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EKO and Wolfensohn merge to form Encourage Capital

The new firm will focus on restoring global fisheries and freshwater systems, mitigating climate change, building green infrastructure and providing access to capital to emerging markets.

Conservation and environmental sustainability investment firm EKO Asset Management Partners and Wolfensohn Fund Management (WFM), a global emerging markets private equity firm, have merged to form Encourage Capital.

Encourage Capital now has over $250 million of assets under management including WFM’s flagship fund, Wolfensohn Fund, EKO’s Green Carbon Fund and other investments that tackle “profitable and strategic investments to solve critical social and environmental problems”, according to a press release.

The firm’s investor base includes the blue moon fund, BP,  the English financier and environmentalist Ben Goldsmith, KL Felicitas Foundations, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Sant Foundation and the Wolfensohn family, have contributed to the funds, according to the press release.

“The Wolfensohn fund is mostly,  if not fully, invested,” Jason Scott, a co-managing partner of Encourage Capital told Agri Investor. “WFM’s flagship fund focuses on microfinance, renewable energy and clean energy in emerging markets in South Asia and Latin America and EKO’s GCF invests in ecosystem-based carbon offsets for the emerging carbon market in California.” Scott declined to give a breakdown of the fund or details of its investments but said there are several other unannounced funds that are currently under development.

EKO, which focused on carbon, sustainable seafood and green infrastructure, launched the Green Carbon Fund in 2010.

Restoring critical freshwater and ocean ecosystems, financing solutions to climate change and extending financial services to more of the world’s poor are some of the challenges the Encourage is currently addressing through partnerships with major family offices, foundations and non-profits, mostly based in North America, using a number of investment strategies.

“Governments and philanthropy alone will not solve these issues. Mobilising significant private capital by developing investment strategies that offer the opportunity for appropriate risk-adjusted returns will be at the core of what we do,” Scott said.

Additional investment strategies are to be announced in the coming months including a collaboration around sustainable agriculture and food systems.

“If there is one thing we’ve learned, it is that you cannot solve systemic problems without systemic solutions, and it is only through the effective and deliberate coordination of investment capital, philanthropic capital and policy analysis that we will address the really big issues our planet faces,” said Ricardo Bayon, a co-founder of Encourage and the new firm’s chief impact and innovation officer, in a statement. “Financial markets are one of the most powerful tools ever invented by humans. We believe they can be harnessed to invest in our planet’s future.”

According to a recent report released by EKO with The Nature Conservancy’s NatureVest and JPMorgan Chase, $23.4 billion was invested into environmental conservation from 2009 to 2013, with private investment growing at 26 percent annually. In 2013, the World Economic Forum estimated the impact investing market at almost $40 billion.