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Invest for Impact


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Investing for a Sustainable Future

Today President Obama announced some major initiatives aimed to reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere and abate the impact of climate change. Interestingly, last Monday I attended a panel session at the Triple Bottom Line (TBLI) Conference discussing the topic of climate change and how capital can be deployed to reverse the increase in carbon emissions.

The panel was moderated by Arian van Buren, Professor Sustainability Economics and Management from the Earth Institute at Columbia University.  Richard Bookbinder from TerraVerde Capital Partners identified the core problem is population growth. In 1800, the world population stood at 1 billion and by 1927 it had doubled.  Since the growth curve is exponential, 85 years later, there are now 7 billion people in the world. Population growth combined with increasing per capita wealth levels is driving greater consumption. As a result, in an economy powered by carbon-based fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil), CO2 is released into the atmosphere in ever greater amounts.

The panel included James Leaton, Research Director for Carbon Tracker , based in the United Kingdom. James laid out the scientific and the quantitative reality of climate change. Increased CO2 emissions are overwhelming the environment’s ability to absorb it, causing it to form an atmospheric blanket that traps heat. This threatens to push temperatures over 2 degrees Celsius, the acknowledged tipping point for drastic climate change.

Source: The New Economics Foundation

Source: The New Economics Foundation

Carbon Tracker, in collaboration with the Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, conducted analysis to stress-test the carbon budgets. This analysis estimates that the available budget is 900 Gt of CO2 for an 80% probability to stay below 2°C and 1075 Gt of CO2 for a 50% probability by 2050. What is alarming is that in previous carbon budget estimates, the budget for 2000-2049 was 886 Gt of CO2 and we have already used half of that. Unfortunately, there are 2,860 Gt of CO2 in proven reserves of coal, natural gas, and oil under the control of companies. If these companies follow only a profit motive for their shareholders the climate balance will be tipped to unsustainable levels.

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What We’re Reading – A Roundup of the Latest Impact Investing News

Impact Investment News

G8 Leaders Embrace Impact Investing With New Funds – Businessweek

Can Impact Investing Move From Niche To Mainstream? – FA Mag

Investors Want to Package Efficiency Securities Like Mortgages – Greentech Media

What Makes Solar Energy a Good Investment? – TriplePundit

Over $2 Billion in Green Bonds, A Good Start – Sustainable Business

 Sustainability News

European demand for voluntary offsets surges in private sector – GreenBiz

Sustainability Needs to Find Its ‘Reality Distortion Field’ – Bloomberg

Sustainability: An Investment Perspective – CFA Institute

Crowdfunding News

Universities explore crowdfunding, social media to raise money – USA Today

Small Businesses the Next Big Borrower in Peer to Peer Lending – P2P Lending News

New Tool Lets Intermediaries Become P2B Lenders – Bridging Distributor


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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 Musings: Rob Thomas

I realized Michael Van Patten was following me after the third conference.

Social Venture Network, Slow Money Gathering, and SRI In The Rockies are all conferences I have attended for quite some time.  The beauty of these conferences is the opportunity to network with like-minded members of our community.  Michael is the founder and president of Mission Markets, and we soon sat down together to learn more about each other’s business.

To say Michael is enthusiastic would be a gross understatement.  He radiates a passion for his work. Mission Markets is an active and robust community marketplace for impact investments of all kinds. I heard Michael out for an hour, and when he finally stopped for a breath I chimed in. I told him that Mission Markets is much like Social(k), in that we are both building investment products to fulfill a demand for conscientious investing–a demand that has reached critical mass. Our two businesses also took root in the same community of innovators who are looking for investments that make more than one kind of return.

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Mission Markets Musings: Andrea Alexopoulos

My job here at Mission Markets gives me the unique opportunity to be inspired on a daily basis.  I am in charge of Member Services — that means I assist companies seeking capital that demonstrate a social or environmental mission to list their offering on our platform.  Aside from providing these groups with the listing requirements, walking them through our platform, and encouraging their patience with our website, I have the privilege of learning about these different companies and the great work they are doing in the social and environmental space.

From funds to start ups, and from fisheries to habitat / conservation banks,  I have seen so many different companies register on or inquire about Mission Markets.  Some of the most interesting companies have been traditional consumer goods companies incorporating a social or environmental component — like organic food delivery services or social enterprises employing women in developing countries.  Others are tackling existing infrastructure shortcomings by using social and environmental strategies — including LEED certified housing projects and natural gas vehicles locally owned in Latin America.  Most of these companies praise our efforts to create a sustainable investment platform but I think the companies on our site are the ones that deserve all the praise.

All of these organizations have one thing in common — they are harnessing the power of business to solve some of the world’s most pressing sustainability issues.  Granted, none of these companies can ever single-handedly “save the world”, but they can set a great example for the way business should be conducted.  If enough companies can realize the benefits of doing good while doing well, we may see a paradigm shift in what we accept from companies doing business.  It might start out small, but when I see all of the companies that have expressed an interest in Mission Markets, it makes me very optimistic that one day we will see social and environmental missions replacing even those of the largest corporations.

Forever an optimist,

Andrea Alexopoulos
Mission Markets Director of Member Services


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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