When it comes to activism or community involvement, we often think of the saying “Think Global, Act Local”. It was coined over 50 years ago as a call to take action in our own communities and cities to drive social and environmental change. And it still makes sense; for most of us, our skills, experience, networks and our cultural competence can be put to best use in our own communities.
Does this also apply to investing? Should we “Think Global, Invest Local”? Or more broadly, where should we invest our dollars if maximizing social and environmental impact is important to us?
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer a helpful framework for thinking about and measuring the objectives we are trying to achieve with our investments. At Deetken Impact, we focus on the following SDGs:
- 3 Good Health and Well-being
- 4 Quality Education
- 5 Gender Equality
- 7 Affordable and Clean Energy
- 8 Good Jobs and Economic Growth
An important factor in our decision-making process is our assessment of the expected impact of an opportunity against each of these goals. And one of the things we’ve noticed after over a decade of investing across the Americas, from Canada to Argentina, is that our “impact per dollar” is often higher in our developing country portfolio.
An investment in solar energy
Let’s look at the Affordable and Clean Energy goal as an example. We recently completed two solar energy investments, one in Texas and one in Honduras. We had also been evaluating solar opportunities in Canada, specifically in the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario. We wanted to understand the potential contribution of each of these projects to the Affordable and Clean Energy goal, and in particular to the target of increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.
We found that the projects in the US and Central America had the opportunity to displace a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions, as both locations have relatively “dirty grids” compared to Canada and particularly to British Columbia, where the vast majority of electricity is produced from hydroelectric generation. Based on our analysis, the Texas and Honduras projects displace 2 to 3 times more greenhouse gas emissions than the Canadian projects. As such, investing in these international projects would have a greater impact on changing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix than investing in our domestic market.
From a financial return perspective, it was also clear that the domestic projects would have lower solar irradiance (a technical term for the amount of power received from the sun) because of their more northern location. That meant that for each dollar invested to install solar capacity, more electricity could be produced in Texas or Honduras than in Canada.
At Deetken Impact, our decision-making process involves deep consideration of impact as well as financial returns. By using the SDG framework to compare social and environmental benefits across projects in our investments pipeline, we have found that it often pays to “Invest Globally”.