Changing the World of Impact Investing

Monday, April 6th 2020

Last week, we sat down (virtually) with Dynamo Energy Hub Member Michele Demers, Founder and CEO of Boundless Impact Investing. We asked Michele about her sustainability-focused business, exciting projects they work on, and key cleantech and sustainability trends she is watching right now. Check out the interview below to learn more about how Boundless drives capital to promising and environmentally responsible startups.

Hi Michele, it’s a pleasure to speak with you, although I wish we could do this in person! Could you tell us a little bit about Boundless Impact Investing and its mission?

Boundless is an independent industry research and impact assessment firm that helps private investors, funds, and companies do technical diligence on emerging technologies. Our clients are mainly comprised of family offices and private investment firms who are looking for help to maximize the social and environmental impact of their portfolios.

We have a community of 60+ clients that include investors and cleantech companies. For investors, we conduct due diligence and consider environmental impacts of the companies they invest in. Simultaneously, we help cleantech companies to gain traction among potential customers and investors.

We are especially proud of our climate impact assessment tool, which we use to conduct independent, data-driven analysis that is customized for specific companies. By looking at the environmental footprint of a company or product, investors are better informed to make smarter and more accurate decisions.

This is definitely where the finance world is moving today with more investors taking into consideration climate risks and the environmental footprint of companies. You’re the Founder of Boundless. How did you start it and what prompted you to focus on this field?

My vision for Boundless is that our quantitative and scientifically rigorous data collection and analysis enables capital to move more quickly and intelligently to technologies with real potential to become game changers. Normally, investment due diligence only emphasizes financial factors of a company or technology. But we are moving toward a carbon priced world, and thus it’s increasingly important to incorporate environmental factors into investment decisions and look at how those factors could impact the growth and success of a technology.

Was there some specific challenge that urged you to start Boundless?

Impact investing is a relatively new field, the shiny new thing that everyone is talking about, and I believe there is a pretty critical need for more independent research and analysis so investors can discover real “impact opportunities.” There’s too much pay to play in the world of finance, and I wanted to develop more objective ways of identifying future market winners. Currently, raters are getting paid by the companies that they are rating and it’s obviously problematic.

Private investors should be able to rely on independent, verified, and rigorous data and analytics.

Shifting gears here. You no doubt get to work with very interesting companies. Could you tell us what was the most exciting or eye-opening project that you worked on in the past year?

Last year, we were hired by an alternative protein company from Canada to assess the environmental impact of energy and materials used to produce their product. In the advent of the “Impossible Burger” I thought the alternative protein was already ‘happening’. But while working on this project I realized that the environmental impact and carbon footprint assessments in the food and ag industry are just scratching the surface, and of course alternative protein companies have a really good story to tell when it comes to their environmental footprint. This was an insightful experience and I learned a ton about this field.

Right now is a challenging time to make any predictions, but are there some clean energy and sustainability trends that you are excited about?

I am excited about the fact that states are now putting a lot of capital toward clean energy transition. Despite some federal rollbacks there’s a lot of activity and innovation happening thanks to support at the state level. Larger corporations have also stepped up their commitments on clean energy and sustainability, which helps to move the needle in the right direction.

Another trend I am truly excited about is carbon pricing. The world is slowly but surely moving to carbon pricing regimes, and there are lots of financial products emerging in Europe that allow to evaluate climate risks. The US can potentially be a laggard in this field due to the rollbacks and overall rhetoric of the federal government on climate and emissions. States like California are trying to keep up with the progressive parts of the world.

What about New York State?

New York is certainly a leader — I can see the state implementing a carbon fee-and-dividend system that would pass responsibilities for emissions to emitter. Such a system would allow to quantify the risk around emissions, which is a more progressive way to promote environmental justice. I can see New York State starting to introduce this concept within the next two to three years and implementing it in five.

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Left to right: Kristin Barbato, Dynamo Energy Hub Co-Founder; Michele Demers, Boundless Impact Investing Founder & CEO; Emily Chasan, Bloomberg LP Sustainable Finance Editor

That would be really impactful to have two of the most populous states in America, New York and California, to have a carbon price in place. While we are talking about New York, could you tell me why Boundless joined Dynamo Energy Hub?

Certainly! We are assessing three companies right now and all three were referred to us. We depend on networks to access emerging, quality companies. I was impressed by the Dynamo dinner last fall where I met terrific people who work in the energy and sustainability space in New York.

We need more communities that bring all pieces of the puzzle together and help move capital, policy, and technology — to accelerate change.

Knowledge-sharing opportunities are also invaluable. I participated in the Cleantech Founders Breakfast Club in February, where only Founders of cleantechs like me were allowed to be in the room, and it was so productive and beneficial because we could talk openly about everything, from fundraising to finding an effective COO for your company. Dynamo is really the only platform that enables Founders of cleantechs to connect and to build a tightly knit clean energy community.

Thank you, Michele, we are delighted to have Boundless, and you, as part of our clean energy and sustainability ecosystem! On a less serious note, could you share a fun fact about yourself or any work from home tips?

When it comes to working from home, structure obviously is very important, and it’s important to be productive but also to devote part of your day for walks and rest. It also really helps to meditate and connect with people regularly.

Fun fact: I love to surf! I think surfing teaches you a lot about life and philosophy as much as about just being in the water.

Thank you, Michele, I hope when this whole shelter-in-place situation is over you will get to surf!

To learn more about Boundless Impact Investing, visit their website. To stay updated on Dynamo Energy Hub activities and access the latest content, follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Natalia Sharova Community Director