Cascadia Foodshed Financing Project works at nexus of food, financing, and philanthropy. This space is where Impact Investing resides, a term that is as well defined as the term ‘sustainability.’
Our research has revealed further definition of the impact investing space to separate Venture Philanthropy from Impact Investing. Venture Philanthropy is a nebulous term used to describe alternative funding approaches that produce both social impact and financial return on investment. As noted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, there is no one strategy for Venture Philanthropy but rather a set of common characteristics that help to define work in the field. Some groups may highlight the use of blended finance including investment and grant making in tandem. Others may emphasize the additional use of skill sharing and other forms of nonfinancial support. Still others might emphasize the importance of systems change over the success of individual deals.
As CFFP seeks to build the regional food system of the Pacific Northwest through impact investing and venture philanthropy, we strive to stay abreast of the work of others. Our recently released Market Research explores new paths for the role of venture philanthropy within our own focus of food and place.
Here, we’ve gathered a starter pack of resources that provide a lay of the land surrounding venture philanthropy – both the intellectual development of the field and its manifestations on the ground:
ReFED: data-driven food waste reduction
CFFP seeks to make investments that align with our guiding principles of health, rural community resilience, social equity, policy influence, and job creation. ReFED is a unique resource in that it allows users to filter its 27 solutions based on a variety of lenses including, for example, financial benefit or job creation. This allows users to find solutions that (1) reduce food waste and (2) align with their agency’s own guiding principles and values.
In the United States, we spend $128 billion dollars a year on food that is never consumed. ReFED is a “data-driven guide for businesses, government, funders, and nonprofits to collectively reduce food waste at scale.” The group estimates that “together, we can reduce U.S. food waste by 50% by 2030”. ReFED outlines 27 different solutions to food waste that range from prevention to recovery to recycling.
“Paying Farmers to Go Organic, Even Before the Crops Come In”
Stephanie Strom, New York Times
CFFP and Ecotrust’s market research focused on ways investors can interface with the food value chain in order to build a more sustainable regional food system. While the research is completed, a continued awareness of other efforts in our food system will give CFFP an even sharper focus of where to most effectively intervene. Industrial food companies may facilitate the conversion to organic in many states, but infrastructural challenges of aggregation, processing, and distribution still remain for mid-size farmers in our region. This provides further evidence that infrastructural support may be a great niche for investment.
In order to be certified organic in the United States, farmers must undergo an expensive process to convert their land. During the required three-year transition period to organic, farmers forgo synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and GMO seeds that may reduce production costs while receiving no organic premiums for their products. In order to keep up with consumer demand for organic and non-GMO products, food hegemons including Kellogg and General Mills have been helping farmers convert to organic. They provide financial support during the rough transition period and provide a guaranteed market for crops once they are finished.
As part of its own research, CFFP regularly illuminates educative research, media, and resources related to our work. This page contains public versions of our synopses.