WIN-WIN 2.0: Connecting gender lens investing with clean tech
At Calvert Foundation, we have always been passionate about moving the dialogue from “Why should we invest?” – in women, the local economy, the environment, etc. – to “How do we invest?” This led us to launch the Women Investing in Women Initiative (WIN-WIN) in 2012. The goal was to raise capital from investors to invest $20 million in organizations around the world that empower women and girls.
We created an inclusive investment portfolio and gender-specific indicators to track the impact generated from the portfolio organizations, and we learned many lessons along the way. One of them was the tremendous impact that clean cookstoves and technologies have on the health of women in developing countries. Through investments in social enterprises like The Paradigm Project and Envirofit International, we learned that the traditional sources of household energy for 3 billion people around the world pose serious risks to the health of the environment and the people exposed, particularly women and children. The smoke released from burning these types of fuels is one of the biggest health risk factors affecting women and girls, and an important contributor to global climate change.
To address these challenges, Calvert Foundation, in partnership with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and others, has committed to investing an additional $20 million through WIN-WIN in organizations and enterprises that provide clean household technologies and fuels.
These solutions, which include cookstoves, solar-powered lights and rechargeable batteries, not only improve the health of the environment and their users, but have become a source of economic empowerment for women and girls, because they free up countless hours spent gathering fuel during the day. They also save on expensive charcoal or kerosene that must be purchased at the expense of other necessities like food or medicine, and provide extra hours of productivity at night.
While the technology is generally available, the market for these products is still in its infancy – largely due to unmet financing needs. Estimates suggest that this new sector needs between $500 million and $1 billion to meet the energy needs of base of the pyramid populations, with immediate needs of approximately $100 million in debt in the coming year alone.
Calvert Foundation plans to leverage relationships with key technical assistance and impact assessment partners to execute this investment concept. We will partner with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves to accurately assess the environmental and social impact of the fund’s investments, particularly in the clean cookstove segment. In addition, Calvert Foundation will leverage the Alliance’s capacity-building and investment program, in conjunction with its awareness-building work, standards and testing program, and research platform, to develop a pipeline of companies.
Najada Kumbuli is an Investment Officer on the Strategic Initiatives team at Calvert Foundation.