6 min read

Clean tech, baby, one more time

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The email header with the "For What It's Worth" logo, graphic that includes a hand holding a representation of a blooming flower that has money blooming at the top, and the tagline "Insights to invest in the world you want" underneath it.

Happy Thursday!

If you’re new here, welcome to For What It’s Worth (FWIW). We’ve had a big week with more new subscribers joining than ever before. Our goal: to bring you news you can use to invest in sustainability and social good.

Here are some tools and resources to help you keep track of the impact space and become a better investor:

And thanks to all of you readers who’ve been with us awhile and spreadin’ the word! And now onto the juicy stuff …

Both unfolded just like a circus, but finally, there’s a definitive outcome: Britney is free and infrastructure is funded.

With crumbling public transport systems and accelerating climate change, the bill could not arrive fast enough. On Tuesday, President Biden signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law, paving the way for critical support for clean technologies that has a lot of impact investors excited.

While some have lost billions in the last clean tech boom, many are betting that this time, greater government support and climate change awareness will make all the difference. The new bill offers incentives for investors to back projects ranging from a clean hydrogen supply chain to new ways of bringing water to the drought-stricken West, all of which lay the groundwork for scaling a nationwide clean energy infrastructure.

Some of the largest investments in the bill go toward the power grid: $29 billion of a $65 billion grid investment (which also includes climate resilience upgrades) will hook up the national network of grids to renewable energy sources. The bill also promises to deliver broadband access for every American and a national network of electric vehicle charging stations.

The bill isn’t perfect. Some are saying gimme more on climate-related investments; others are asking questions about the timing of the broadband rollout, which could alienate the country’s most vulnerable residents who still rely on 3G devices. That said, this is a major milestone for clean tech development in the United States with startups raising a record $32 billion already this year.

We’ll continue to monitor and bring you the latest details on the new infrastructure bill, global ESG guidelines, and why some think we’re entering a new phase for green investing. But, just like Britney, many clean tech enthusiasts are already celebrating being “stronger than yesterday.”

FWIW Editors

Impact IPOs rising

Graphic of lasso grabbing a newspaper

> Three impact companies are going public this week: salad chain Sweetgreen, that’s on a mission to connect people with real food and build healthier communities, sustainable bitcoin miner Iris Energy, and Germany’s Sono Group, the parent of Sono Motors and the maker of Sion, the electric car that charges itself in the sun and looks like a minivan.

> Millennials and Gen Z investors, who are investing earlier and at a higher rate than previous generations, are holding businesses accountable to shape a better society and a healthier planet. This has left most of the financial world scrambling to catch up. As our CEO Jean Case points out in a Fortune column, “these investors are calling for the democratization of finance–not an evolution but a revolution that accelerates the plodding progress the sector has made on issues they care deeply about.”

> Energy Impact Partners, a New York investment firm that backs startups working on green solutions, has raised over $1 billion for its second fund in the latest sign of the ongoing climate tech fundraising boom.

> Gen Z favorite Roblox is putting $10 million towards creating more opportunities for kids to learn during play. The Roblox Community Fund will provide grants to organizations that develop STEM curriculum as well as educational experiences for its online gaming platform.

Th-Red (Tailor's Recycling Version)

Graphic of magnifying glass looking a t-shirt label

You may have missed that Monday was ‘America Recycles Day’, but it's not too late to support the circular economy. One way is the clothing you buy.

The fashion industry, one of the sectors most impacted by the global pandemic and climate change, has been busy reinventing itself by experimenting with fabrics made of waste like plastic bottles, scraps from garment factories, used clothes, and abandoned fishing nets. According to the Financial Times, swim and activewear described as containing recycled synthetics by British and American online retailers more than doubled in volume as of June compared to 2020.

How do you know if you’re paying for goods that were truly sourced from recycled materials? As we’re entering the season of gift-giving, here are some tips and resources to consider:

  1. Go to the source: A good hack is typing “recycled” in the search bar on a brand’s official web store (looking at you, Gap or Zara). Certified B Corp Patagonia, a pioneer in this area, even offers “recycled content” as one of its search filters. While you can find some great curated lists online, always do your research by going to a brand’s official website to know the exact makeup of a product, and whether the recycled fabric used is Global Recycled Standard (GRS) or Recycled Content Standard (RCS) certified. If you visit a store and it has a sustainable range, look for “recycled materials” labels on individual items with a percentage, like this one on an H&M sweater.
  2. Good On You: The social impact business uses public data to tell you the impact of retailers, including if they use recycled materials. It also has a Guide to Recycled Clothing Materials that can help you discover how your favorite brands stack up.
  3. Fossil-Free fashion scorecard: Advocacy group summarizes and analyzes sustainability efforts and progress made at 47 leading companies, including low carbon materials.
  4. Players with commitments: Around 85 companies have taken up the non-profit Textile Exchange’s Recycled Polyester Challenge to use at least 45% recycled polyester by 2025.
  5. Reuse, Reduce, Recycle: The easiest way to embrace circularity is by buying second-hand, and by taking care of and repairing the clothes in your closet and donating. The most sustainable wardrobe is the one we already own.

While these steps may help reduce the total amount of waste headed for landfills, clothing is just one piece of the recycling puzzle. But it’s a stylish start.

3 Ways to Invest on #SmallBizSaturday

Graphic of Main Street storefronts

Ever wondered if you could invest in the business that makes your favorite latte, or designed your favorite pair of earrings? Good news — some opportunities are starting to emerge.

As Black Friday and Small Business Saturday kick off our holiday shopping, there are also opportunities to get a return beyond just a delicious drink or a spiffier wardrobe.

In 2016, Congress finally changed a Depression-era rule to allow investment in private companies by “unaccredited investors” (read: people who are not super rich). That legal change brought us equity crowdfunding, where retail investors (like you!) can make a relatively small investment in private companies. The practice is similar to Kickstarter-style crowdfunding — but instead of getting a gift if enough money is raised, you get a profit if the business is successful.

Fundable is the largest small business equity crowdfunder; companies who join to raise capital range from local breweries that want to open a second location to clean energy startups looking for a seed round. The users of Wefunder, one of the first equity crowdfunding platforms, can make debt or equity investments starting at $100 in “main street” businesses around the US. The platform is also a Public Benefit Corporation. And if you want to literally buy a storefront, Republic is one of the few platforms to offer crowdfunded investment in real estate. It’s also impact investor approved: Arlan Hamilton raised a $5 million round on the platform in the spring.

Before you go: your own ‘genius bar’

Apple will soon give the tech-savvy among us the tools and parts to repair their own phones, a win for the “right to repair” movement we talked about before and the shareholder activists at the gates.