Impact Investor marks International Women’s Day by talking to female fund managers and entrepreneurs driving impact across sectors, from fashion to biodiversity data.
To mark International Women’s Day, celebrated across the world on 8 March, Impact Investor spoke to female fund managers focused on gender-lens and impact investing and asked them to highlight some of the pioneering female-led companies driving impact across their respective industries. We also caught up with some of the women leading these businesses to understand how the investment is helping them progress their objectives.
Chi Impact Capital & OiOiOi
Christin ter Braak-Forstinger (pictured above) is the co-founder and CEO of Zurich-based Chi Impact Capital, and advisor to the Burning Issues Fund.
Although the fund has a broader impact remit, she says her team encourages diversity and inclusion across the lifetime of the investments it makes and uses a variety of gender equity indicators in its analysis. These include improved ratio of female to male positions within teams and boards, positive changes towards increased job opportunities for women, outcomes that positively impact the lives of women, outcomes that increase the positive environmental footprint of women, or closing gender pay gaps.
Ter Braak-Forstinger’s company pick is OiOiOi, a children clothing subscription service built around a circular economy model. The company offers parents and carers a range of monthly subscription plans to rent clothing for their children, which the company says will help families make savings of up to 70% versus buying the clothes new. This is based on a like-for-like basis with all of OiOiOi clothing made from certified organic cotton.
“As a conscious investor we see things holistically. We believe in a strategy where ‘gender’ and ‘climate’ cross-fertilise each other. We are, for example, currently in discussions with OiOiOi, a baby and kids clothing rental service in Switzerland. We really like them – not only because they have a very strong female founder team but because they are disrupting the dirty fashion industry by offering a fully circular online fashion rental model. The CO2 savings are tremendous compared to conventional fashion consumption models,” said ter Braak-Forstinger.
According to an impact assessment conducted with myclimate.org, a family using the company’s subscription service will avoid 73% of CO2 emissions, save 92% of water and divert 93% of textile waste from landfill or from being burned, based on one child using the service.
Anna Mucha, co-founder of OiOiOi, added: “We want to make renting easier than buying, fresher than second hand and more sustainable than any other options available. We are currently fundraising in a seed round for 2.5m CHF to invest in our platform in order to raise awareness and adoption of this new way of consuming clothes and encourage consumers to adopt circularity. Essentially, we want to be the Netflix of clothing and revolutionise how bumps, babies and kids get dressed.”
Systemiq Capital & NatureMetrics
Irena Spazzapan is co-founder of London-based Systemiq Capital and leads the company’s investment practice investing in businesses with the potential to drive systemic change in the four areas of sustainable food and materials, clean transportation, climate intelligence and finance, and climate restoration. Spazzapan said that despite not having a gender focus “diversity attracts diversity” and that the Systemiq Capital team actively helped its portfolio companies with their governance “to get to the right diversity mix”.
Spazzapan’s portfolio company pick is NatureMetrics, whose UK-based female-led team is pioneering the use of DNA-based monitoring in pursuit of better biodiversity data. The company collects samples from a site, including sites being considered for development, which are then analysed in a lab and inputted into a digital interface that allows commercial businesses to monitor and report on their impact on biodiversity and help to preserve and grow natural capital over time.
“Their mission is to improve biodiversity conservation by providing asset-specific powerful datasets mapping nature. They are a total pioneer in their field, revolutionising both the regulated market for biodiversity mapping and the nascent voluntary movement for net positive reporting including biodiversity impact. No one else is doing this globally,” says Spazzapan.
She adds: “Once you understand the richness of a biodiverse space, conservation and rewilding can be accurately measured and might eventually feed into new biodiversity-linked markets. This presents a much stronger case for preservation of biodiversity than for example carbon offsets, which are unravelling in front of our eyes. Understanding and measuring biodiversity is the first building block towards generating value from nature conservation, and NatureMetrics’ female entrepreneurs are leading the charge.”
Katie Critchlow, CEO of NatureMetrics, adds: “Our mission is to power good decisions for business and nature. Recent investments, including from Systemiq Capital, have allowed us to take the data we produce in the lab and put a digital layer across it. This facilitates decision-making in the boardroom, making the often complex nature of biodiversity easy to understand. With this digitalised dataset, we aim to be the world’s number one provider of nature intelligence.”
Borski Fund & Parfumado
Simone Brummelhuis is director and partner of Borski Fund, an Amsterdam-based gender lens fund, whose investment thesis applies a triple-diversity lens with investments made by a predominantly female team into companies founded or co-founded by female tech entrepreneurs and a focus on products and services for women with a positive impact on women.
Brummelhuis’s portfolio company pick is Parfumado, a Dutch beauty tech company. Founded by Floor and Martijn van Rooy, Parfumado operates a consumer-facing subscription service offering subscribers an 8ml perfume refill of their choice every month. It also helps perfume brands improve their engagement with consumers and target them more effectively with their samples.
The company has created a database of 350,000 customer beauty profiles and uses 35 target characteristics and a feedback mechanism to more closely match samples to consumers and vice versa in a bid to reduce waste. According to research from Parfumado, 70% of perfume samples are typically thrown away by consumers every year, with no feedback provided to the brands.
“Parfumado reduces packaging and waste in the perfume industry, with a very diverse workforce in its fulfilment centre, while democratising the industry. They started as a challenger and have recently converted the larger players in the industry. It takes optimism and resilience to make that happen. Floor and Martijn are a power brother and sister entrepreneurial couple,” says Brummelhuis.
Floor van Rooy, co-founder of Parfumado, adds: “Our two synergetic business models create an essential bridge between consumers and brands. With the Borski Fund on board, we will extend our offer to more European countries, and further invest in growing our database of first-party beauty profiles and cutting-edge analytics to drive our recommendation engines. Until recently, sampling has been a one-way transaction. By making it a conversation and using targeted sampling, we believe we can really change the industry and reduce waste in the process.”