Community Capital Management’s flagship fund, CRA Qualified Investment Fund, will dedicate $100 million of fund assets to invest in disaster recovery and redevelopment projects in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
"We have some existing shareholders in the mutual fund that want a portion of their investment targeted toward Sandy, and other banks and entities are also looking at this," says Barbara Van Scoy, senior portfolio manager at the Fort Lauderdale-based fund. Given that the shareholders include 39 banks and nine other institutional shareholder and separate accounts in the area, she says that $100 million in Hurricane Sandy is a "drop in the bucket" for the fund. "I would not be surprised if we end up investing $250 million."
"There is just so much to be done," she says, adding that the fund has also had a $100 million Hurricane Katrina initiative—and yet continues to invest in New Orleans. "This is not something where it only takes a few months or even a few years to recover. Unfortunately, they are still rebuilding, and we still support the Gulf Coast."
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Howard Buffett is promoting a brown revolution to improve soil productivity and help feed the world’s billions
When it comes to feeding the world’s hungry people, the game-changer is no-till conservation agriculture. “Soil is any farmer’s most valuable working capital,” says Warren Buffett’s son Howard G. Buffett, who spends most of his time managing the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, based in Decatur, Illinois. “Soil fertility has the single largest impact on production capacity.”
Buffett and his son Howard W. Buffett were in Seattle recently to discuss their new book and manifesto, 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World. Both men are farmers, and Warren Buffett has said he’d like Howard G., 58, currently a board member at Berkshire Hathaway, to succeed him as non-executive chairman.
"Forty chances" refers to 40 seasons—the number of chances a farmer probably gets to plant his crops and improve them. When Howard G. heard the idea, it stopped him cold. Realizing that it applies to other aspects of life, too, including philanthropy, he wondered if he was making the most of his chances-listening to new ideas, learning from his mistakes. He’d been making donations since the late l980s—usually in the area of wildlife conservation. But he had had an epiphany when a colleague pointed out that "no one will starve to save a tree."
In 2006, Warren Buffett announced he was giving away the bulk of his fortune. At the same time, he challenged his son by asking him if he had the resources to do something great, what would he do? Howard G. realized that if he really cared about habitat protection and biodiversity, he’d have to focus of a more fundamental issue: hunger and food security for the world’s poorest billion people.
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Ecotrust Forest Management’s fund is earning strong returns by valuing the trees it isn’t cutting down.
A new style of forestry fund is earning solid returns addressing one question: How do you profitably invest in a sustainably harvested forest—not just the wood in the trees but also in maintaining clean water, flood control, habitat for fish and wildlife, and carbon storage? The key principle is to value what is left in the forest as much as what is removed.
To read my entire blog post at Barron’s Penta, go here:
Conservation easements are the legal foundation for a sustainable bio-economy and a powerful impact investment, as well as an extraordinary estate planning tool
What does the Sewall Bridge Dock in southern Maine have in common with the Crown S Ranch in Washington State’s Methow Valley and the Van Eck Forest in California’s Redwoods?
Each property is subject to a conservation easement.
An easement is a right of use, and conservation easements generally protect wildlife habitat and recreational land by eliminating development rights. Conservation easements are also an extraordinary estate planning tool and powerful impact investment, and landowners that donate these rights rather than sell them for a financial return get substantial income tax breaks.
"You can’t give three days a week to view Picasso, and get a tax deduction," says Laurie Wayland, co-founder and co-CEO of the Pacific Forest Trust in San Francisco. "Conservation easements are an extraordinarily effective way to protect the public trust interests and to reward private stewardship."
Historically, most conservation easements were “forever wild,” meaning all economic use was prohibited. In the case of the Sewall Bridge Dock, in York, Me., however, the conservation easement actually protects the economic use of the land by preserving the “working” nature of the waterfront, on just one-sixth of an acre, thereby providing a place to land lobster. After sale of the development rights, the lobstermen still own the property, but there is a covenant in the deed restricting its use to commercial fishing even if they sell it.
The same is true of the conservation easement on the Crown S Ranch in Winthrop, Washington, where the farmer was able to plough the proceeds from the sale of the development rights into new capital for the farm. And in the case of the Van Eck Forest near Arcata, Calif., the conservation easement—a so-called “working forest conservation easement”—provides the basis for an entire forest economy, a sustainably harvested forest that includes “ecosystem services” like clean water, fish and wildlife habitat and carbon storage. In contrast, “timberland” is managed solely for the wood in the trees.
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Is it really possible to reduce poverty simply by signing your name?
That’s the concept behind MicroCredit Enterprises Fund Inc., or MCE, in San Francisco, a not-for-profit that operates as a sort of Lloyds of London Names for the developing world. Rather than using one’s name to make a killing, though, a guarantor uses his or her name to do good. In effect, MCE uses the balance sheet of guarantors rather than cash donations to finance micro-loans to women in 21 countries including Kyrgystan, Moldova, Bolivia and Sierra Leone.
"It’s a way for our guarantors to amplify the impact of their philanthropy without spending any philanthropic dollars," says Sara Hall, guarantor liaison at MCE.
According to Hall, guarantors continue to engage in philanthropy and to also invest their assets as they might otherwise.
"MCE is not the main event for them," she says. "But they also get to [make] a big social impact just based on their balance sheet."
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A former JP Morgan executive is using a controversial grazing technique on his 100,000 acres, in the hopes of earning decent returns and improving the environment
How do you cash in on other peoples’ cattle and add value to your ranch-land?
The first part is straightforward enough: manage the folks’ cattle and collect fees based on how much weight the animals gain. The other part is a little more complicated. But John Fullerton, former managing director of JP Morgan, is betting on the “holistic management and planned grazing” practices developed by controversial Zimbabwean biologist and rancher Allan Savory.
The Zimbabwean’s TED talk, How to Green the World’s Deserts and Reverse Climate Change, has received over 1.3 million hits on-line since getting posted in March 2013. The principle behind Savory’s radical ideas: Whereas ecologists blame livestock for degrading the world’s grasslands, he controversially insists that animals can restore these lands. “Mimic nature,” he exhorts.
What he means by that is, emulate the behavior of wild animals of by-gone eras, which, chased by predators and moving with the seasons, roamed the plains in tightly knit herds. Their migrating, trampling hooves break up the surface of the land, so it can absorb rain like a sponge, while their dung fertilizes the plains.
"This is permaculture on a huge scale," Fullerton explains, referring to a concept that brings together whole-scale sustainability with respect to energy, waste, water and fields.
To read my full post at the Barron’s Penta blog, go here:
Spencer Beebe is helping to build the 21st century deep green economy in the Pacific Northwest
Haisla youth paddling, photo by Sam Beebe
"The global economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment."
So says Spencer Beebe, founder of Ecotrust, a nonprofit think tank, incubator and investor in Portland, Oregon, quoting former Senator Gaylord Nelson, co-founder of Earth Day. Ecotrust has collaborated on a dizzying array of groundbreaking innovations in support of a local economy based on environmental stewardship and respect for traditonal people.
Among them: Ecotrust joined with Chicago-based Shorebank to launch Shorebank Pacific (now OnePacificCoast Bank), the first bank in the country to include environmental stewardship in its lending practices. Ecotrust is helping fishermen acquire fishing quotas and, with the use of its award-winning web-based ocean mapping software, working with the state of California to create marine protected areas with minimum impact on fishing communities. It has coordinated farm-to-school programs in eight western states and is conducting the first global life-cycle analysis of a food product (salmon, of course.) Unafraid of controversy, it has even helped native tribes repatriate land and establish ecological forestry in a joint venture with a company that environmentalists fought for years.
Beebe is developing his own brand of natural capitalism—a blending of environmental, societal and economic interests. He talks about bioregion-based economies, and he’s dubbed the Pacific Northwest “Salmon Nation.” Incorporating a whole-systems approach, his goal is restorative.
“I didn’t start Ecotrust to save the rainforest,” he says. “I started Ecotrust to develop the rainforest in a different way.”
To learn about the essence of Beebe’s work, go here:
The revolution will not be microwaved.
That was the title of a 2006 book by food fermentation king, Sandor Katz, and it may well have been prescient.
Social media is changing our food culture in ways that could not have been imagined a decade ago. It’s changing the way we think about food, and the way that we experience food. It’s changing how we prepare food—and it’s changing how we eat.
These are some of the Hartman Group’s findings during the Seattle-based consultancy’s research for a study, Clicks and Cravings: The Impact of Social Technology on Food Culture.
* 82.3 million Americans (49% of those who use the internet) say they learn about food via social networking.
* 67.2 million Americans (40% of internet users) say they learn about food via websites, apps or blogs.
* 54% of the people that use social media discover and share new food experiences.
“I love chicken fried rice,” one young man from Seattle said. “But I was so confused about adding the egg [that] I watched six YouTube videos to figure it out.”
Not so long ago, food was a utilitarian affair—“uniform, predictable, efficient and economic,” the consultancy says, “packaged and processed.” Today, though, eating has become a “form of creative consumption.” Food has become ”pleasurable, beautiful—and real,” and now, through social media, we have become a nation of “food voyeurs.” We are learning—gasp!—how to cook.
Does this mean that the impact of social media on food culture is yet another example of what Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christiansen calls creative disruption? Christiansen argues that a disruptive technology usually creates a new market and value network over a few years or decades—one that eventually displaces an earlier (and usually very successful) technology.
The signs are certainly there. Social media, after all, does not operate in a vaccum. Consumers are becoming active participants in food culture, and the underground movement Sandor Katz described seven years ago is in public view.
copyright ellie winninghoff
Nature is as important to the economy as manufacturing or agriculture, and remains an untapped investment opportunity, according to Mark Tercek, a former Goldman Sachs managing director, now president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. He argues that the concept of conservation must be expanded to include not just the “dynamics of the forest” but also specific decisions businesspeople make up and down the supply chain.
In an interview, Tercek said he agrees with futurist Hazel Henderson’s paradigm-shifting depiction of the economy—not as a pie (divided between the public and private sectors) but as a cake, a four-layer cake where three layers of infrastructure support the private sector. In addition to bridges and roads (the public sector,) there are families and communities (which she dubs the “love economy.”) And the foundation of that cake—the mother of all infrastructures—is nature, or natural capital.
Or, as some put it:
“The global economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment.”
Tercek takes this a step further by actually comparing the economics of built or gray infrastructure such as pipes and treatment plants with green infrastructure consisting of woodlands and grasslands, wetlands and rivers.
“Green infrastructure is usually cheaper than gray,” he says, “and it’s more efficient. And unlike gray infrastructure, it accomplishes many things at once.”
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Slow Food, Slow Money
When Woody Tasch, in 2008, published Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered, and launched the nonprofit Slow Money to catalyze the flow of capital into small and local food enterprises, he did not have a clue how to do it. But he captured the zeitgeist. Five years later, 650 farmers, ranchers, local food entrepreneurs, food activists and investors met at the fourth Slow Money gathering in Boulder in late April.
“Colorado imports 97% of all the food we consume here,” said Michael Brownlee, co-founder of Localization Partners, LC, a Slow Money affiliate in Boulder. “We’re an agricultural state, and this profound imbalance is part of the context of Slow Money here.”
According to Brownlee, the food localization effort in Colorado is no longer about a “preferential lifestyle” but rather about economic development. Denver mayor Michael Hancock recently announced an official food localization goal of 20% by 2020, and Brownlee says Slow Money will be a key part of the strategy.
“What we’re engaged in is restorative economics,” he said. “We’re learning how to restore agriculture and food production, which means getting to reverse the widespread damage by big industrial agriculture and a globalized food system. Not surprisingly, it turns out we’ve got as unconscious about how we feed ourselves as we have about what our money is doing. Slow Money is about becoming very conscious and very deliberate with both.”
The highlight of the conference was the pitch-fest by 24 stellar entrepreneurs representing every aspect of a re-imagined locally based food system. It was the final presentation, though, that brought a standing ovation—and the $50,000 prize. Revision International works in Westwood, a Denver neighborhood where the average family income is just over $11,000 and one-third the residents are under 18. Last year, it helped over 200 families (including 40 Somali refugee families who spent 16 years in refugee camps in Kenya) produce an estimated 25,000 pounds of fresh produce on 1 1/4 acres of land. Now those families want to establish a for-profit cooperative, sell their excess, and eventually expand into value-added products.
“We’re competing against a different mindset that solves food deserts by plopping down a grocery store then walking away,” Revision International CEO Eric Kornacki told the crowd. “This paradigm contends that to solve poverty, all you need to do is give tax breaks to Walmart and let them create jobs,” he said. “In contrast, the Westwood Food Coop will localize the food system while reclaiming a food desert and planting seeds for a self-sufficient community. It will increase food production, increase healthy food access, create good-paying jobs, and more importantly, generate wealth that is controlled by the community—and stays in the community.”
More at my post at Barron’s Penta here: