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Click through the posts below to learn more about the experiences of the Three Cairns Fellows. For more information about the fellowship, please click here.
Closed Loop Partners
Team members: Hani Tohme ’21, Giovanna Vera ’21, Sihe Zhai ’21
The fashion industry needs to adopt environmental measures to decrease its negative impact on the environment. Today, 20 percent of the industrial water pollution comes from the treatment and dyeing of textiles, 10 percent of the overall CO2 emissions come from clothing manufacturing, and valuable resources are being depleted, namely water. For instance, the production of one cotton t-shirt requires 700 gallons of water.
The team identified use-cases along the principles of the circular economy and from adjacent industries such as automotive, electronics, and white goods. The team was able to prove from these use-cases that the most successful models address the fundamentals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the consumption of water and replacing material with more sustainable substitutes. In addition, companies respecting the rules of the circular economy can achieve two percent improvement on their bottom line/ EBIT margin (not taking into consideration the harsh impact of governments lifting subsidies from landfilling).
Team members: Adam Klestadt ’20 and Jake Van Namen ’20
The team worked with Cloverly to help the company better understand the market potential for its existing carbon offset purchasing product in the e-commerce space. Through independent research, a targeted and detailed survey, and one-on-one interviews with members of the retail community, the team modeled the market size and Cloverly’s opportunity, as well as provided recommendations for product and marketing changes that could help Cloverly more easily establish retail partnerships and more effectively appeal to customers. In addition, they explored a new product offering, conducting interviews with CEOs, HR representatives, sustainability officers, climate experts, and more from a range of industries and company sizes to understand the opportunity for Cloverly to provide carbon offset services as a voluntary benefit. Ultimately, the team equipped Cloverly with actionable ideas to grow its current product offering and expand into new ways of helping people and companies account for and offset their impact on the environment.
Energy Peace Partners
Team members: Adam Chang ’20, Rishi Iyengar ’21, Shivam Salhotra ’20
Energy Peace Partners (EPP) has been working on developing the Peace Renewable Energy Credit (P-REC) as a financial solution to promote renewable energy in the world’s most fragile states. EPP aims for the P-REC instrument to be a widely accepted mechanism for voluntary corporate renewable energy usage and sustainability claims, including through the GHG Scope 2 emission guidelines and through campaigns such as RE100. However, in regions like sub-Saharan Africa, the current rules and guidance present challenges to participation in voluntary REC markets.
The team conducted research to better understand the challenges and opportunities related to further expansion of the voluntary market for energy attribute certificates (EAC) in Sub-Saharan Africa. The team further solidified that renewable energy investment and development could be transformative for this region, and also requires particular consideration of the context within these developing nations that are climate-vulnerable, conflict-ridden and energy-poor.
Team members: David Huxley-Cohen ’21, Nathan Kenney ’21, Mercedes Li ’21, Michelle Ye ’21
The objective of this project was to develop a strategy for financing community solar projects in Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZs). The team looked to better understand the overlap of the solar and QOZ markets. Specifically, they focused on gaining deeper insights about the current competitive landscape, the impacts of QOZs and solar investment tax credits, and how they interact with each other.
As part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the Qualified Opportunity Zone Program was established to spur long-term investment with realized capital gains in economically distressed communities. After evaluating the investment landscape of QOZs, the team found that funds have raised a total of $7.6 billion for QOZ projects and most of the funds are being invested in real estate projects, with only 10 percent focused on renewable energy projects. However, solar QOZs provide investors more predictable cash flow and multiple tax incentive options compared to real estate investments. As a result, the team determined that solar QOZ funds offer investors significant returns, high social impact, and low financial volatility.
Lightsmith Group – Africa
Team members: Christopher Lee ’21 and Patrick O'Kain ’21
The Lightsmith Group is a private equity firm pursuing investments in companies that address major societal needs, including adaptation and resilience to climate change. The team conducted research to support Lightsmith’s Adaptation Small/Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) Accelerator Program (ASAP) — a program that seeks to engage with and scale up climate adaptation-focused SMEs in three key regions, including Africa. Through targeted research, the team identified over 100 adaptation-focused SMEs and created a database for integration with the ASAP global network. Finally, from this 100+ company investment funnel, the team initiated an outreach campaign to the CEOs of the companies that fit the criteria as high potential candidates for partnership with Lightsmith.
Lightsmith Group – Asia
Team members: Sean Fleming ’21, Andrew Lee ’21, Lizzie Merrill ’21, Ameya Sapre ’21
The team worked with Lightsmith to build out a view on the companies, incubators, accelerators and investors focused on related sectors across Asia. In particular, the team developed a long list of 70 companies, 20 accelerators and 30 ecosystem partners that could be of potential interest. From there, the team reached out to particularly promising organizations to collect additional information and, where desirable, connect the organization with the principals from Lightsmith. Finally, the team developed detailed case studies on seven companies to illustrate different climate adaptation & resilience models, and to guide investment discussions with Lightsmith as they begin to deploy their current fund.
Lightsmith Group – Latin America
Team members: Darren Chu ’21 and Matson Conrad ’21
The team mapped target companies in Latin America, wrote several case studies, and delivered an investment pitch. They dug deeper into several companies that showed particular promise, working with these companies to write case studies highlighting key market drivers, customer segments, distribution channels, and growth opportunities. These studies were included in Lightsmith’s releases to partner development organizations including the Inter-American Development Bank, the Global Environment Facility, and Conservation International. Finally, the team delivered an investment pitch on an exciting smart agriculture business, presenting its merits, risks, and calculated valuation for Lightsmith’s consideration.
Merton Capital Partners
Team members: Siwol Chang ’20 and Torey Shepardson ’20
Merton Capital Partners manages large philanthropy on behalf of foundations, philanthropists, and other high net-worth individuals looking to scale their giving to address social and environmental issues. The proposed dual strategy aims to help scale nonprofits and co-invest alongside private equity funds. This structure allows philanthropic capital to be deployed in larger amounts towards higher levels of social and environmental impact. The team conducted research to support the beginnings of the Water Philanthropy Fund, outlining case studies and investigating opportunities for investment and scaling in water infrastructure.
Team members: Adam Gravitt ’20
Based in Mexico, MicroTerra provides on-site water treatment systems to agricultural organizations, converting wastewater into clean water and a sustainable protein source. Adam focused on fundraising and financial modeling. Fundraising support included development of a marketing strategy and materials for investors and identification of venture capital firms focused on early-stage water or agriculture ventures. The financial modeling supported MicroTerra's efforts to assess an alternative business model it is pursuing for further expansion. Ultimately, Adam aided MicroTerra in its efforts to raise ~$800K and have clarity into the financial viability of its proposed expansion, as the organization continues to reduce the discharge of untreated aquaculture wastewater into water bodies across the globe.
Team members: Juan Castaño ’20 and Marissa Rodriguez ’20
Neek Capital creates and advises promising Mexican ventures that are solving challenges posed by a climate constrained world through the sustainable use of natural resources, focusing on energy, water, food systems, and biodiversity. The team provided support to one of the companies created by Neek Capital, Carne del Monte, which helps livestock farmers transition to sustainable practices while continuing to produce high-quality meat. The team assessed the landscape for new commercial channels and developed a digital marketing strategy to best communicate to potential clients.
Team members: Nishant Panigrahi ’21, Yu Tian ’21, Laura Tulchin ’21, Kyle Wetzold ’20
Princeville Capital is an investment firm focused on backing rapidly growing technology-related companies around the world. Princeville Climate Technology is Princeville Capital’s fund, which invests in growth-stage technology companies with a primary goal of having a positive impact on climate change in sectors such as smart grid, advanced mobility, smart cities, industrial, smart agriculture, and resilient health. The team worked to further refine Princeville’s Climate Positive® investing methodology and pressure-test proposed enhancements against a population of sample companies. A comprehensive analysis of other leading climate-focused metrics and methodologies was conducted. The results informed the team’s proposed methodological improvements, which focused on creating an investment screening process that was quantitative, dynamic, and easy to replicate and communicate.