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Scaling Sustainable Investments

Screen Shot 2013-06-21 at 8.21.02 PMI had the pleasure of attending the 2013 TBLI (Triple Bottom Line Investment) conference on June 17th in New York City.  Day one of the two day conference highlighted what became a recurrent theme: financially viable sustainability projects and companies are available for investment. What is missing are the appropriate financial products for the end buyer to actually make an investment at a scale that will shift the status quo and accelerate the transition to sustainable systems.

The Opening Keynote by Paul Rose, Vice President of the Royal Geographical Society, was effective in making clear that the continued deterioration of our environmental ecosystems is accelerating to potentially catastrophic levels. The need has never been greater to solve the critical element of deploying capital to sustainable and socially conscious enterprises. He did this in excellent fashion through wit and humor, which made his slide shows of global environmental collapse from his many explorations ever more alarming.

Paul followed his presentation by moderating a roundtable assembled to address the following questions, “Do Sandy and Katrina make a lasting impression regarding ESG and Impact Investing in the USA?” and, “What sustainable new initiatives or policy changes are to occur in the (American) financial industry?”  Included on the panel were Mel Aaronson, president of National Conference on Public Employee Retirement System (NCPERS) and treasurer of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT); Carter Bales, Chairman at NewWorld Capital Group, LLC; Peter Malik, Managing Director, Corporate Engagement & Innovative Finance at The Nature Conservancy; and Hilary McMahon, Director of Research, Carbon War Room.

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Pro Solar Regulations on The Rise, Support Teams Ready for Action

Over the years, the cost of solar panels has dropped significantly. While good for consumers, Imagesuch low prices are threatening to bankrupt many manufacturers who can’t compete, which would slow down large-scale adoption of solar energy. This bad news hasn’t clouded the fact that solar is the most readily available alternative energy source, and with help from federal, state, and local governments, a sustainable market for solar can still be supported.

The Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority in Connecticut is at the forefront of merging public and private green initiatives. Established in 2011, the nation’s first “green bank” oversees a number of innovative financing initiatives that parallel emerging innovations in solar technology.

One such initiative is The Commercial & Industrial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE), a program that allows property owners to make energy efficiency upgrades at low cost by providing financing with little to no upfront costs and repayment of the loans over time on owners’ property tax bills.

These new initiatives and policies aspire to make energy usage cheaper, cleaner and more efficient, and they’re coming in waves. It’s encouraging news for proponents of solar energy who have until recently watched the industry from the sidelines, horrified by how financial professionals and government officials have dismissed the space.

It’s a new beginning for the solar sector, and those interested in jumping on the trend should consider big industry names for their investment portfolios. Kapitall has helpfully created an infographic to summarize the industry, its potential, and the key companies working to make a difference.

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Mission Markets Feature Story in Green Money Journal

Mission Markets was featured in the Spring 2011 issue of Green Money Journal in a great article written by CEO and Founder Michael Van Patten about his journey from Wall Street to the social and environmental markets. Here is a brief quote from the article:

Mission Markets: One Market(place), Many Missions

“My early years heavily influenced my decision to focus my career on growing the impact investing space through the establishment of my current company, Mission Markets. I spent the majority of my teenage years in Ecuador, where my father worked as a diplomat. At this impressionable age, I had the unusual opportunity to experience life in the developing world–Every day I was faced with the extremes of poverty and vast wealth. To this day, I am stunned by the inequalities that exist in the world.”

Click here to read the full article!

– The Mission Markets Team

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Mission Markets Musings: Peter J. Mastella

I recently joined the Mission Markets team as the Director of Climate Change Markets.  What does that mean?  As with any position or title, the person grows with the role and the role is plied as the person grows.  For now, it seems my role is to oversee many aspects of the environmental side of the Mission Markets platforms.

Did you know that Mission Markets incorporates more than traditional impact investment?  More than your typical (if anything truly is typical) microfinance opportunity?  Mission Markets is actually a financial services firm leveraging technology and cloud computing to provide solutions to the sustainable market and community.  I bet you didn’t know that.

Mission Markets has developed three unique, secure transaction platforms that, when combined, create a holistic and expansive sustainable marketplace for discerning buyers and sellers in search of opportunities throughout the impact, environmental, and socially responsible sectors.  So, “yes, Virginia. . .” (forget about Santa) “sustainability” incorporates the impact, environmental, and socially responsible sectors.  That’s why I’m here; because of the environmental side of sustainability.  I’m also here because I believe in what we’re doing at Mission Markets; that is, providing stakeholders in this sustainable community with tools enabling them to execute.
I spent years practicing in the M&A transaction world and participating in that ever-so-popular investment banking world – except I was one of the good guys.  I didn’t buy and sell credit default swaps, or securitize poorly vetted pools of mortgages and flog them off as decent investments.  Rather, I financed and built portfolios of hard assets; particularly infrastructure assets.  You know, the stuff we use every day – roads, bridges, water distribution, electricity production.  Most relevant, I financed and built renewable energy generation facilities.  So, I guess my role today is to provide my financial knowledge and capital markets know-how to the Mission Markets organization at large, while I help cement Mission Markets as the leader in facilitating environmental and clean energy transactions and projects.

Sound good?  I think so.  Wrap your head around this.  An organization (e.g., company, government, foundation, etc.) wants to build or facilitate the development of a renewable energy or water conservation project.  That organization should become a member of Mission Markets.  Why, you ask?  Well, for starters, that organization will need to raise capital for such a project.  How do they do that?  On the Mission Markets investment platform.  Where member buyers and sellers can meet and entertain working with one another through investment.

That same organization would then want to oversee or ensure proper oversight and management of the project.  Possibly ensure that the project was developed in a competitive, transparent, and cost effective environment.  Does such a world exist?  Yes; on the Mission Markets climate and sustainability platform.  Where members can list requests for proposals, pick winning bidders, and manage the entire project development process securely and efficiently.

Then, in this world of environmental sustainability, these projects will produce intangible attributes (maybe you’ve heard of carbon credits or renewable energy certificates or water quality credits) that the organization will either wish to bank or monetize.  Where will they do that?  On the Mission Markets earth platform.  Where member issuers of such intangible attributes can list those attributes for sale, and/or purchase such attributes in an exchange environment.

What do you call one place where someone can go to find what they were originally looking for, yet still come across other items of interest before they leave that same place?  Sounds like your neighborhood mall!  Or in this case, the Mission Markets “mall”.

Mission Markets is a central marketplace or a “mall,” creating a secure online community where buyers and sellers in the sustainable sector, and the sub-sectors that exist within sustainability, can assess opportunities that run the gamut from equity in a global micro-finance investment, to the development of and investment in a renewable energy project, to the purchase of energy efficiency credits.

Did you see the President’s State of the Union address the other night?  President Barack Obama has launched what is to be a new era of clean energy development in the U.S., announcing that this could be a “Sputnik moment.”  He’s urged Americans to rally around a new goal: obtaining 80 percent of America’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.  While this could mean many things to many people, my understanding is that President Obama is referring to a combination of all resources – renewable energy, nuclear, natural gas, and yes, possibly even clean coal.  A lofty goal perhaps.  But, a goal that, nonetheless, will need 1) facilitation around the investments that make such goals attainable; 2) efficient means by which to develop such assets leading to successful achievement of these goals; and, 3) a market to facilitate the trading and exchanging of products related to these goals.  If there was a place that could lend a hand with all this – that would be a great community to be involved in, let alone a cool place to work.  That’s why I joined Mission Markets.

If it’s not evident, what Mission Markets has done is revolutionize the ability to invest in and execute on an entire spectrum of sustainable opportunities through the Impact Investment Platform, the Earth Exchange, and the Climate and Sustainability Network.  In essence, we will help you attain your sustainable goal – whatever that is.  If this sounds interesting to you, even if you’re not lucky enough to work at Mission Markets like me, register as a Member of our community.  Be part of the solution – Mission Markets.

– Peter J. Mastella, Mission Markets Director of Climate Change Markets

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Mission Markets Earth Mentioned in Suite 101 Article

Check out this article from Suite 101 on ecosystem credit trading. CEO Michael Van Patten is quoted.

Beyond Cap and Trade

“Michael Van Patten, founder of Mission Markets Earth, believes that the voluntary market component will be key to the economic valuation of viable ecosystems in the long term. ‘In addition to regulatory participants, we need nontraditional buyers who are not subject to purchase by regulations, the voluntary buyers,’ he says, because compliance markets are not currently broad enough to counter our overall impact on the planet’s resources. With sufficient vision, voluntary markets just might be.”
Click here to read more!
– The Mission Markets Team

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Mission Markets CEO Mike Van Patten quoted in Ecosystem Marketplace Article on Water Footprint Markets

Can Footprinting Stomp out Water Waste?

This article explores a “water footprinting” exercise jointly undertaken by the Coca-Cola Company and The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The goal was to determine the total amount of water used throughout the company’s orange juice supply chain, from the water pulled from the ground to grow the oranges to the water used in transporting the finished product.

What can we do with this information? According to the article, environmental groups like TNC can use it to monitor corporate impact and companies can use it to voluntarily pursue more sustainable and economical water use practices. Ecosystem Marketplace also has high hopes that in the long term these initiatives could develop into a water trade system similar to carbon trading.

Our CEO, Mike Van Patten, shares his perspective on the development of a regulatory water trading system in the article.

“The fact that many companies will start measuring the water content of many of their products suggests that where there is transparency in this footprint, there must be action, and a water footprint credit could be one way to offset this impact…My opinion is that a tradable water footprint credit could be used to finance water projects in areas that have limited access to water,” says Van Patten.

Click here to read the full article!

-The Mission Markets Team

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Mission Markets Required Reading: Improving environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards among listed companies

Sustainable Stock Exchanges: Improving ESG Standards among Listed Companies

According to this briefing from the Experts in Responsible Investment Solutions (EIRIS), stock exchanges can play an important role in improving corporate transparency and performance on sustainability issues by enhancing corporate ESG disclosure and performance. This would involve applying ESG standards within IPO and ongoing listing rules, corporate governance codes, and offering ESG-related trading products.

EIRIS claims that strengthening ESG disclosure requirements can provide new business opportunities and potentially increase revenues, safeguard reputation, maximize competitive advantage and mitigate operational risks. Especially in the current financial environment, investors are always looking for new ways to mitigate their investment risks, opening up an opportunity for stock exchanges to adopt a more systematic approach towards integrated corporate reporting.

In 2010, Aviva Investors, with support from UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), launched the Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative which enlists the support of financial institutions that are PRI signatories to bring about change in global listing rules. While some exchanges, such as China’s Green IPO policy and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, have incorporated ESG reporting requirements in their listing rules and corporate governance codes, EIRIS thinks that stock exchanges can do more to compel companies to address ESG issues and to create a level playing field.

We like the way that the EIRIS is thinking, and we feel that this briefing highlights an important part of our company mission . Click here to read more!
-The Mission Markets Team