September 13, 2021
The Great Lakes Impact Investment Platform has attracted nearly $4 billion in sustainability investments in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence region of the United States and Canada in the past 1.5 years. The Platform is working to showcase even more environmental, energy efficiency and social impact projects going forward.
“As Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes region grapple with the impacts of climate change, the Great Lakes Impact Investment Platform is an important new way for our companies, public agencies, and other organizations to align their investment decisions with critical environmental improvements,” said Liesl Clark, Director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).
“The Platform seeks to attract more impact investment in the region by highlighting successful projects,” said David Naftzger, Executive Director for the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers (GSGP). “With more than $17 trillion in assets under management in the U.S. being directed to sustainable, responsible, and impact investing – and $30 trillion being similarly invested globally – the Platform aims to highlight the abundant opportunities to make globally significant environmental impacts by investing in our region.”
To highlight some of its work, GSGP is hosting a series of webinars–Water Infrastructure, Sept. 23; Impact Investing, Oct. 1; and Economic Development Opportunity of Carbon (date to be determined). The webinars will feature high-profile speakers and opportunities to ask questions of these regional leaders:
- Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes
- Michigan State Treasurer Rachael Eubanks
- Indiana Department of Environmental Management Commissioner Bruno Pigott
- Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Preston Cole
- Ontario Financing Authority Executive Director and Chief Investment Officer Mike Manning
- Cleveland-Cliffs Chairman, President and CEO Lourenco Goncalves
These programs are free and open to the public. Registration and details are at: https://gsgp.org/
Launched in 2020 by GSGP in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, the School for Environment and Sustainability and Center for Smart Infrastructure Finance at the University of Michigan, and Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc. (ECT), the Platform has goals of reducing nutrient inputs to sensitive watersheds by 20%, increasing energy efficiency by 10% and reducing emissions by 10-15%.
The Great Lakes region holds about 20% of the world’s surface fresh water and 85% of North America’s. The Platform is focused not only on projects in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence River basin but includes projects anywhere in the region’s states and provinces. This includes projects affecting groundwater, the Mississippi and Ohio River watersheds, Hudson Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
“Québec used the power of green bonds to fund projects that save energy and reduce emissions. The Great Lakes Impact Investment Platform allows the province to promote this work while tracking the environmental performance,” said Guillaume Pichard, managing director, Ministère des Finances du Québec.
Among the Platform’s current projects are:
- Buffalo, New York – The Buffalo Sewer Authority issued the largest-ever Environmental Impact Bond (EIB) to capture stormwater, reduce sewer overflows and add 700 jobs. The $54 million issuance uses a creative, outcomes-based financial instrument to design and implement green infrastructure. Essentially, the better and faster the environmental improvements, the lower the financial repayment for the authority.
- Chicago – Amped Kitchens will pay for $4.6 million in energy-efficiency upgrades to its “apartment building for kitchens” over time on its property tax bill using innovative Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) financing.
- Detroit – DTE Energy’s subsidiary, DTE Electric Company, completed its third green bond in March, bringing its total in green-bond issues to $2 billion. The bond is being used to finance clean energy projects including the construction of solar and wind farms and strengthening energy-efficiency programs that help Michigan residents and businesses save energy and reduce bills.
- Madison, Wisconsin – The nonprofit Savanna Institute is using several financing tools including green lending to work with farmers in Wisconsin and Illinois to show how the addition of perennial crop trees to conventional row-crop and livestock farms can reduce carbon emissions, promote biodiversity and improve both environmental and economic outcomes.
- Indianapolis – Citizens Energy Group, the City of Indianapolis, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are engaged in a $2 billion project to nearly eliminate combined sewer overflows into area waterways.
“Our green infrastructure program is framed to make Buffalo a greener, healthier, and more equitable city,” said Oluwole “O.J.” McFoy, General Manager of the Buffalo Sewer Authority. “It is good to see other greening initiatives on the Great Lakes Impact Investment Platform as, collectively, it helps to showcase the region as a leader. In addition, cumulative data points on the region’s greening progress are further useful as it brings transparency to how we are addressing community resilience.”
The Platform encourages project developers and partners to use globally recognized environmental, sustainability and governance (ESG) terminology and the U.N. SDGs to help investors and communities recognize the value of projects in the region, and how they align with global goals.
Likewise, the Platform is actively seeking additional projects that fit into its target impact themes of forestry, smart water systems, agriculture and energy.
“The Great Lakes Impact Investment Platform combines the growing demand for sustainable finance with a place-based strategy focused on one of the world’s greatest natural resources. Now, more than ever, we need new ways to protect forests, waterways, and other natural resources, and the Platform can help deliver these solutions,” said Peter Stein, Managing Director, The Lyme Timber Company, Manchester, NH.
Encouraging a variety of investment strategies such as green bonds, green lending, real assets and environmental impact bonds, the Platform is helping investors and individuals, governments and organizations be creative in the ways they can develop, finance and pay for environmental and sustainability projects.
“Our region’s waters are a globally important source of renewable natural capital, which – through proper stewardship – can ensure continued economic growth and wealth generation for our region’s people in perpetuity,” Naftzger said. “The Great Lakes Impact Investment Platform is an innovative way to attract capital to finance environmental benefits and measure their overall impact.”
Experts with the Great Lakes Impact Investment Platform, partners and project owners are available to speak in more depth and welcome inquiries from communities, organizations and investors that may want to work together toward shared goals.
Carolyn Artman, APR
MCCI – Mort Crim Communications, Inc.