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  • Writer's picturePatricia Chu

Impact Investor Spotlight Series: Catalyzing circularity with Eden Impact

At Mana Impact, we have had the privilege to work with a number of family offices and foundations on their impact investment journey and wanted to take this opportunity to share some of their experiences and real stories via this blog series. The first of our series of stories features Antony Warren, Founder of Eden Impact.


Tell us more about your background and how you got started in impact investing.

My family business Warrens Group was started by my grandfather in the 1950’s in the UK and began with collecting waste from butchers, abbatoirs, and farms. Regulation at the time allowed almost all of the material to be upcycled into edible foods, animal feed, soaps and oleochemicals. Over the generations as legislation and markets changed, much of the material found a home in the energy sector, either in biodiesel production, or as a coal substitute in power stations. We later expanded further to the clean and renewable energy sector in 2007 when we established Emerald Biogas, to process other organic materials such as food wastes that would otherwise be destined for landfill, using the feedstock to produce biogas and fertilizers through a bacterial process.


When we sold the businesses in 2019, we wanted to continue using the proceeds from that exit towards making a positive impact on the environment. On a more personal front, we also wanted to ensure that the next generation of our family had a strong feeling of purpose in making a positive impact on our planet even though we did not have a direct business to operate anymore. I feel that we have successfully managed to achieve this via the investments we make, as well as the active role we take in helping early stage businesses and their founders.

 

What’s your main investment focus?

Our impact investment thesis is around investing in business models and infrastructure that enable and utilize a more circular system. We decided to focus on this topic given that our family has three generations of experience in it and we can provide the founders of the companies not only financial capital but also technical and intellectual support.


Furthermore, we also believe that investing towards a circular economy is an imperative. As a population, we need to become drastically more responsible in the way we use the resources available to us. The Take, Make, Dispose model is literally life-threatening. There is an immediate need to move to a more circular and regenerative economic model.


Some of the examples in our portfolio include companies such as Planet Protector Group, an Australian sustainable insulation material company, which is helping to eliminate the use of Styrofoam with a wool based alternative, with applications in cold supply chains as well as construction. Dizzie is a zero-waste supermarket with a goal of eliminating 1 billion pieces of single-use plastic from the grocery supply chain. Protix is an industrial producer of food-grade insect ingredients that are grown using food waste.


Australia-based portfolio company Planet Protector Group produces sustainable thermal packaging from 100% sheep waste wool.


What are some of the opportunities that you are excited about in Asia?

Fortunately, the region is home to fantastic education, research and innovation hubs. Collectively, I believe that Asia will lead the way in many of the future developments that slow and potentially reverse the catastrophic impact we’ve had on the planet. I see a lot of potential in more advanced materials that either eliminate the problem of waste in the first place, or that allow materials to be dealt with more sustainably at their end of life. I expect much of the early progress to centre around plastic alternatives that lead to zero waste solutions.


What have been some of the main lessons learnt in your journey?

While we are seeking impact and are willing to take on more risk for the potential social and environmental impact that can be achieved, we cannot forget that we are still looking for businesses that can scale and provide financial returns. It’s therefore important to consider investments in a holistic manner and follow a proper due diligence process before the investment decision, as well as post investment. We need to make sure that the impact investment portfolio is well managed both from a financial perspective, as well as from an impact perspective. 


What would be your advice to someone getting started in their impact investment journey?

Start the journey with trusted advisors with whom you can work and bounce ideas off with each other and with whom you can crystalize the areas of focus, narrow down your risk tolerance, time horizon, the losses that you can afford and thereby make the right investment allocation. Also, where you have a particular skillset, be proactive in offering assistance and advice to your portfolio companies and their founders. At times, founders can be worried about asking for advice; it benefits everyone to break down these barriers. Finally, consider being part of a network to learn from others and share resources such as Toniic, AVPN, and CREO.


Read more about Eden Impact on their website.


 

We at Mana Impact have been part of Eden Impact’s impact investment journey since 2021 by working together on the investment strategy, originating deal flow, as well as conducting the due diligence and analysis. 


Edited by Patti Chu, Managing Partner

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