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Member Update: February 2015

Bond sales are going well, so well in fact, that we expect to close the bond offering by March 31st! If you’re thinking of reinvesting, better to do it sooner rather than later: The offer is closed when we reach $2.2M.

Project Progress

– This month we raised $176,000!
– In addition to the bonds raised in January, The Catherine Donnelly Foundation invested $100,000,
– Our Education Sponsor, Bullfrog Power invested $125,000.
– The Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) selected ZooShare for their Catapult Loan.
– We are working together with the Ministry of the Environment and Parks Canada to address the questions raised in relation to our application for Renewable Energy Approval, which is required before construction can begin. We are hopeful that we will receive the approval by May 25th.

Bond Recall/Reissue

Thank you for your patience with our bond recall and reissue process. If you have not received your bond, please call us at 1-888-990-9095 or send us an email. (Please note: For people who lost their bond, we need you to sign the indemnity form that we mailed to you on behalf of our trustee before we can mail you your bond.)

T5 + Did you move?

Your ZooShare T5 will be sent to you in mid-February. Please make sure we have your updated contact information. Most T5s will be sent via a secure, password-protected email (unless you specified your preference for a physical copy of your T5, in which case it will be mailed to you). If you have a new email address or if you have moved since purchasing a ZooShare bond, please email us or call us at 1-888-990-9095 to let us know. Please keep in mind that because your bond started earning interest immediately, you will need to pay tax on the earnings even though we have not serviced your bond yet. This is in accordance with CRA Tax rules. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Blog: Member Spotlight: Don Ross

Don grew up in North Western Ontario where the outdoors was his playground; As a pilot, he witnessed the sky being used as a garbage dump; Last year, he and his wife Heather only threw out 3 bags of garbage.

Don Ross and Family at Lake Louise

When did you become passionate about the environment?

There isn’t a particular moment that I can say I became passionate about the environment, it’s been a part of my life since I was young. I grew up in North Western Ontario, the outdoors were my playground: Fly-fishing in the rivers, camping in the woods, playing in the snow…It gave me respect for the power of nature…And if anybody has ever gone winter camping in Canada…it certainly teaches you to respect the power of nature!

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In high school one of the class projects was doing a documentary about what was important to you. Mine was an exposé about the pulp and paper mills that I grew up around in Fort William. I put it to music and tried to show how we were using the sky as a garbage dump, pumping all this pollution up into the sky. Not too long after I finished high school, I got my aviation licence: Flying around Thunder Bay, I saw a many factories and mills that reinforced my view that we were treating our air and atmosphere like a garbage dump. It made a very strong impact on me.

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If I had to pick a particular moment when I became more involved as an adult, it would be around the turn of the century: Prince Edward County was going to be first County in Ontario to have wind-farms, and having lived there since 1980, we certainly knew we had a tremendous wind resource here! The people that were opposed to the wind farms were getting a lot more attention than those in favour, so I founded Citizens Advocating for Renewable Energy (CARE), which gave a voice to the silent majority who supported wind power.

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In 2005 my wife Heather and I were some of the first in Ontario to receive the Renewable Energy Standard Offer [the predecessor to the Micro-fit program] in which people were given the opportunity to sell power to the grid. With Bullfrog Power we paid a small premium in order to source our energy from wind and small run-of-river (hydro) projects. We put solar panels on our roof and added more panels after the Micro-fit Program came in. Together, with the solar hot-water we added, it made us more conscious of the power we were consuming and how it was being produced.

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Around that same time, An Inconvenient Truth came out, and that’s also when our 1st grandchild was born…That was my driving force from that point on…When you have grandchildren, that changes everything. I always visualize my grandchildren being my age, 60, what kind of world will we have for them? We have to do things that will make it a better world for them and for their parents.

Why did you decide to invest in ZooShare?

ZooShare fits with what we think is right. We feel like we have to set an example, and leading by example is the best way. I think it was Ghandi who said “be the change you want to see in the world”. If you want something to happen, it’s you who has to make it happen. Rather than just wishing things were different, make them different.

For us, ZooShare was a perfect way to get involved, we really love the idea of making use of waste products. Our society needs to manage our waste better, what better way than making clean electricity from it?

7% is a wonderful, very attractive return on our investment, so for people that are more focused on the financial benefits, you can make some green for yourself while producing green energy. For us it wasn’t as much about the return as much as it was about being a part of an innovative, creative and positive environmental project with high-visibility: We like that [the ZooShare biogas plant] will be in a public place (at the Zoo) where millions of people will see how energy is produced. It will trigger thoughts about how energy is made and consumed. Now, I don’t think energy production is something that most people think about, we all take it for granted.

We were also very attracted by the teaching element of ZooShare. I know we’ll be taking our grandkids to the Zoo again, and we’ll be able to point to the plant and say, “we helped to make that happen” and “we can make the world a better place”.

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Finally, we were very impressed with the professionalism of the team and how our questions were answered. We had the good fortune of knowing Petra [who sits on the ZooShare board] and Daniel [ZooShare’s Executive Director] was wonderful in answering the questions we had. We would recommend to anybody that they get involved in ZooShare and buy bonds.

What are some conservation projects you think other ZooShare supporters would be interested in?

Water conservation is very important to us. I helped start County Sustainability Group. Every year we raise awareness about water conservation through the sale of rain barrels, which coincides with World Water Day. Rain barrels create an opportunity for people to think about where water comes from, and what an important, scarce, and rare resource water is and that we really need to treat it with respect. We use the proceeds from the sale of rain barrels towards a bursary for students in Prince Edward County who show an interest in studying environmental sustainability.

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Heather and I have always been thrifty, not wasteful…One day, on garbage pick up day, we suddenly realized how many bags of garbage people were putting out…We couldn’t remember the last time we did that, so we decided to keep track…It was quite amazing: we only put out 6 bags for the whole year! So I wrote a column about that for the County Weekly News and challenged people to reduce their garbage by 50%. That year we reduced our own waste from 6 bags to 3. We do that by practicing ‘Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rethink’. ‘Refuse’ and ‘Rethink’ are the ‘silent Rs’: ‘Refuse’ is to be a smarter consumer: consuming less is the very first step. You have to decide between wants and needs. ‘Rethink’ is to think about everything you’re doing and try to find a better way to do it. It’s never being satisfied that you’re doing the best you can, because there’s always a way to do it better.

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Another area that I think a lot of people could think about doing to take better care of the planet–and themselves– is gardening. When you think about our parents during the war, everybody had gardens, it was essential, there’s no reason why anybody who owns property could not have a garden of some size, shape or form. Since I’ve retired I’ve ben carving up my lawn and using more and more garden space and growing our own food. It’s better for you, and it’s an amazing way to keep yourself in good condition, you know where your food is coming from, and you reduce your carbon footprint (instead of buying food that is being transporting from everywhere around the world, you’re going out to your backyard). There’s instant gratification in having your own garden because you can pick it and cook it fresh right away. It also increases your own food security, knowing you can grow it and store it and have it there when you need it. You can also support your local organic growers and farmers, CSAs and community gardens, and advocate for bees and pollinators that are being devastated by neonics.

gardening

Gardening is also a great tool for the next generation. it’s a skill that kind of got lost after our grandparents, but when kids see it, they are amazingly interested in how things grow. There’s nothing better than taking my grandkids to the garden. In our generation, people have a consciousness of what we are leaving behind…it makes your decisions easier, it makes you think, “it’s not about me it’s the people who follow us”.

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About ZooShare

The ZooShare biogas plant will recycle manure from the Toronto Zoo and food waste from Canada’s largest grocery chain into renewable power for the Ontario grid. This process will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of removing 2,100 cars from the road each year, and will return valuable nutrients to the soil in the form of a high-quality fertilizer. To build this project, we are selling bonds that earn a return of 7% each year for 7 years.

If you are a ZooShare member interested in being profiled for our Member Spotlight, please email Frances for details.

Member Update: January 2015

We’re proud to report that we have reached almost $1.5 million in bond sales. At the end of the year we held an intensive planning session and mapped out our internal strategy for the next 6 months (below). The holidays allowed for a much-needed break, and now we’re back, re-energized, and ready to go! Want up-to-the minute updates? Email us.

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Thank you to all the ZooShare members who referred their friends in 2014: With your help, we planted 69 trees! For every $1000 bond referred from a current member, our partner Tree Canada will plant a tree in the member’s name. Make sure that when you’re telling your friends about ZooShare that they record your name on our investment form. Our partner, Tree Canada, has planted 80 million trees since 1992.

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Blog: Member Spotlight: Denice Wilkins

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Denice and John at ZooShare’s “Thanks A Million!” party October 2014.

ZooShare Investor Denice Wilkins is a lifelong environmentalist, protector of turtle eggs (ask her about Turtle ICUs) and even owns an organic blueberry farm in Tweed, Ontario. Denice and her husband, John Wilson, built and designed their passive-solar home.

When did you become passionate about the environment?

“You’d think Detroit would be a weird place to become so interested in nature, but you don’t have to live in the country to become passionate about the environment,” Denice points out. The Michigan-native founded a neighbourhood environmental club at the age of 10, in which duties included: alleyway trash pick-ups and stuffing neighbours’ mailboxes at dawn with messages like ‘Keep America Beautiful’, written in red and blue. She and her friends even wrote to the Governor of Michigan and told him about their environmental concerns “and he wrote back!” exclaims Denice. Meanwhile, in Quebec, Denice’s future husband (John Wilson, pictured above) was catching frogs and snakes and appreciating nature “the country-way”. While Denice went on to get a degree in Environmental Education, John became a wildlife photographer and cinematographer. “He shot his first wildlife film in The Galapagos, during an 8-month motorcycle trip through South America,” Denice reveals. The pair even made films together in Iceland and South Africa.

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Why did you decide to invest in ZooShare?

“We always wanted to invest in socially responsible investments, and so when I heard about ZooShare and the idea of ‘impact investing’, I really loved it because we didn’t want to profit from things we think are wrong: tobacco, nuclear missiles, etc…” laughs Denice. “And responsible investing is about the environment, social justice, gender equality…[Those concepts] are a part of our lives, our careers, our passions…and so ZooShare fits beautifully into that…It all weaves together…I’m very passionate and concerned about the state of the planet, from extinction to climate change to the myriad of problems that are impacting the planet right now…And I really believe in the power of one: The power of one person to make a difference, and the power that one idea can have to inspire a group of people to make a larger change…When you feel so powerless…It’s easy to become apathetic and say ‘there’s nothing we can do…we’re on the Titanic and it’s going down’, but investing in ZooShare is a way to do something, and that just helps me feel a little bit better about things.”

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What are some conservation projects you think other ZooShare supporters would be interested in?

Denice’s husband, John, was really ahead of the curve when he designed their passive-solar home 35 years ago: “He was an early adopter of energy efficiency,” explains Denice: “The house is oriented to the south, with lots of large windows to let the light in. The windows on the North side are smaller and fewer. We only have one level that is above ground and the rest of the house is below ground, which keeps the house insulated. On a sunny day we don’t need any heat source on at all…Until the sun goes down, then we start our wood stove…We’re not off the grid, but we have a solar hot-water heater, and our home is Bullfrog powered.

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(Flikr Photo Credit)

Denice and her husband also own Wilson’s Organic Blueberries, an acre and a half farm in Tweed, Ontario, where people can pick their own organic blueberries (July through August). “We also help pick blueberries for people who don’t want to pick their own,” mentions Denice.

In addition to being a member of ZooShare, Denice has another special connection to the Zoo: “One cool thing I didn’t mention is that I am on the board of the Quinte Field Naturalists, and one day we received a package from the Zoo about their turtle conservation efforts. We worked with the Toronto Zoo to put a turtle nesting beach on my property.” Denice learned about Turtle Nest Protectors, simple contraptions that prevent rapidly growing raccoon and skunk populations from devouring turtle eggs, which are in decline due to habitat loss. Although Turtle Nest Protectors are easy to make, Denice recognized that most people wouldn’t bother making them, “so we sell them inexpensively,” she adds: “Turtle Nest Protector is a boring name, I prefer ‘Turtle ICU: Incubation Care Unit.”

“Turtles are very site-loyal,” Denice explains, “if a turtle nested in your yard last year, it will probably come back. And please help a turtle across the road! The ones that are killed on the road are generally females going out in search of a place to nest. If it’s safe and you can pull off the road, help the turtle go in the direction it was heading.”

You can read more about Denice’s Turtle Initiatives here.

Turtle-Quote

About ZooShare

The ZooShare biogas plant will recycle manure from the Toronto Zoo and food waste from Canada’s largest grocery chain into renewable power for the Ontario grid. This process will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of removing 2,100 cars from the road each year, and will return valuable nutrients to the soil in the form of a high-quality fertilizer. To build this project, we are selling bonds that earn a return of 7% each year for 7 years.

If you are a ZooShare member interested in being profiled for our Member Spotlight, please email Frances for details.

Blog: 3 ways to watch your “waste-line” in 2015

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What a way to start 2015! On January 1st, Metro Vancouver made it illegal to dump food waste in landfills. Vancouver is leading the country by example: “We encourage food scraps recycling because it’s the right thing to do, it takes waste out of our landfills, it reduces our methane contributions, and it creates compost and bioenergy.” says the City of Vancouver website.

We’re excited to hear that Toronto is currently undertaking a long term waste management strategy for the next 30-50 years: “Development of the strategy will consider options which support waste reduction, re-use, recycling and recovery before final disposal,” says Annette Synowiec, Manager of Waste Management at the City of Toronto. You can learn more, share your thoughts, and get involved by clicking here.

In the meantime, it’s important to make sure that we each watch our own “waste-line” in 2015…And just to be clear, we’re not talking about shedding pounds or body sculpting! CBC recently reported that “more than $31 billion worth of food is wasted every year, and as tempting as it might be to blame waste on farms, supermarkets and restaurants, the reality is that most food waste is produced by you and me. Canadian households are accountable for almost 50% of that food waste:

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Why? Well, you’re not the only one who buys fruits and veggies with the ‘best of intentions’ (which become mush at the back of your fridge). There is some “guilt relief” by putting that liquified spinach in the green bin, but let’s talk about ways we could prevent “veggie liquefaction” in the first place. Here are 3 ways to watch your “waste-line” in 2015:

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1. Buy Less!

In the average Canadian household, one in four produce items gets thrown out1. As the price of food continues to rise (35% in the last decade) wasted food starts to look more and more like wasted money–as it should. Are you part of a one or two person household? Do you have a Costco membership? Please don’t buy that 6-pack of romaine lettuce! Not only is fresh produce more expensive at Costco, but do you really need six heads of lettuce? Or a huge box or oranges? Yes, it might seem like a good deal, but it’s not if you’re throwing half of it away. “We didn’t renew our bulk shopping membership a couple of years ago,”says Annette Synowiec, Manager of Waste Management Planning at the City of Toronto. “I take stock of what I have in my pantry, and I’ve made a conscious effort to do small-scale grocery shopping…It saves me so much money.”

Be honest with yourself: Do I really have the time or appetite to eat all that food?

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2. Preserve!

So you’ve bought less food, but what do you do with it once it’s in your house? Yes, you eat it. But how do you make that food last longer? “By learning preserving techniques you can learn how to keep that food,” says Toronto’s Joel MacCharles, founder of wellpreserved.ca. In a compelling TED TALK about food preservation, Joel explains that “if you can boil water, you can preserve food.” An even easier technique includes using your fridge effectively. But if you’re not big on glass jars or fridge organization, perhaps paper sounds more appealing to you? Fenugreen FreshPaper helps your fruit and veggies last 2-4 times longer: Their paper is infused with a special blend of organic spices with anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. ZooShare supporters get 20% off FreshPaper by using the discount code SHAREFRESH at checkout.

3. Watch This!

“Just Eat It” is a documentary about food waste by Vancouver filmmakers Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin. We had the privilege of watching this film at Hot Docs last year. Now it’s streaming for FREE online thanks to B.C.’s Knowledge Network. Watch it now!
Just eat it

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for more food-saving tips!

About ZooShare:
The ZooShare biogas plant will recycle manure from the Toronto Zoo and food waste from Canada’s largest grocery chain into renewable power for the Ontario grid. This process will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of removing 2,100 cars from the road each year, and will return valuable nutrients to the soil in the form of a high-quality fertilizer. To build this project, we are selling bonds that earn a return of 7% each year for 7 years.

REFERENCES

1. “Five Ways to End Food Waste” by David Suzuki’s Queen’s of Green
2. “27 Billion” Revisited: The Cost of Canada’s Annual Food Waste by Dr. Martin V. Gooch, Dr. Abdel Felfel and Caroline Glasbey. December 2014.

Blog: 5 Tips for a “Green” holiday

Even if you’re rooting for a “winter wonderland” this seaon, we should all keep our holidays as “green” as possible. Here are 5 tips to keep you on your toes, so we can all reduce our carbon footprint:Charlie Brown staring out the window at a bunch of snow.

1. HAVE AN UGLY SWEATER PARTY.

Getting cold looking at that snow coming down? Why not cook dinner and have company over? The body warmth and heat from the oven will help compensate for cooler temperatures. The warmest solution: Invite people over for an ugly sweater dinner party.
Ugly Sweater GIF

2. SHOP LOCALLY.

Frolic Artisans Marketplace December 4th to 7th poster
When you shop locally, you will find unique items that haven’t traveled thousands of miles. This will reduce your carbon footprint and support local businesses. You will also “spare the air” by not driving long distances. One example: Toronto’s Ecofinery, which was recently profiled in our November newsletter, produces gorgeous up-cycled jewellery. You can discover more artisans by visiting ZooShare at 401 Richmond for the Frolic Artisans Marketplace (December 4th to 7th), or by checking out the new Spacing Store, which features classy Toronto-themed gifts. (Enter our December draw to win a $75 Spacing Gift Card by December 17th).

3. GO BATTERY FREE.

Every year thousands of batteries are bought during the holidays. Old batteries are an environmental hazard and fill up landfills. A great store in Toronto that carries eco-friendly, non-battery toys is Baby on the Hip.Baby on the Hop Eco friendly toy selection

4. USE NATURAL HOMEMADE DECORATIONS.

Use pine cones, evergreen branch tips, holly berries and other colourful natural pieces to put the finishing touches on your home and gifts rather than buying commercial bows and ribbons. Try doing a eco-friendly decor search on Pinterest for inspiration.
Pinterest Search Screenshot

5. GIFT AN EXPERIENCE, OR SOMETHING EDUCATIONAL.

Instead of buying products, you could buy an experience, such as a Parks Canada Discovery Pass, to help reconnect the ones you love with the nature we all love. Of course, we would also recommend gifting a ZooShare bond, which is a great tool for teaching financial literacy and an opportunity to teach others about the true value of waste!
Photo of ZooShare bond

Adapted from:
QuinteConservation.ca

Member Update: December 2014

We’re proud to report that in addition to reaching $1.3 million in bond sales, we have brought on 4 of our own co-op members to help us reach our goal of raising $2.2 million in bonds (the Team page of our website will be updated in the New Year). More good news: We just received word from the Ministry of the Environment that our application has moved to the next phase of their review. Click here to see ZooShare listed on Ontario’s Environmental Registry. We have also added some new questions to our FAQ. Feel like there’s something missing? Let us know: We’re always looking for feedback. Email Frances with your thoughts and suggestions.

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Member Update: November 2014

“Thanks a Million!”

On October 9th over 70 members gathered to celebrate our collective achievement of raising over $1,000,000 in less than a year. Entertainment included Interactive Improv by Ken Hall, Nicole Dunn, Jordan Kennedy and Jessica Perkins. If you want to be funnier, or are looking for a comedic genius to lead a communication workshop for your business, let us know and we’ll put you in touch with Nicole.

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Paul John and John

Appointed Positions

At a recent Board meeting, the Board appointed new positions (from left to right): Our new Chair is Paul Ungerman, the new Vice Chair and Secretary is John Vellone and our Treasurer is John Nicholson. Read their bios on our Team Page.

Claim Settled

We are pleased to announce that ZooShare and Koenig & Consultants came to a settlement at mediation, which took place in late September. While the terms of the settlement are confidential, we are pleased with the outcome and more importantly, to put the matter behind us.

Making More Value

We’ve made progress in adding potential value to our financial model via creating higher value products from the digestate than was originally planned. Different technologies include vermicasting (worms!), biochar and liquid processing technologies that could lessen the cost of transporting liquid fertilizer. Stay tuned for details!

Permits & Progress

The Ministry of the Environment has agreed to begin processing our Renewable Energy Approval while Toronto Hydro expects to have our Connection Impact Assessment ready early next year. Our engineering team also sent out specifications to a number of different digester and generator suppliers and we are close to finalizing the capital budget and selecting technology providers

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Blog: You know the TSX. What’s the SVX?

The Toronto Stock Exchange is Canada’s biggest stock market — if you’re an investor with Canadian mutual funds, stocks, or bonds, your money is probably there. But for accredited investors who want to make a social and/or environmental impact, there is the SVX. The company that owns and operates the Toronto Stock Exchange, TMX Group Inc., has been a longstanding collaborator on the SVX project, providing support since the concept was first developed in 2008.1 The SVX was conceived to “create a market for good”. I sat down with Tristina Sinopoli, Project Coordinator at the SVX, to learn more about the organization and Tristina’s own experience in the world of impact investing2:

What is the SVX?

“The SVX is an online impact investing platform designed to connect ventures and funds that have a social or environmental impact in the work that they do, with investors that have expressed an interest in investing in companies that really do meet that double bottom line or triple bottom line, and vision.”

And for people who are unfamiliar with the “double bottom line” or “triple bottom line”, how would you define those terms?

“Companies that go above and beyond what’s expected of them by law to actually ensure that they’re having a very strong social or environmental impact.  And what this really means is that they’re intentional about their impact. So they set out to actually overcome a problem that they see exists, whether it’s an environmental problem or a community problem…and they’re very intentional about saying ‘we’re going to use our business solution to solve that particular problem.’ So it’s not that impact is just a wonderful by-product of the work that they do, but they’re actually saying ‘we will be impactful and we’re integrating that, from top down, bottom up, throughout the entire organization’.”

Can you talk about some of your favourite victories or successes at the SVX?

The launch of the SVX was huge. Adam Spence had been working on the SVX…I would say, in total about 6 years…From ideation, to the pilot, to the demonstration. It was a really long journey for him in terms of getting the regulators on board, allocating all the right resources, building-up buying with all of our tremendously supportive partners like TMX, RBC, Rockefeller Foundation, the Government of Ontario, and quite a few others…So the moment when we received approval and the moment when we all realized ‘we’re live, and this has been done, and now we’re this existing entity and now we can do the work that we’ve wanting to do for so long’…It was an epiphany, a ‘we can do this and we’re on the ground doing it’ type of moment.”

I understand that the SVX usually deals with accredited investors, but are you open to being approached by individuals who would like to learn more about impact investing?
“100%. 150%.”

So what would a preliminary conversation look like?

“We would really be talking about common definition of impact investing. What we find is that a lot of individuals have come across impact investing at one point or another, it just wasn’t labeled ‘impact investing’, or it was labeled ‘social finance’, which is yet again another common term…We would talk about examples that are close to home and close to the investor’s frame of mind so that they would be able to relate to and understand what impact investing is. For instance, if I met with a family or individual that had generated wealth through some type of agriculture business that they were involved in, I would talk about the various impact investing examples that I know of in the agriculture space…Sometimes it’s a learning focused conversation, but sometimes they actually do know the examples really well, and we can talk about how that was an impact investment, and what the intricacies of those investments were.”

How did you become involved with the SVX team?

“Great Question! I studied at York University at the Schulich School of Business and I focused my studies within the financial market sector and I took a lot of courses in private equity. But while I was doing that, I took a lot of courses in Urban Planning and Environmental Studies, those were my passions, and they gave me that trigger moment to say ‘I want to do something with my business degree outside of the traditional investment banking or accounting’…I was the person in business school that always said: ‘what about their employees? And what about the environment? What about some of these horrendous outsourcing practices that we see multinationals doing?’ I wanted to use business in a way that would make me feel really good about what I was doing and also to help companies that I really believed in…I learned about MaRS in a happenstance type of situation: Investeco presented in my private equity class and they were talking about how there was this growing momentum of investors that wanted to invest in their Sustainable Food Fund because they [the investors] believed in it. And I thought, that’s the line that I want to go with, and I started researching MaRS and learned more about it…I started at the centre as an intern…I joined the SVX team in late 2012.”

“Impact Investing” was coined in 2007. Do you feel impact investing is still in its baby stages right now?

It’s very nascent. It’s not in baby stages in terms of everyone still trying to figure out what this beast is, it’s now about trying to figure out who it’s most appropriate for, and which investors want to get on board…It’s nascent in that there’s still not a lot of people doing impact investing. But with [newness] comes a lot of great advantages…It’s very easy now to look to leaders in the space and say ‘I want to join this space, how do I do it?’…Especially if they are a foundation, they can look to leaders like the Hamilton Community Foundation and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation. The same goes for individuals as well as institutions, [for example] RBC has their Impact Investing Fund.”

What about outside of Ontario, what are the global trends in impact investing?

We’re definitely involved in the global conversion. We’re a part of the G7 Taskforce on Social Finance. We have a roundtable that convenes every so often with the goal of creating policies and frameworks that can help guide the impact investing movement forward globally…One of the things that we’re seeing is that the UK is very well ahead when it comes to social finance…[For example] social impact bonds were piloted in the UK…I would say they are the leaders in the space, especially the work that Sir Ronald Cohen has done to really build the market in the UK. And then we see various countries are ahead in different portfolios, so some countries may have really well-developed agriculture-type impact investing policies and procedures that are in place…Impact investing is so contextual that what it means in one country can mean something totally different in another country depending on both the domestic impact as well as the global impact.

Can you tell me about some of the trends you’re seeing in impact investing that relate to gender?

I can speak to what I’m seeing generally in the impact investing market in Ontario when it comes to gender…I’ve dealt with many families, so many males and females, husband and wife teams that are really interested in impact investing, or alternatively, a daughter and father or a daughter and mother, and so I would say that I’ve dealt with a 50/50 split of males and females…In terms of the female presence, we’re definitely seeing, at least from my experiences, that more women are involved in impact investing than in your traditional private equity VC space investing. And I think that the reason for that comes from a lot of female entrepreneurs or female executives that have recognized the potential of impact investing and the ability for them to actually use some capital in a really innovative way. So a lot of female entrepreneurs that have done work in the health care space, for example, then say, ‘I want to be able to invest in it, and actually put dollars towards a project that is similar to the company that I created myself’. And the same with the foundations as well, with foundations, we see a lot of female leaders in foundations that are leading the charge, a lot of executive directors in Canada are female, and so we do see huge momentum from women…[In a MaRS Women in Venture Capital and Private Equity study the high-level summary] was actually quite surprising: Females in venture capital and private equity usually take more of an administrative role, and are not necessarily involved in the investment decision making. That’s something that hopefully, when we have more data on impact investing, we can counteract and say, ‘well actually, when it comes to impact investing funds, the case is much different.’ We don’t have those numbers yet, and that’s something as a centre we can definitely work towards…I guess the other point that I would add as to why we’re still not fully ahead when it comes to the gender gap in impact investing, is that a lot of the investment professionals come from the traditional market, and so it is kind of a mirror-image…Obviously that can change and I foresee that developing as there are more women entering the traditional market as well, but I think that is something to keep in the back of our minds, that these are not just new investment professionals that are coming to light because of impact investing, there’s a fragment that are, but impact investing falls within the entire financial services ecosystem and so it’s important to understand that system as a whole, and to understand how we can support women across that entire system…One of the points that I would add is that even within the impact investment sector, it’s important to talk about female investors and female leadership, but it’s also important to talk about females as leaders in roles within the social enterprises that they operate in: That’s representation on the board for example, and that’s something we’re very cognisant of while we work with companies that are within the impact investing space, to ensure that they are really living the values that they are talking about, and many of them, if not all of them, are. For example, a company like ZooShare, I know that Daniel is very forward thinking when it comes to female leadership and that’s his own personal prerogative as well.

Did you learn about impact investing in business school?

When I was in university, the terms ‘impact investing’ and ‘social finance’ were not used whatsoever. The term ‘social responsible investing’ was, but it was used more-so in the sense of publicly listed companies and applying an ESG [environmental, social, governance] lens to that particular portfolio of investment. When I was at school there was 1 course on social entrepreneurship, and it was taught at a very high level…I felt that the instant I graduated, the course offering at Schulich increased to include impact investing and more social entrepreneurship courses…I think it’s important that impact investing is embedded throughout all courses that are business focused…as well as sector-specific focused courses…If you are in Environmental Studies, you should be able to understand the different financing mechanisms out there that can help you finance an idea that you might be working on…that’s critical. Impact investing is the definition of interdisciplinary work.

Do you have any tips on how to increase people’s awareness of impact investing in general?

Talking about it more. The investors that are currently doing it, should be talking about it as much as they can, obviously, not providing the sensitive information of their investment or anything like that, but actually being able to say “I invested in this really cool company, it’s very different than what I normally invest in”. When I meet colleagues I’m constantly talking about the work I do and trying to see how it relates to their life, for example if they work at RBC, I say, did you know RBC has an impact investment fund, have you ever heard of what they’re doing at the other end of the bank? And the more we can create those points of interaction where people can say “wow, this has actually touched my life in one way”, then we’ll have more people. On the inverse, not just from the customer perspective, but companies continuously telling their story and talking about why they’re different.

What do you think the future of impact investing future looks like? I read a great article about the future impact of millennials and impact investing.

When I think about myself and I think about the values that I have and the kind of investments I look for in my own portfolio, it’s very aligned with the person that I am…I think that [the future of impact investment] would be two routes developing at once: So the first component would be millennials aging who are accumulating wealth and looking for products that are much better at telling their own story, and much better being able to say ‘if you have values aligned with this particular sector, we’re the investment for you because those are our own values too.’ But I also wouldn’t discredit the older generation of current investors that exist…I mean, my parents have values too, and if they knew more about what they could invest in, they would do a lot more of it.

Resources:

1) http://svx.ca/about/partners
2) Personal interview with Tristina Sinopoli recorded 2014/07/29

Member Update: October 2014

Since we announced our $1,000,000 milestone, we raised an additional $200K! We are now over half-way to our funding goal! Please click here to retweet this achievement, or click here to share it on Facebook.

Join us on October 9th from 6-8pm at 401 Richmond St. West for “Thanks A Million!”. We will be celebrating YOU, our supporters, and our collective achievement of raising our first $1,000,000! This party will feature some of Toronto’s best interactive improv (a fan of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” Don’t miss this!)

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