The Impact World this Week: 8 February 2024

Your quick guide to the news in social enterprise, impact investment and mission-driven business. This week: Patagonia's donations under scrutiny, David LePage's latest news and a big-name move in the UK social investment sector.

UK: Mathu Jeyaloganathan, head of investments at UnLtd, announced that she is leaving to become chief investment officer at London’s Camden Council, leading its new Community Wealth Fund. Jeyaloganathan joined UnLtd in 2019 and was instrumental in setting up the Growth Impact Fund, an investment fund developed by UnLtd and Big Issue Invest to support diverse-led social enterprises and those tackling inequality. She was named the WISE100 Social Investment champion in 2022 and has been vocal about making impact investment more inclusive. Read what Jeyaloganathan has to say about institutional racism in social investment and managing an investment team through a global pandemic.

US: Patagonia, the outdoor apparel brand, has come under scrutiny from watchdog group Americans for Public Trust for funnelling its profits towards democratic environmental and political causes, from dam removal to reproductive healthcare and prison reform. Tax filings and internal documents reviewed by The New York Times showed that a network of nonprofit organisations linked to Patagonia has distributed more than $71m since September 2022, when Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, and his family relinquished ownership of the company and declared that all its future profits would be used to protect the environment. The Chouinards set up the Holdfast Collective, a series of trusts and charities that are responsible for distributing all of Patagonia’s profits. The entity garnered the suspicion of Caitlin Sutherland, the executive director of Americans for Public Trust, who called it “a $1.7bn political organisation in waiting”. Greg Curtis, who heads Holdfast, told The New York Times that the collective was “not aiming to be an extension of the Democratic Party”, adding: “The sole purpose in engaging in politics and policy is to advance stronger environmental policy.” Read more about how the impact sector hailed Chouinard’s radical decision to hand over ownership of the billion-dollar company to ‘planet Earth’.

Global: BlueMark, the impact investing verification firm, has named Sarah Gelfand as its new president, responsible for co-leading its business team and heading its next phase of growth. Gelfand first joined BlueMark in January 2021 as a managing director. Earlier in her career, she was a founding director at the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), where she led development of the IRIS+ impact measurement and management system. Christina Leijonhufvud, CEO of BlueMark will remain in her role. Read more about BlueMark’s work here.

Global: The Social Enterprise World Forum went live with its new People and Planet First website this week. This follows the launch of the ‘people and planet first’ brand and verification process for social enterprises around the world at the Social Enterprise World Forum in October 2023. 

Europe: Positive impact companies should be defined as those that take on the challenge to “reinvent the relationship of the human with the life on Earth, and consequently the relationship of companies with their environment”, according to Salvatore Iannello, CEO of Belgian chocolatier Galler. He was contributing to a discussion on “Positive impact companies as the new pillars of a sustainable and fair European economy”, hosted by Pioneers Post associate editor Anna Patton during the launch of the Business for a Better Tomorrow coalition. He explained: “[This means] shifting from a model of ‘P for profit maximisation’ into the four P’s: People, Planet, Prosperity, Purpose, with a big conviction: no justice for the planet without social justice. The live recording of the event is now online.

Canada: Buy Social Canada founder and former Social Enterprise World Forum chair David LePage has retired. His many other roles have included founder and chair of the Social Enterprise Council of Canada, co-founder of the Social Enterprise Institute and professor at the University of Fredericton. He remains chair of Buy Social Canada’s board of directors, and will embark on a national tour this summer to promote his book, Marketplace Revolution: from concentrated wealth to community capital. Read his Day in the Life interview in Pioneers Post.