Responsible Funds, April 6: Ellevest launches gender-lens impact funds

Updates on news and launches in the ESG funds market.

Ellevest, a women-centric investment firm, has launched into the impact investment market through its new Ellevest Impact Portfolios. The portfolios aim to use gender-lens investment to get capital more directly into the hands of women through, for example, small business loans to women owners and trade finance loans for companies with social mandates in emerging economies. Ellevest offers a no-account-minimum service option, which allows clients to determine where their investments go starting with their first dollar.
ICO, the Spanish development bank, is reportedly exploring new investment opportunities such as social impact funds and anticipate having a significant share in them soon. ICO have issued €2bn of social bonds in the past to finance projects in Spanish autonomous regions where the GDP dips below the national average. ICO has also been heavily involved in the development of the Spanish private equity market through a €1.5bn fund of funds, created in partnership with the government.
A Washington DC federal judge has thrown out a suit alleging the mismanagement of a $17m human rights fund created by Yahoo in 2007, saying there’s no evidence a charitable trust was created. The fund was established to help persecuted Chinese writers, democracy advocates and human rights lawyers as part of a settlement after the web company was sued for turning over the identities of dissidents to the Chinese government. The lawsuit accused Yahoo senior executives of turning a blind eye as the fund’s manager, Harry Wu, blew most of the money on personal expenses.The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) has launched a $500m Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) aligned fund designed to tackle “development challenges” around the world through innovations in science and technology. The Transform Fund will run in tandem with IsDB’s new online hub, ENGAGE, which connects innovators in developing communities with market opportunities and funding.
Tech stocks, primarily those from FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google), which were popular holdings among ESG and sustainability funds are now having their standing as sustainability solution providers reassessed by fund managers, according to When Asset Management. The increased scrutiny comes in the wake of Facebook most recent scandal which resulted in a 16% loss of its value. Ethical investors are being asked to evaluate the business model of the companies and whether this enables and benefits from “the shift to low carbon, sustainable forms of development”.
NN Investment Partners, a subsidiary of the Dutch insurance company NN Group, has been awarded the TEEC label (Energy and Ecological Transition for Climate) for its green bond fund, NN (L) Euro Green Bond by Novethic. The French government-supported label guarantees that a fund invests most of its assets in environmentally-friendly activities and excludes nuclear and fossil fuel businesses. The actively managed fund was launched in 2016, with an in-house framework assessing greenness of funds and use of proceeds.