• Christian

UpLink - World Economic Forum recognizes SWEN Blue Ocean strategy as a Top Innovator for the Future

Updated: Sep 30



💙 Dear Friends, this one has a special meaning to me: UpLink - World Economic Forum has just recognized the SWEN Blue Ocean strategy as a Top Innovator for the Future (see announcement yesterday at the NY Climate Week). Why?


#marketingcommunication

Well, first, we should ask the Uplink team. I haven’t had the chance to do so yet, so I will let you know as soon as I hear the details from them 😊.

In the meantime, here is my attempt to summarize the innovations our team at SWEN Capital Partners baked into this strategy and why (if you don’t know anything about the SWEN Blue Ocean strategy, I encourage you to read the blurb at the bottom for context):

1 – The Ocean Impact Innovation focus

2 – Embedding science

3 – Impact Governance

4 – A holistic theory of change

1 – The Ocean Impact Innovation focus

4 years ago, when Olivier and I first conceived this investment strategy dedicated to ocean impact innovation, it was pretty unique. There were already pioneers, like Katapult Ocean and Aquaspark, but we were really less than a handful and the focus on scale up stage was new. I could not understand why, considering the ocean is central to climate change and biodiversity, and carries a huge economy being profoundly transformed by innovation. It seemed obvious that it should offer massive impact and investment opportunity. Jérôme and Isabelle saw the potential early too and enabled us to join the SWEN Capital Partners platform, built on ESG and impact, to rapidly scale the strategy. Fortunately, 4 years on, awareness about this opportunity has grown exponentially (many new ocean strategies have emerged, and AUM have surged 6X from USD 200m to 1.2bn (SystemIQ calculation)) and this is actually not so much an innovation anymore 😊.


2 – Embedding Science

We have a scientific partnership with Ifremer, a leading ocean research institute. In particular – but not only - we draw upon their expertise to evaluate impact and support our portfolio companies in enhancing their impact. In addition, our impact committee (see below) includes scientists and conservation experts. In short, science is embedded in our strategy. This is critical because ocean matters are complex, which means positive outcomes are never granted and unintended negative consequences are real risk. When it comes to having an impact on nature or biodiversity, finance and science should go hand in hand.


3 – Impact Governance

We back companies setup to ALIGN systemic impact AND competitive market returns. We are UNCOMPROMISING on that. Returns is what is expected to drive rapid scaling of the solutions. It is critical as we face an emergency and want solutions scaling now, not in 10 years. This is how we leverage the power of capital for impact, while making the space attractive to institutional investors.

Achieving this requires that we fundamentally rethink the governance of investing. We designed our impact governance with the following key principles, in line with SWEN’s impact doctrine:

  • Building an Impact Thesis for each deal, reviewed by an impact committee composed of independent ocean conservation experts (Brad Ack and François Simard). All this before presenting a deal to an Investment Committee.

  • Defining Impact KPIs for each deal and validating them by an independent Impact Governance Committee.

  • Making the majority of the performance bonus of the investment team subject to achieving impact targets.

KPIs capture part of the impact, but articulating a more qualitative and science-based Impact Thesis is required to fully take into account the complexities of impact on biodiversity. Furthermore, independence is just as critical to impact governance as it is for corporate or financial governance.

4 – A holistic theory of change

We are facing systemic challenges, and therefore need systemic solutions. Our theory of change is focused on innovation, one lever of systemic change (others are needed, not discussed here). Our goal in building the Blue Ocean strategy is to help a number of highly impactful ocean startups scale now. This is meaningful, but alone will not achieve the magnitude of change we need. Our ultimate goal is for ocean impact innovation to become mainstream. We contribute to this by i) working to demonstrate impact and financial success of such impact strategies, ii) open sourcing our impact governance to contribute to building governance standards for the space (such as the Ocean Impact Navigator), and iii) supporting the growth of the ecosystem as a whole, including 1000 Ocean Startups, a coalition of organizations backing ocean startups.

I believe some of the innovations above are relevant to ocean impact investing, but also to impact investing in general. As SWEN Capital Partners, we work alongside our friends at 1000 Ocean Startups and, beyond the ocean space, the likes of Builders Vision or Katapult, to try and build a highly efficient and transparent impact investing space.

We do this in a context where investing is one of the most conservative industries in the world. In that context, the World Economic Forum’s Uplink initiative shedding light on innovative strategies like ours is a tremendous opportunity to upend the status quo and scale innovations that are already being implemented.

We need to reinvent investing. We need to bring purpose to investing. I hope you can join us in spreading the word about the innovations that do exactly this, by striving to align impact and returns. I hope you can help us make impact investing mainstream.

Thank you and have a nice one 😊.


About the SWEN Blue Ocean strategy

SWEN Capital Partners is a leading European asset manager dedicated to sustainable investment in private markets, with over EUR 7bn of AUM.

The SWEN Blue Ocean strategy invests in innovations that help regenerate ocean health, hence contributing to achieve SDG14. Our team backs startups that deliver both systemic impact and competitive market returns. We focus on solutions to overfishing, ocean pollution and climate change.


Isomer Capital The European VC Desolenator Siemens Energy Carbon Equity Salkantay Ventures The Impact Office ImpactAssets Top Tier Impact


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