Interview

A new generation of ethical investors are kickstarting ventures with social and environmental benefits and transforming citizens’ lives.

Capital Gains

Christa Clapp

Christa Clapp is co-founder of CICERO Shades of Green, an organisation that providers independent advice on the extent to which investment opportunities align with sustainability goals.

Capital Gains

What do you do?

I am research director of climate finance at CICERO and co-founder of CICERO Shades of Green. We provide independent green ratings of financial instruments, like green bonds, and show investors how well the investments align to a low-carbon and climate-resilient future, using a simple system of light, medium and dark green. The methodology is based on climate research that shows we need a green transition in all sectors to achieve the climate targets in the Paris Agreement. We give a clear signal to investors about how their investments align with climate goals in order to facilitate green financial decisions.

Governments and corporations can issue green bonds to finance many things, from renewable energy to transport solutions. For cities, we have seen green bonds used to finance, for example, public transport and cycling lanes, green hospital buildings, improved recycling practices and adaptive measures to address the increased flooding associated with climate change.

Why do you do it?

Climate change is the biggest threat our society faces. While policymakers have started to address the challenge, they need to do much more. The financial sector can play an important role in shifting capital to climate-smart investments. If investors have transparent information on climate risk, they can make informed choices.

How did you get where you are today?

I started my career in finance, then returned to grad school looking for more meaning in what I do. The complexity of the climate challenge motivated me to move into climate policy and economic analysis. Eventually I completed the circle, channelling climate change research back into a solution for the finance sector.

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When investors began to ask for more clearly identifiable green products, they needed to know that they could trust the green label. A research-based approach, simply communicated to investors, is one answer.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in trying to do your job?

As a climate researcher, I am surrounded by depressing climate news: political setbacks, increasing costs of extreme weather events associated with climate change such as flooding and forest fires. Keeping positive is sometimes tough. But that’s why it’s motivating to work with investors that are asking for more green bonds and sustainable financial products. This has been one of the most positive trends related to climate change.

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What are you most excited about at the moment?

Seeing green bonds supporting financial incentives to promote greener choices, such as preferential rates for green mortgages or better loan terms for cities strong on climate change adaptation planning. We have even seen some Swedish municipalities competing with each other to be the ‘greenest’ in their bond issuances.

Anya Navidski

Anya Navidski is the Founding Partner at Voulez Capital, a venture capital fund that provides capital for scaleable, high-growth businesses with at least one female founder on the team.

Capital Gains

What made you launch Voulez Capital?

We live in a world designed and built by men for men. In venture capital (VC) in the UK, less than one per cent of cash from VCs goes to female-run businesses. As a result, we end up with products and services that are not taking the female perspective and needs into account. Drugs are not tested on women. Cars are less safe for women. Transport systems are built without taking into account how women – who still carry the higher burden of childcare and elderly care and other errands – move around. Even some of the latest technologies, like voice recognition software, are 70 per cent less accurate for female voices. By backing women-run businesses we are helping companies of the future to gradually change the world we live in. Not only do women see opportunities to create value that others miss, but they also build companies that are more inclusive and more flexible for all.

I am an entrepreneur and I find it hard to resist an opportunity.

While I was between my own ventures, I was pregnant and looking for a breast pump, but I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t designed in the 1950s, except one – a US company which created a version as elegant as an iPhone. I came across the story of the founder and the horrendous issues she faced from VCs while trying to raise capital. They found her product disgusting and failed to see the opportunity right in front of them. Having done some research, I found out that in the US there were a number of funds focused on women and doing very well. In Europe, however, there was nothing. That’s how Voulez Capital was born.

What is your business model?

We find promising, early-stage companies, and provide them with equity capital to help them grow. We also work very closely with them
at an operational and strategic level, as well as opening up certain doors and opportunities for them.

What barriers have you had to overcome to get where you are today?

My biggest barrier was when my family first came to this country, almost 30 years ago. My parents had no idea how things worked here. I was lucky enough to earn a bursary to do my A Levels at Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls in Elstree, which gave me opportunities which would not otherwise have been available. This made me a big believer in providing people with equal opportunities – it makes all the difference. Giving female entrepreneurs an opportunity to access financing is a key part of this philosophy.

What is the biggest challenge you face in trying to do your job?

There are two key challenges. The first is coming into this sector without previous experience of working for a large VC fund. However, this has enabled me to do things with a fresh perspective. The launch of our Fair Venture Principles has been a key outcome of this and one of the reasons why founders who would otherwise not trust the venture capital route, nevertheless go down this road, with us at their side.

Second has been the impact of the Me Too movement. On the one hand, it raised a lot of awareness around issues facing women. On the other, it created a lot of hype and defensiveness. According to some numbers, investment in female-run businesses has actually declined since 2016. It also gave rise to things like women-only business clubs and co-working spaces, which, I believe, only set us back.

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