 2021.

“When Green Century was launched in 1991, aligning your investments with your values was no easy feat. Thankfully, a group of nonprofit leaders in The Public Interest Network recognized the need and desire for environmentally-responsible investing,” said Jim Starr, chair of the Board of Trustees of the Green Century Funds. “Thirty years later, Green Century’s unique and authentic approach to sustainable investing is more popular than ever.”

The assets under management (AUM) of the Green Century Funds have grown more than 60% in just two years.

Green Century has celebrated a number of milestones in its three decades of operation:

  • In 1991, Green Century launched its Equity Fund, one of the earliest environmentally-screened environmental, social, and governance (ESG) mutual funds in the U.S.
  • In 1992, with the launch of the Balanced Fund, Green Century became the first family of environmentally-screened ESG mutual funds in the U.S.
  • In 2009, the Green Century Balanced Fund became the first mutual fund in the U.S. to calculate its carbon footprint.
  • In 2014, having long previously divested from coal and large oil and gas corporations, Green Century jettisoned the last remnants of any fossil fuel holdings and became the first family of fossil fuel free, responsible, and diversified mutual funds in the U.S.
  • In 2016, Green Century launched its MSCI International Index Fund, the first fossil fuel free, diversified, and responsible international index fund available to investors in the U.S.
  • In 2018, Green Century was the first financial institution in the U.S. to be recognized by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, as a Hall of Fame financial institution.

“Green Century owes its success to the vision and foresight of the nonprofit leaders who launched Green Century, especially Mindy Lubber, who served as Green Century’s first president and Doug Phelps, who was Green Century’s primary architect and remains an invaluable member of our board of trustees,” said Green Century President Leslie Samuelrich. “We also are grateful to all of the other members of the Board of Trustees who have volunteered their time over the years and all of Green Century’s employees, past and present, whose tireless work helped make this milestone a reality. Now, onto the next 30 years of environmental impact.”

 

About Green Century Capital Management

Green Century Capital Management, Inc. (Green Century) is the investment advisor to the Green Century Funds (The Funds). The Green Century Funds are the first family of fossil fuel free, responsible, and diversified mutual funds in the United States. Green Century Capital Management hosts an award-winning and in-house shareholder advocacy program and is the only mutual fund company in the U.S. wholly owned by environmental and public health nonprofit organizations.

You should carefully consider the Fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses before investing. To obtain a Prospectus that contains this and other information about the Funds please click here, email info@greencentury.com , or call 1-800-934-7336. Please read the Prospectus carefully before investing.

Stocks will fluctuate in response to factors that may affect a single company, industry, sector, country, region or the market as a whole and may perform worse than the market. Foreign securities are subject to additional risks such as currency fluctuations, regional economic and political conditions, differences in accounting methods, and other unique risks compared to investing in securities of U.S. issuers. Bonds are subject to a variety of risks including interest rate, credit, and inflation risk. A sustainable investment strategy which incorporates environmental, social and governance criteria may result in lower or higher returns than an investment strategy that does not include such criteria.

This information has been prepared from sources believed reliable. The views expressed are as the date of this writing and are those of the Advisor to the Funds.

The Green Century Funds are distributed by UMB Distribution Services, LLC. 235 W Galena Street, Milwaukee, WI 53212. 3/21

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Forbes-Sallie Krawcheck Leads Ellevest to $1 Billion AUM

Forbes: Sallie Krawcheck Leads Ellevest to $1 Billion AUM

Forbes logoSallie Krawcheck has not forgotten what the skeptics said about Ellevest, her women’s-focused investment platform, before the service even launched. “It was like, ‘This is gonna fail; other people have tried and failed,’” she recalls. “And also, ‘What is for women anyway? That’s sort of dumb!’”

Five and a half years later, Krawcheck can finally mock these slights. She lets out a whoop and raises her hands above her head as she tells Forbes, exclusively and in a video chat, about the milestone Ellevest just hit: $1 billion in assets under management.

“It actually has been compounding, as you sort of expect assets under management to do, where the first $10 million took forever, the second $10 million takes less, and so on,” Krawcheck, who is also Ellevest’s CEO, says. She acknowledges that the service more than doubled its assets under management (AUM) in 2020 but says this was not entirely the result of a rebounding market boosting the value of users’ portfolios—instead, it came from clients consistently shuffling money into their Ellevest accounts.

“What I’m particularly proud of is that it happened during a pandemic. And very importantly, that at a time when you would think women would be more pulled back, we actually had net positive inflows every single week of the year,” she says. Money wasn’t necessarily flooding in—and in fact, Ellevest’s own data shows that as the so-called she-cession has taken hold, average monthly deposits have decreased from $740 to $474—but it was still coming in, not going out. This is especially notable, given how the rest of Wall Street was performing last year: According to Morningstar, U.S. equity funds posted $241 billion in outflows in 2020, which is more than the four next-worst years combined (2015, 2011, 2009 and 2020).

Ellevest has 123,000 clients with an average account size of $8,000. While the typical user is a woman in her 30s who is also saving money in a 401(k) at work, Krawcheck notes that Ellevest has investors ranging from 18 to 106 years old. A small portion of the business also focuses on higher-net-worth clients; a “triple digit” number of accounts hold $1 million or more, which is a demographic Krawcheck did not originally intend to address with Ellevest, but the events of recent years changed her mind.

Read Maggie McGrath’s full article here

 

Maggie McGrath is an associate editor at Forbes and the editor of ForbesWomen, the Forbes vertical dedicated to covering all angles of female entrepreneurship.  

[Note to Reader: Sallie Krawcheck wrote a compelling article, Why Investing in Women is Crucial Right Now for GreenMoney last year.]

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Barron’s: The 100 Women Making their Mark in the World of Finance

Barrons LogoWomen have made enormous strides in the past year in the public sector. America elected its first female vice president, Kamala Harris, in November. Janet Yellen now serves as the nation’s first female secretary of the Treasury, and the 117th U.S. Congress includes a record 143 women, or 27% of its total membership.

Women are also achieving greater prominence and power in the private sector, and particularly in the world of finance, where Citigroup (ticker: C) CEO Jane Fraser just became the first woman to lead a major U.S. money-center bank. Thasunda Brown Duckett, a JPMorgan Chase (JPM) executive, was recently named CEO of TIAA, the $1.3 trillion-in-assets financial-services firm. And Stacey Cunningham heads the New York Stock Exchange, while Adena Friedman is president and CEO of Nasdaq (NDAQ), which owns the other major U.S. stock exchange.

Fraser, Duckett, Cunningham, Friedman, and Yellen are just a few of the highly accomplished, path-breaking women named to Barron’s second annual list of the 100 Most Influential Women in U.S. Finance. And these 100 honorees—a group that includes banking and brokerage executives, money managers and research analysts, financial-company CEOs, public servants, and policy makers—are but a fraction of the army of women whose contributions are strengthening the financial-services industry and the U.S. financial system, as both prepare for the challenges ahead.

Those challenges loom especially large in the midst of a pandemic, and at a time when disruptive technologies are upending every industry, not to mention the very concept of money.

Barron’s list isn’t a ranking; it’s presented alphabetically. We will publish profiles of all 100 women, unveiling 10 new profiles alphabetically each week.

Click here to read profiles of The 100 Most Influential Women in U.S. Finance.

To develop Barron’s 100 Most Influential Women list, we solicited nominations from readers, finance-industry insiders, and Barron’s writers and editors, who keep tabs not only on Wall Street’s movers and shakers, but also on lower-profile executives with outsize influence and leadership potential. Even Bono, the Irish singer and activist, weighed in this year, nominating Bank of America (BAC) Vice Chairman Anne Finucane in a personal letter extolling “her longtime pursuit of conscious capitalism and the role business can play in addressing the toughest challenges of our time.”

For this, and many other reasons, Finucane, too, earned a spot on our 2021 list.

As was the case last year, we received hundreds of nominations—and selecting 100 honorees from a pool of such impressive candidates was no easier the second time around. The final list was determined by a panel of Barron’s journalists.

The women on our list are all based in the U.S. They were chosen on the basis of their achievements, leadership, and influence within their respective organizations, and their capacity to shape their business or the industry in the future.

This year’s roster has 28 new names, find out who they are and much more in Leslie P. Norton’s extensive article in Barron’s.

 

Leslie P. Norton is a senior writer with Barron’s, and has also served as mutual funds editor, Asia editor, and a columnist. Prior to joining Barron’s in 1993, she worked for an investment manager and helped launch the London bureau of Bloomberg News.

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Financial Feminism by Jessica Robinson-GreenMoney

Financial Feminism: A Woman’s Guide to Investing for a Sustainable Future

Jessica Robinson and book, Financial FeminismFor those of us that have been in the sustainable investment space for some time, it is reassuring to finally be getting airtime. The mainstreaming of sustainable investing is what we have been aiming for and so I embrace the progress we are making with open arms. That said, we still have many miles to travel – particularly when it comes to fully activating retail investors. This has always been my focus with Moxie Future – a platform and community for engaging with women, in particular, on sustainable investing – and now my new book, Financial Feminism: A Woman’s Guide to Investing for a Sustainable Future.

Why Focus on Women?

Unsurprisingly I get this question a lot! For many years I was struck by the number of professional women who would approach me after I spoke at a conference or would reach out to me on LinkedIn – the commonality being they wanted to learn more about sustainable investing and what they could do to take action through their personal investments. This then led me to try to understand more about women and sustainable investing.

At the time there was limited research but over the last few years we have plenty of evidence that women are highly motivated to think about impact and non-financial returns in their investment and financial decisions. Moxie Future has undertaken its own research – across different countries – and the findings are loud and clear. Women really do care about where their money is going.

At the same time, we also know that many women tend to feel disengaged with the financial industry, often patronized by financial advisors and excluded from the marketing and design of investment products. This needs to change – particularly as the proportion of private wealth held by women grows rapidly.

Financial Feminism–More Than Earning and Investing on a Par with Men

Of course, as with all things related to feminism, we are talking about equality – in this case, obviously the belief in the financial equality of women. The concept is rapidly gathering momentum across the world, as we wake up to the ongoing challenges that many women continue to face when it comes to money and the very apparent lack of progress we are making.

However, and this is the crux of my book, I believe that financial feminism is not just about women earning and investing on a par with men. Financial feminism represents the opportunity for women to use their financial power to build the kind of world that they want to live in. Financial feminism gives women a voice to determine how the world should change for the better.

I find the concept of financial feminism deeply inspiring – on both a personal and a professional level. I genuinely believe we can take powerful strides forward by recognizing the importance of what financial feminism is demanding, but also the solutions needed to address these demands. Through my book, and Moxie Future, I am trying to take this message mainstream.

What Motivated Me to Write the Book?

Writing the book was a true labor of love. I am continually frustrated by the limited progress we are making. I urgently want to do more and, in taking action, I want to connect with women across the world on the possibilities of what they can do with their money.

Through the chapters of the book, I introduce women to the concept of sustainable investing, its history and how it sits across different asset classes. I leverage the Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for developing our priorities and provide a detailed roadmap on how to move forward. I explore how sustainable investing can be done in practice but also the challenges we need to overcome, all the way referencing examples, case studies and existing products and resources. Finally, I shine a spotlight on key issues including gender-lens investing, the role of financial services and how technology is shifting the landscape.

By the end of the book, I have a vision that the reader will feel truly empowered to take the next step. I want her to feel confident that she could have a conversation about sustainable investing – with friends, partners, parents. I also want to encourage her to head to her bank or meeting with her financial advisor and confidently express what matters in terms of her investment decisions and not be patronized or fed misinformation.

And then I want to encourage these women to help spread the word, have profound conversations about the future of money and what it can mean for us. This ‘call to action’ is really important to me because this is when talk becomes a movement.

Next Steps…

Excitingly, the book hit the ‘virtual’ shelves last month. I wrote it very much as an accessible and easy-read, aimed at women who may have limited experience in investing or are struggling at knowing where to start. It is global in scope and application, so I truly hope it will reach all corners of the world.

The feedback has been incredibly positive so far – I often receive comments such as ‘this is the book I have been waiting for’ and ‘I have already bought copies for my sister / best friend’. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing I am sowing seeds and hopefully inspiring women to dive in

Moxie Future, and the book, are passion projects – a unusual hobby, if you like! I love writing, I love communicating – and most importantly, I love the enthusiasm and excitement that I see when I talk about these issues with women.

 

Article by Jessica Robinson, founder and Managing Director of Moxie Future and author of Financial Feminism – A Woman’s Guide to Investing for a Sustainable Future.

About the book – In this practical and accessible guide, sustainable investment expert Jessica Robinson shows how, through financial feminism, women can use their financial power to invest in a sustainable future and build the kind of world they want to live in. With jargon-free explanations and real-world examples, she demystifies the financial services industry, breaks down just what sustainable investing is and demonstrates the?societal and environmental impact of the investment.

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

Krystal Williams: Parsing the Argument for Equity in Climate Action

By David Garrison, Climate & Capital Media

Credit: Illustration by Melanie Loon

CCM Featured news for GreenMoney readersKrystal Williams is an impassioned advocate on issues of energy, equity and social justice. Her work with public utilities and renewable energy developers as an energy attorney at Bernstein Shur and Pierce Atwood has deeply influenced her view of both the climate economy and systemic inequities. A member of the Maine Bar Association. Williams has launched the Providentia Group, a law and business advisory firm “focused on creating economic belonging for traditionally underrepresented groups.”

 

Recently she spoke with David Garrison, co-founder of Climate & Capital Media, where he guides the business, strategy, and brand as publisher.

DG:   What’s the burning opportunity in climate change?

KW:   That’s a big question with at least two responses. If you subscribe to the idea that for-profit companies exist to maximize shareholder value, then this is about finding opportunities to maximize shareholder value to make the most money in the climate space.

But you can also look at this as identifying opportunities to move the nation forward and create climate-resilient infrastructure, irrespective of shareholder impact.

I’m separating those out, because in the public utility space where I operate as a lawyer, there’s a lot of conversation around that second one — system resilience — and how quickly we can recover after a major climate event. Particularly for power systems (think electric public utilities), we’re concerned about what happens when, for example, a transmission line goes down.

And there’s absolutely an opportunity to invest in system resilience. Developers, for example, if they’re building along a coastline, can create underground parking spaces that are high enough that that’s the area that’s flooded instead of the offices.

Another example: For public utilities, the opportunity is in electrical infrastructure. When I was growing up, you’d buy a string of Christmas lights, and if one light went out, the whole string was worthless. It’s the same basic idea here, but on a larger scale: How do we protect the system from itself?

Those are two specific ways we can be proactive in how we think about existing and new infrastructure, but these are both responding to common sorts of problems across the globe.

But here’s the issue: If you’re only answering the first question (where is there an opportunity to maximize shareholder value), the range of activity gets a lot smaller. That’s because there is not an ability yet to fully recover the cost of building these structures.  

DG:   Why not?

KW:   I hate to make a statement like this, but there’s still enough of a debate around the reality and severity of climate change that it’s difficult to price a response into the infrastructure that private developers build — and then fully recoup that investment.

You know, I live in the world of clean energy, and Maine has passed legislation to promote distributed generation. (It’s really focused on solar panels and commercial on-grid battery installations.) Getting to where we are now required that legislation, but we’re seeing solar developers flooding into Maine.

What I’ve found in representing parties on both sides is that, for commercial owners who have solar installed behind the meter (meaning they’re getting a direct infusion from solar installed somewhere on their property), they’re still paying a slight premium — and they’re willing to — with the understanding that it’s moving the technology forward and bringing the overall price down.

Now, there’s a cap on the premium they’re willing to accept. But what I’ve seen in the commercial market with net-energy billing (that’s basically when a solo developer builds a system, sells it to a large public utility, and the customer gets credits applied to their account) is that that’s a lucrative opportunity.

It’s lucrative because once the structure is built, solar energy is largely free. So, the discussion is really about the installation and supply costs of the materials. In this model, the customer benefits from the lower cost of energy and the developer benefits because they have their debt serviced by selling energy to the utilities — they take the renewable energy credits and sell them into the market. In places like Massachusetts and Connecticut, where there’s a pretty robust market, they can make a nice return.

DG:   If we’re going to accelerate the climate economy in a sustained and systemic way, it’s unlikely it’ll be done on the back of “musts” or altruism. It’s much more likely to be done on the back of a shift in what we believe is worth investing in. Where do you see that positive opportunity?

KW:   The positive story right now, particularly for businesses that have steady energy demand or who can map out their energy demand with some degree of specificity, is in having a solar system installed on your property — or even purchased virtually.

A key point to make there is that, especially as businesses become more data-driven, costs can be quite high, and you move down the cost curve with solar panel systems. You also begin to enable large-scale battery installations, which is a bottleneck to seeing solar panels widely implemented and to shifting residential consumption.

Maine has a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050. And the reality is that we won’t get there solely by the large companies shifting to renewable energy.

We’ll get there by building infrastructure — for things like electric vehicles — and that requires not only charging stations along the highway but also that more individuals own electric vehicles and install batteries in their homes to charge them.

 

This excerpt is from a longer interview published by Capital & Climate Media.

The Climate Leadership Interviews are an ongoing series of in-depth discussions with a wide range of leaders in the climate economy, as well as organizations and markets — at the intersection of climate and capital.

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

Finance as a Force for Nature by Vicki Benjamin of Karner Blue Capital

Finance as a Force for Nature–A Pioneering Approach to Investing

By Vicki Benjamin, Karner Blue Capital

Karner Blue Capital logoFinance has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. My prior professional experiences made this crystal clear, while simultaneously providing me invaluable opportunities to learn about the fundamental principles of investment management. Those experiences have led me to appreciate the myriad of intellectual and social benefits that can be derived from diversity of opinion and perspective. Seeking a more inclusive approach to investment management that incorporates inputs from a wide array of stakeholders, I made the decision in 2015 to alter my career trajectory by entering the realm of ESG investing as the CFO of Calvert Investments.

Socially responsible investing (SRI) has sought to broaden and expand upon traditional investment principles by incorporating considerations related to a variety of social and environmental issues. My experience at Calvert prompted me to push the boundaries of SRI by conceptualizing investment management in a new and innovative way. Fueled by my love of wildlife and the outdoors, I co-founded Karner Blue Capital on the belief that finance can be more than just a way to earn competitive returns for investors – it can be a true force for nature if we approach investing in a fundamentally different way.

A Changing World View

Karner Blue Capital’s focus on the preservation of biodiversity as an investment theme allows investors to align their investments with their values – an approach to investing that often has a special appeal for women. It inherently recognizes that we cannot continue to take from nature and not give anything back. It also recognizes that the future of our planet will require a more nurturing approach. Thankfully, this view is taking hold among most segments of the population – especially female and millennial investors.

Last month, a report released by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta reached the conclusion that traditional economic thinking is leading us down a path of ruin and that we must adopt a new paradigm that he refers to as “inclusive wealth,” which would recognize the economic value of the planet’s natural capital. Similarly, a recent study by the World Economic Forum estimated that capital expenditures totaling as much as $2.7 trillion annually over the next decade will be needed in three socio-economic industries with material biodiversity impacts to ensure the regeneration and sustainability of nature for the future. Together with climate change, these three economic systems – food, land and ocean use; infrastructure and building; and energy and extractives – are responsible for the endangerment of approximately 79 percent of threatened species (25 percent of all species are currently under threat of extinction).

Although seemingly daunting in scope and size, these industrial metamorphoses represent a significant opportunity, especially for visionary female investors and business leaders who recognize the societal threat of biodiversity loss, and who are willing to act swiftly to build a more sustainable natural infrastructure and global economy. To that end, in 2020, I was proud to have Karner Blue Capital co-launch the Finance for Biodiversity Pledge as one of 26 founding signatories. The Pledge is a consortium of insurers, asset managers and lending institutions united in their commitment to biodiversity. Signatories of the Pledge recognize the need for transformative change in business practices and have agreed to collaborate and share knowledge with others, engage with companies, assess impacts, set targets and report publicly to encourage and facilitate change in the private sector.

The Karner Blue Way

It hasn’t always been easy to introduce the Karner Blue Capital methodology in the world of finance as it stands in contrast to the expectations of many industry practitioners.

Rather than focusing first on corporate profitability, Karner Blue Capital creates its investable universe by prioritizing the extent to which companies integrate biodiversity considerations into their business operations and supply chains.

Our pioneering approach is intentionally designed to capture as much corporate biodiversity performance information as possible – without allowing that analysis to be influenced by profit or expected financial performance – in order to ensure that our peer-relative biodiversity assessments are comprehensive. It is then, only after we have established our investable universe, that we apply a Quality at a Reasonable Price investment analysis to select companies for inclusion in our strategies. By emphasizing the primacy of biodiversity over traditional financial analysis, our investment strategies are laser focused on identifying and investing in solutions that halt biodiversity loss.

Karner Blue Capital’s strategies are grounded in my belief that innovative companies focused on problem-solving and best practices relating to biodiversity preservation, environmental protection, climate change mitigation, and animal welfare can better position their businesses for growth and success in today’s marketplace. To bring that belief to fruition, we have designed a proprietary research platform to help identify those companies leading their industries in biodiversity performance while avoiding companies that manufacture or distribute socially detrimental products including fur, firearms, tobacco, alcohol, and coal.

To further enhance Karner Blue Capital’s potential for impact, we focus intensely on identifying companies that leverage technological and innovative solutions designed to monitor and measure the positive and negative impacts of supply chains on ecosystems all over the world. Our efforts are intended to resonate especially with women and to present them with an opportunity to participate in a transformative movement while investing in our collective future.

Investing in the Future

In the end, I hope this growing movement to deploy economic tools to preserve biodiversity continues to thrive, not only for the sake of our economies, but also for future generations whose health and safety directly depend upon the existence of a robust and biodiverse planet. The time is now for women across the globe to be the agents of change that the world needs them to be. With one million animal and plant species now threatened by extinction – the most in human history – and greenhouse gas emissions doubling since 1980, women have a tremendous opportunity to use finance as a force for nature.

 

Article by Vicki Benjamin, CEO of Karner Blue Capital. Vicki is a co-founder of the Adviser and has been its Chief Executive Officer since it commenced operations as an investment adviser in 2018. Vicki maintains a 57 percent ownership stake in KBC. Ms. Benjamin was a partner at KPMG from September 2005 until February 2015, when she joined Calvert Investments, Inc. as its Chief Financial Officer. She served as the President of Calvert Investments, Inc. from January 2017 through June 2020. She received a B.A. from the University of New Hampshire and an M.B.A. from Bentley University McCallum Graduate School of Business. 

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

Women of Color-The Investment of this Century by Catherine Berman-CNote

Women of Color–The Investment of this Century

By Catherine Berman, CNote

CNote logoMany of us have come to realize that racial equity requires much more than intentional conversations and thoughtful grants. These are important efforts and should not be discounted, but they are not panaceas. There is a moral imperative to address the disparities experienced by Black and Brown men and especially women in the US with action and systems change.

I want to suggest a new tool for your toolkit – and one that does not start from the place of “helping them.” It starts from a place of providing equitable access to the resources women of color need to create economic opportunity for themselves and their communities from within. It starts from “what the hell were we thinking all these years?”

You see, women of color are the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs in the country. They create, they deliver, they inspire, and they are the heartbeat and cultural pulse of towns and communities around the nation. Women of color, and Black women in particular, are at the core of our economy with a high rate of labor market participation throughout their lives, as small business owners, and frequently as the breadwinner in their homes. And yet when we speak about racial justice, equity and economic mobility – why is the spotlight on Black women consistently removed or muffled?

This is not only bad because it neglects a key lever that can transform the financial future for communities, but it also leaves out what I believe is a critical data point: Women of color are the investment opportunity of the century.

Ebony Harris of In Good Hands Learning Center received funding from CNote partner CDFI
Ebony Harris received funding from a CNote partner CDFI. She has served families in Jackson, TN throughout the pandemic, so essential workers in her community could continue to work.

Let’s start with some facts:

1)  An investment in Black women entrepreneurs is an investment in our economic potential as a country.

American Express research from 2019 found that if revenues generated by minority women-owned firms matched those generated by all women-owned businesses, they would add four million new jobs and $1.2 trillion in revenue to the US economy.

2)  An investment in Black women entrepreneurs represents a critical catalyst to change the economic reality of Black women, their families, and the economy as a whole.

According to Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap, Black women entrepreneurs have a median net worth 10 times greater than that of their nonbusiness-owning peers. As of 2019, women of color account for 50% of all women owned businesses.

3)  Women of color have been found no less risky of an investment, and often less risky, than investing in their white male peers.

A study CNote conducted with the Bay Area small business accelerator, ICA, found that the default rate among minority females is not statistically different from that of white females or white males, and is lower than minority males.

4)  Black women are consistently underestimated and underfunded.

According to the Kauffman Foundation, new Black-owned businesses start with almost three times less in terms of overall capital compared with new white-owned businesses, and Black entrepreneurs’ loan requests are three times less likely to be approved than those of white entrepreneurs.

We have a massive problem here.

Black women are one of the most important pieces of the puzzle when it comes to addressing systemic poverty and economic inequality. They also represent tremendous GDP potential for our country – in 2017 McKinsey reported that if Black-owned businesses could reach financial parity with their white counterparts in terms of revenue, it could represent an additional $190 billion in additional annual GDP – while also starting businesses on the path to economic freedom at historically high rates. And yet, we do not call them out and more importantly invest in them at near the frequency and depth that can truly catch up to their potential and our potential economic and societal growth.

If you believe Black women entrepreneurs represent a strong investment opportunity, how does one understand, underwrite and invest in that massive opportunity? How can an individual possibly get involved beyond philanthropically contributing to economic justice, but invest in a new system that highlights and celebrates the diversity, brilliance and success of today’s Black women entrepreneurs?

Christine Uwimbabazi of Prime Care transportatin financing from CNotes Wisdom Fund
Christine Uwimbabazi started Prime Care transportation to gain economic independence for herself and her family. CNote’s Wisdom Fund aims to support entrepreneurs like her. She’s creating jobs and providing critical medical transport services in Buffalo, NY.

Here are a few places to get started:

  • Impact America Fund – Founded by Kesha Cash, one of the first Black female partners in venture capital, is an impact venture capital fund investing in early stage companies that advance the economic agency and participation of low- and moderate-income communities of color in the U.S.
  • Collab Capital – Led by three pioneering entrepreneurs turned founders, an investment fund leveraging financial, human, and social capital to help Black founders build sustainable, innovation-centered businesses by connecting them with Black investors and influencers.
  • Wisdom Fund (a CNote entity) – CNote’s 100% impact bond that increases capital, access, and lending for businesses owned by women of color and aims to improve the lending process for these borrowers by substantiating the investment case for women of color borrowers.
  • OFN’s Finance Justice Fund – A new socially responsible investment that aims to bring capital from corporate and philanthropic partners to communities underserved by mainstream finance and hardest hit by the current pandemic by accelerating the work of rural, urban, and Native CDFIs.

All four of these entities empower individuals to double down on their commitment to equity by investing in Black women in a truly intentional way with an eye towards sustainable growth and development. Equally, these organizations work to support the vision that women entrepreneurs of color have for their company and their community, and are committed to a partnership of wealth creation for Black women so that the power and intergenerational opportunity do not stay in the hands of the funder.

If you see, and hope as I do, that the next 80 years will be a time of repair, reality and healing for this country, then the concept of investing may be just right for you. While charity will certainly help an individual or a project get going or remain operational, an investment can be your way of contributing to a more equitable future for generations to come.

An investment recycles. An investment appreciates. An investment signals a commitment today for what tomorrow can bring, and as such, an investment in Black women can yield a more prosperous future for all of us.

 

Article by Catherine Berman, CEO and Co-founder of CNote, an impact investment platform that helps large institutions, like corporations, banks, and foundations move deposits and capital into community investments to address racial justice, climate change, and other pressing social issues. Catherine is a three-time entrepreneur with experience building scalable businesses. Her last startup grew into a multi-million dollar firm in less than four years. Prior to CNote, she worked as a Managing Director at Charles Schwab focused on new market segments and predictive analytics. At the vanguard of impact investing, Catherine has spoken at events hosted by Stanford, Oxford, Google, The Economist, SoCap, Coinbase, and others to challenge conventional thinking about money and meaning.

Featured Articles, Impact Investing, Sustainable Business

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