Robert Downey Jr launches ESG venture capital funds

Renowned actor and producer Robert Downey Jr. has launched a new Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) venture capital investment fund aiming to support sustainability products and services, clean energy and resource efficiency.

Image: Vincent Zafra / Illusion Story https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:VincentZafra&action=edit&redlink=1

Image: Vincent Zafra / Illusion Story https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:VincentZafra&action=edit&redlink=1

FootPrint Coalition Ventures was announced at the World Economic Forum and sees the Avengers star dip into the impact investment market, which has topped $250bn in value.

The new initiative will comprise two funds - an early-stage (Pre-Seed, Series A) and late-stage and focus on six areas of sustainability, including consumer-focused products and services, food and agriculture, materials, energy and transport, education and advanced environmental solutions.

“Having spent the last 18 months in dialogue with scientists, engineers and technologists, I now have a firm grasp of the obvious: this global existential threat is not something that's going to be solved by a smattering of elite mega-corporations. I think that paradigm must be smashed in favour of innovation by a broad set of new companies,” Downey Jr. said.

“Investment in sustainable technology is a critical pathway toward the discovery and scaling of better solutions for our planet. We need to mobilize more people and catalyse more capital. Thus - FootPrint Coalition Ventures, a group of investors, technologists, and storytellers committed to scaling enviro-tech solutions.”

The platform has already invested in a handful of companies and initiatives. Arcadia Earth, for example, focuses on art installations, augmented and virtual reality to raise awareness on sustainability issues. Cloud Paper has also been supported, a tree-free paper company using bamboo and carbon-neutral deliveries.

Elsewhere, the funding will support biotech company RWDC Industries that is developing materials that breakdown into water and CO2 to replace plastics and Ÿnsect, which specialises in natural insect protein and fertiliser production. FootPrint Coalition Ventures confirmed its latest investment today: Aspiration, a bank that offers sustainable finance management services.

FootPrint Coalition Ventures will also leverage Downey’s social and traditional media visibility of more than 100 million followers to raise awareness of sustainability solutions to combat the climate crisis.

ESG uptake

The coronavirus pandemic has created a heightened focus on investment, as financial institutions look to de-risk portfolios; this has turned their attention towards the climate crisis and ESG investing as a response.

The likes of BNP Paribas and BlackRock have recently doubled-down on commitments to phase-out high-carbon activities from their portfolio and the issuance of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) bonds has increased by 272% year-on-year, as investors and insurance firms take proactive steps to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The global issuance of sustainable and green bonds totalled a record $99.9bn (£75.5bn) in the second quarter of 2020, with investors increasingly focusing on ESG risks and seeking to play their part in the green recovery movement, according to the latest in-depth sector analysis from Moody’s. The analysis revealed that sustainable bond issuance was 65% higher between April and June than between January and March, with social bonds and sustainability bonds leading the trend. While green bonds are used to finance projects on the basis of their positive environmental impacts, social bonds finance activities intrinsically linked to social sustainability and sustainability bonds cover a mix.

Due to these trends, Moody’s believes that combined social and sustainability bond issuance may near that of green bonds this year for the first time ever. Green loan levels are now broadly similar to those recorded in 2019, despite a drop in the first quarter of 2020, it said, while social and sustainability bond offerings are expanding rapidly.

Matt Mace



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