All Things Impact.

private capital & the public good

All Things Impact for May 27: self driving trucks & the destruction of small town economies

Brian Walsh1 Comment

Hi friends,

Welcome to All Things Impact, a newsletter of interesting things I've seen from across the spectrum of impact: effective philanthropyimpact investing (in the private markets), responsible investing (in the public markets) and a wildcard topic. For previous posts, to subscribe, and for more information, please visit All Things Impact.
Here are four links worth your time (plus job postings, items of note, and a calendar of upcoming events): 

1. Effective Philanthropy: Investing in Infrastructure
The Federal Transit Administration found that public transit systems have a backlog of $86 billion in critical maintenance nationwide. Both Clinton and Trump have promised increased investments in infrastructure. And now a coalition of more than 20 philanthropic “Infrastructure organizations,” led by GuideStar and the Center for Effective Philanthropy, are calling on foundations to dedicate at least 1% of their grantmaking budgets to strengthen the infrastructure of the philanthropic sector:

"An economy needs roads, bridges, and train stations to thrive. A community needs schools, parks, and houses of worship to ensure the flowering of human potential.
And civil society needs infrastructure to ensure that nonprofits and foundations can act with integrity and impact. Nonprofit infrastructure organizations run the training programs that support the growth of our staff and volunteers. They do the research to help us understand what works, and what doesn’t. They build the technology platforms that make communication and learning possible. They hold the conferences that gather nonprofit leaders together and provide them the resources and connections to improve their work. They advocate for new levels of excellence to push us all to do better — and for policies that create the legal environment in which we work…
Nonprofits, foundations, and social enterprises — private organizations devoted to the public good — form a central part of our society: more than one million organizations are responsible for more than one trillion dollars in economic activity in the United States alone. But, more, they are responsible for countless transformed lives, communities, and ecosystems.
The infrastructure that supports this nonprofit sector can collectively magnify or diminish this shared work for social good. And anyone who watches philanthropy closely knows it — we — have room to improve. Collectively, we waste hundreds of millions of dollars in a fundraising process that is full of duplication and confusion. Nonprofits struggle to find the right staff with the right skills. The power imbalance between foundations and nonprofits dampens the honest conversations that are so critical to any partnership. Too often nonprofit leaders do not reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. Too few organizations admit failure; and, thus, few learn from it.

These are solvable problems. With the right investments in civil society’s supporting institutions — across the local, state, national, and global levels — we can reach new levels of efficiency, ethics, and excellence."

2. Impact Investing: Millennials and Impact Investing
David Bank of ImpactAlpha covers a new report from Toniic, a global network of impact investors, profiling how wealthy millennials are engaging in impact investing:

The ongoing “generational transfer of wealth” – the estimated $30 trillion expected to pass from Baby Boomers to their heirs in the next three to four decades – has wealth advisers salivating and impact entrepreneurs and fund managers strategizing.
The potential has spurred the creation of a new crop of networks…from Nexus Global Summit (“a global movement to bridge communities of wealth and social entrepreneurship”), Resource Generation (“organizes young people with wealth and class privilege in the U.S. to become transformative leaders working towards the equitable distribution of wealth, land and power,” pictured above) and the new ImPact (“provides families with knowledge and networks to make more impact investments more effectively”). In 2014, for example, Nexus brought together more than 600 largely millennial participants representing nearly $750 billion in assets.
…And the requisite batch of white papers, including Morgan Stanley’s “Sustainable Signals,”Deloitte’s “Winning Over the Next Generation of Leaders,” and ImpactAssets’ “The Millennial Perspective,” to name just a few.
Toniic’s report, backed by Bank of the West’s Family Wealth Advisor unit, rounds up the usual obstacles (lack of investment knowledge and investor education, resistance from family members and financial advisors) and suggestions (education, peer networks, communities of practice and most importantly, access to attractive deals).
What’s distinctive about the report are the detailed accounts from 10 next-gen investors who provide personal perspectives on moving from Millennial talk to action. “A couple of compelling messages came through loud and clear from the interviews,” said Lisa Kleissner, a co-founder of Toniic and its board chair. “Many millennials want to invest with their families and they also want to work with their advisors.  However, they also want to partner with them, be heard and co-learn about impact.”

3. Responsible Investing: conservative business group seeks new regulation restricting "Gadfly Shareholders"
“Climate change is a serious issue. But the shareholder process in the banking industry is not the appropriate vehicle for addressing it,” argues John Engler, president of the conservative CEO group Business Roundtable in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. He objects to regulations which allow "small-stakes" shareholders to make proposals to company management:

“…the rules governing shareholder proposals are broken. Small-stakes investors take advantage to flood companies with frivolous ballot measures. The cumulative effect is to drag down the economy by consuming time and money that could be put to better use…
Investors who have real skin in the game don’t want to undermine a company’s operations. But existing regulations allow a small minority to hijack a company’s agenda.
The primary problem is that the ownership threshold for submitting a shareholder proposal is absurdly low: Owning $2,000 in a company’s stock or 1% of its total stock supply, whichever is lower.
Last year, according to Institutional Shareholder Services, activists submitted nearly 500 shareholder proposals for U.S. companies dealing solely with social and environmental concerns. Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase and several other big banks have had to grapple with proposals requiring them to quantify their role in greenhouse-gas emissions, specifically by detailing the loans they’ve provided to carbon-emitting companies.”

4. Wildcard Topic: Self-Driving Trucks and the Coming Destruction of Small Town Economies
Self-Driving trucks will probably regularly appear on US highways well before self-driving cars, according to the New York Times.  “According to the American Trucker Association, there are 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the US, and an additional 5.2 million people employed within the truck-driving industry who don’t drive the trucks. That’s 8.7 million trucking-related jobs.” What happens when driverless trucks replace those jobs? Scott Santens explored the implications in a Medium post:

“We can’t stop there though, because the incomes received by these 8.2 million people create the jobs of others. Those 3.5 million truck drivers driving all over the country stop regularly to eat, drink, rest, and sleep. Entire businesses have been built around serving their wants and needs. Think restaurants and motels as just two examples. So now we’re talking about millions more whose employment depends on the employment of truck drivers. But we still can’t even stop there.
Those working in these restaurants and motels along truck-driving routes are also consumers within their own local economies. Think about what a server spends her paycheck and tips on in her own community, and what a motel maid spends from her earnings into the same community. That spending creates other paychecks in turn. So now we’re not only talking about millions more who depend on those who depend on truck drivers, but we’re also talking about entire small town communities full of people who depend on all of the above in more rural areas. With any amount of reduced consumer spending, these local economies will shrink.
One further important detail to consider is that truck drivers are well-paid. They provide a middle class income of about $40,000 per year. That’s a higher income than just about half (46%) of all tax filers, including those of married households. They are also greatly comprised by those without college educations. Truck driving is just about the last job in the country to provide a solid middle class salary without requiring a post-secondary degree. Truckers are essentially the last remnant of an increasingly impoverished population once gainfully employed in manufacturing before those middle income jobs were mostly all shipped overseas.

5. Job Postings

6. Items of Note

  • Guggenheim Partners has launched its PROPEL10 application, through which the firm will invest up to $100,000 each in up to 10 high-performing, early stage non-profit organizations using innovative solutions to address enduring social problems. The application deadline is May 31, 2016 at 5:00PM EST. 

7. Upcoming Events
June 1-2  Impact Capitalism Train Stop Tour (Philadelpha & DC) Impact Investing
June 7-8  Social Innovation Summit (DC) Various
June 13 GrantStation Forum on Philanthropy (NYC) Effective Philanthropy
June 23 – July 2  Aspen Ideas Festival (Aspen, CO) Effective Philanthropy
Sept 6-8  PRI in Person (Singapore) Responsible Investing
Sept 13-16  SOCAP (SF) Impact Investing
Sept 26-28 Exponent Philanthropy Conference (Chicago) Effective Philanthropy
Sept 26-28 ANDE Conference (Lessburg, Virginia) Impact Investing
Oct 9-14  Opportunity Collaboration  (Cancun Yucatan) Impact Investing
Oct 18  High Water Women (NYC) Impact Investing
Nov 3-5  Net Impact (Philadelphia) Various
Nov 9-11  Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing (Denver) Responsible Investing
Nov 16-18 Independent Sector (DC) Philanthropy
Dec 7-8  Global Impact Investing Network (Amsterdam) Impact Investing

That’s it for this week. Help me spread the word about #AllThingsImpact to your friends and colleagues, who can sign up to receive this newsletter at All Things Impact. Please also send me any job postings, items of note, upcoming events, or compelling links you discover in your own journeys across the web (even things like this adorable fruit bat eating a banana). 

Until next time, thanks for reading!

Brian Walsh
Head of Impact at LiquidnetFull Bio.