So, I have stepped away from a lot of things as I am back east on Nantucket for the summer. However, I did attend a recent conference on impact investing here held by Big Path Capital , which puts on events including the Impact Capitalism Summit held here last week. The summit attracts various family and institutional funds, investors and family offices, foundations, global wealth investment firms, investment advisors, fund managers, government, companies and service providers aka law firms.
This year a highlight or to me to be blunt, a low light, was the focus on food waste and farm to table start-ups that focus on use of the fruit and vegetables that are discarded due to past sale dates or not being perfect such as Imperfect Produce. I have nothing against these endeavors, and there is some very interesting information collected by ReFED which is a collaboration of over 30 business, nonprofit, foundation, and government leaders committed to reducing food waste in the United States.
However, I am just not convinced this is where impact investing is needed, in my opinion we have bigger social and economic issues here in the U.S. such as investing possibly in the infrastructure of our cities or addressing severe poverty in many areas of this country rather than focusing on redistribution of food or the lack of fresh produce at food banks or the fact that we as a nation throw out tomatoes and other vegetables for being ugly and not perfect. I know that this is a gross simplification of the work ReFED is doing but it is still imo a first world problem in many respects. As I noted at the conference, many people do in fact buy imperfect fruit and vegetables because they are frequently marked off and if you do not have adequate food, you tend to be less picky about its appearance.
Also, as is common at impact investing conferences, there is a wide range in what is considered impact investing as noted in my earlier posts. At this conference, it is largely for impact companies who are looking for a minimum raise of $5MM in capital and frequently much more. And conference speakers have successful firms that have invested in Tesla and Solar City. Successful companies for sure, and in Tesla’s case starting with aiming for the very high net worth individuals market then expanding wider abeit still way beyond the reach of most people. I wish actually there was a discussion about how to achieve impact as the Tesla model as well as others, make money from starting at the top and then using that momentum and capital to become more of a mass market product. Many impact companies aim to serve markets that have no money, the bottom of the pyramid group that will make financial sustainability a basically impossible goal.
So to end this blog post as I recognize it is summer brain rambling, David Brooks noted in recent NYT op-ed, “There’s a tendency to break national problems into small, interest-group-size chunks and then deliver pandering policy promises.”
As he is writing an open letter to Hillary Clinton regarding democrats and her campaign, he further notes “Look at your website. As Oren Cass points out in The City Journal, every demographic or interest group gets its own pander. If you’re a horse lover, the Clinton campaign vows to crack down on “horse soring, in which chemicals or other inhumane methods are applied to horses’ limbs to exaggerate their gait.”
And FYI, the campaign also promises to end of the slaughter of horses for human consumption.