Continuing investment through WIN-WIN

Editor's Note: this was originally published on the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves website.

At Calvert Foundation, we have always been passionate about moving the dialogue from Why should we invest—in women, the local economy, the environment, etc.—to the How do we invest? In response to our investors' interest and the copious research highlighting the power of investing in women, the Women Investing in Women Initiative (WIN-WIN) was born.

WIN-WIN launched at the UN Foundation on March 8, 2012—International Women's Day—with a goal to raise capital from investors to invest $20 million in organizations around the world that empower women and girls. While we certainly were not the first to understand or highlight the power of investing in women, we were the first to offer a broadly available investment product with an explicit gender focus, available to investors for as little as $20.

We created an inclusive investment portfolio and created gender-specific indicators to track the impact generated from the portfolio organizations, and we learned many lessons along the way. One of them was the tremendous impact that clean cookstoves and technologies have on the health of women in developing countries. Through investments in social enterprises like The Paradigm Project and Envirofit International, we learned that that traditional sources of household energy for 3 billion people around the world pose serious risks to the health of the environment and the people exposed, particularly women and children. The smoke released from burning these types of fuels is one of the biggest health risk factors affecting women and girls, and an important contributor to global climate change.

The silver lining is that technology offers a solution: cleaner and more efficient fuels like cookstoves, solar powered lights, and rechargeable batteries. These technologies not only improve the health of the environment and their users, but have become a source of economic empowerment for women and girls because they free up countless hours spent gathering fuel during the day. They also save on expensive charcoal or kerosene that must be purchased at the expense of other necessities like food or medicine, and provide extra hours of productivity at night.

While the technology is generally available, the market for these products is still in its infancy largely due to unmet financing needs. Estimates suggest that this new sector needs between $500 million to $1 billion to meet the energy needs of the base of the pyramid (BOP) populations, with immediate needs of approximately $100 million in debt in the coming year alone.

Following the success of the pilot phase of WIN-WIN in 2012, Calvert Foundation, in partnership with the Alliance and others, has committed to launching the second generation of WIN-WIN, with the goal of raising an additional $20 million to invest in organizations and enterprises that provide clean household technologies and fuels.

Calvert Foundation plans to leverage relationships with key technical assistance and impact assessment partners to execute this investment concept. Calvert Foundation will partner with The Alliance to accurately assess the environmental and social impact of the fund's investments, particularly in the clean cookstove segment. In addition, Calvert Foundation will leverage the Alliance's capacity-building and investment program, in conjunction with its awareness-building work, standards and testing program, and research platform, to develop a pipeline of companies to be included in WIN-WIN 2.0.