amazon facebook_32 gplus_32 linkedin_32 pinterest_32 tumblr_32 twitter_32 website_32 youtube_32 email_32 rss_32

MySocialGoodNews is dedicated to sharing news about
social entrepreneurship, impact investing, philanthropy
and corporate social responsibility.

Crowdfunding for Social Good

Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

Monthly Archives: September 2018

1 2 3 12

Affordable Housing Industry Veteran Steven Fayne Joins Align Finance Partners

Press Release – Los Angeles, CA, Sept. 28, 2018 — Steven Fayne, a long-time trailblazer in the affordable housing industry, has come out of retirement to join Align Finance Partners, a commercial real estate finance company that provides innovative mezzanine financing for the acquisition, renovation and development of affordable housing communities in the Western U.S.

With over 20 years of experience in the affordable housing industry, Fayne was drawn to Align because of the unique opportunity that the company has to make an impact on the current affordable housing crisis. The National Low-Income Housing Coalition reports a nationwide shortage of 7.2 millionunits for low-income renters. In California, for every 100 extremely low-income renters, there are only 22 affordable and available rental homes, leaving the other 78 renters without any affordable options.

“This is a niche that hasn’t been served,” says Fayne. “I’m a junkie for niche products that are on the forefront, especially ones like this that address a huge need.”

“Steven brings decades of lending experience in affordable housing,” says Dani Evanson, one of the firm’s founding partners. “He has seen every type of affordable housing project and worked with hundreds of borrowers and other lenders. This is a guy who has structured billions of dollars.”

Rising interest rates, construction costs and land values are all impeding the ability of developers to address this shortage. In response to this pressing crisis, Align provides financing to developers that include a ratio of at least 20% affordable housing units in their developments by purchasing private activity bonds (PABs). The interest on these bonds is exempt from federal income tax, making this form of financing high in both impact and performance.

“Tax-exempt financing has been around for a long time,” says Evanson. “What hasn’t been around is a platform like ours that’s dedicated to providing the combined tax-exempt mezzanine piece. We have created a new debt product to help finance the preservation and development of desperately needed affordable housing.”

Steven Fayne

Steven Fayne

As a Principal of Align Finance Partners, Mr. Fayne will be responsible for the origination and structure of the company’s tax-exempt bond investments. He is a nationally recognized leader in multifamily affordable housing finance, having originated more than $7B of investments over 30 years. Prior to joining Align, Mr. Fayne was the former managing director of Citi Community Capital. He began his career in affordable housing in 1992 when he formed Eichler Fayne & Associates, one of the first Fannie Mae Delegated Underwriting and Servicing mortgage banking firms in the industry. He founded and led the affordable housing division of ARCS Commercial Mortgage, and he later moved the affordable division to GMAC Commercial Mortgage. Each of these companies was the national leader in affordable housing finance for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Mr. Fayne earned a B.A. from Vanderbilt University, a Bachelor of Law degree from Cumberland School of Law and a Master of Laws in Taxation from New York University.

Align Finance Partners

Align Finance Partners is a private commercial real estate finance company that provides innovative subordinate gap financing (up to 90% loan to cost) for the acquisition, renovation and development of affordable housing communities in the Western U.S. The firm creates an alternative financing to equity. Qualifying projects must reserve a minimum of 20% of the units for low-income residents and comply with all applicable qualification regulations. The financing is structured as a tax-exempt private activity housing bond, or 501(c)(3) bond, secured by a second deed of trust on the subject property or interest in the ownership entity.

Since 2005, the Align management team has created and facilitated more than 26 tax-exempt subordinate bonds to finance the acquisition and rehabilitation or development of affordable housing communities. Align’s founding partners are Michael Costa,Dani Evanson, Michael Potter and Robert Tetrault.

Help us share the stories of those who are doing the most good in the world. Get an autographed book from Devin when you pledge just $2 per month. Visit

To Scale Or Not To Scale? A Quick Guide In Scaling Your Social Enterprise

By Jessica van Thiel, PATHFINDER

“Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere. The challenge of the 21st century is to find out what works and scale it up.” – Former US President, Bill Clinton

In the past few decades, social entrepreneurship has gotten a lot of attention. From academia to business, people are recognizing the importance of social entrepreneurs and the invaluable work they do. Social enterprises are like any other business; they must have a strategy for growth and to scale once they are out of the startup stage.

Many business owners fall into the trap of wanting to scale before they are ready. They want their business to grow so they scale up their processes to inspire that growth. Unfortunately, this can actually result in stalling the development of a business. Scale too quickly or recklessly, and you’ll create a lot of organizational problems that will be hard to undo. Scaling before you’re ready may even cause your business to fail. Scale too slowly, however, and you may miss out on key opportunities that come with greater resources and revenue . So how do you go about doing any of this? First, it’s crucial to know what you’re scaling to begin with.

cook ethos Team Photo

Measuring impact?

While every business has to consider its customers, social enterprises have a particularly important task; they need to consider social impact and how to measure it. Measuring social impact is often one of the most difficult things to do as it’s not tangible. From education to gender equality and environmental impact, these issues often take years before one can see results and even then, how can an entrepreneur really know if they are using the right indicator or measurement? You’re not selling t-shirts after all, so how do you know you’ve done well?

The key might lie in the research. You need to really understand what your service is, and what your goals are. Once you’ve identified it all, and it may take months or even years to define, you can then start to look at what works and what doesn’t. By eliminating what doesn’t work you can adjust and refine the way you approach solving the issue.

Additionally, assigning appropriate measurements is critical. Although social in nature, you should find a way to measure your impact in numbers. If the goal is to provide access to education for children in India for example, then the first unit of measurement can be the number of children your social enterprise has put through the school system. The number enrolled, attended and completed. Why is it so important to be able to measure impact, almost from the start? Because, if you don’t know how you’re doing, you won’t know when it’s time for the next stage – i.e. time to scale.

Scaling can be a daunting task for any small business, let alone a social enterprise. With the objective of understanding the process further, PATHFINDER spoke with cook ethos, a startup social enterprise with the mission of connecting people through food, to learn about what strategies, if any, they had in scaling their enterprise. Cook ethos is “a fun and fresh approach to learn how to cook new dishes and gives you the chance to learn about cuisines and meet people from all corners of the globe – in the region of London” (think Airbnb meets cooking lesson). The startup was launched this year by three young female entrepreneurs.

While they are very much in the startup phase, they’re already considering how to scale their company. And for them, it needs to happen quickly if they want to make an impact in their community, be successful and eventually turn a profit. Although they have many ideas and potential business avenues they could explore, at the core, their service is to connect hosts and guests for a unique cooking experience. So the way they’ll measure impact is simple: it’s in the numbers. Guests provide testimonial for their experience, and with an overwhelming percentage of testimonials being positive, it is safe to say in their case, that the more people who book their service, the more impact they’ll have on the community. This, they explained, was a relatively easy question to answer. The next question, how to scale is more complicated.

Do they scale regionally or internationally? Do they expand their product to offer different services or do they focus on the bookings?

Charlotte Morrison, COO and Co-Founder of cook ethos explained, “In order to get things right, we’re now trying to focus on just one area to scale but in doing so, we don’t want to neglect the hosts in other areas because they are still very valuable to us. We don’t want to lose sight of them. So the question is how do we find a balance. That would probably be our biggest challenge regarding scaling at the moment.” These are the kinds of questions that every entrepreneur faces. How to keep the integrity and goals of the business intact while scaling? In the beginning you might not have the luxury of being selective. When you’re desperate for cash, it’s easy to cut corners, compromise your values and deliver a subpar product or service. But the businesses that manage to weather their growing pains and stick to their guns are the ones that last longest and shine brightest.

So what’s the solution if you want to scale successfully? In short, maintain your focus. As entrepreneurs, we tend to want to seize every opportunity that comes our way. And although it’s good to pursue some, it’s alright to keep your focus narrow in the beginning and expand once you’ve gotten it (whatever it may be) right.

“Once you’ve achieved product-market fit and started scaling up based on that main offering, don’t go crazy trying to add features or related products. Make sure you can do one thing better than anyone before you start building new stuff” Chelsea Segal of Cox BLUE points out.

Cook ethos is doing just that, keeping focused. And it’s working.

To scale or not to scale

Knowing when to scale is important. Knowing how to scale is essential. Because making money doesn’t always equate success, especially if you are a mission driven enterprise. Charlotte Morrison explains, “When it comes to scaling, one thing we anticipate that will be difficult, is keeping our integrity and respecting our mission. If we expand internationally, for example, different countries will almost certainly have their own way of doing and managing things. We operate like a family business and we don’t ever want to lose that, no matter how big we get”.

This is a tricky one. On the one hand as a startup, it’s difficult to turn down work, especially when clients aren’t exactly knocking on your door. On the other hand, without consistency of the product or service, an enterprise can quickly lose its brand integrity.

The trick is in the balance. When a company scales too quickly and doesn’t have the structure to support the growth, failure rates will increase . You need to expand to operate and this should be a natural, cyclical process. Chelsea Segal of Cox BLUE highlights the biggest mistakes a business can make when scaling is over hiring, over spending, and over building. She explains, “You need to stay lean during the scaling process. Don’t hire too many people (especially middle managers or specialists). These take away from your core competencies and leave you prone to trying to scale other areas too quickly” and “there’s a tendency for startups to get loose with their money once they’ve raised a lot during the fundraising stage. Keep all of your spending focused on growing the business”.

Balancing act

Balance is crucial here. Check back in with your values and mission regularly. Think quality not quantity. Eventually, if you do a good job, more work will come your way. And when it does, get it done. You don’t want to compromise the quality of the work; however, you don’t want to say no to new clients (especially if they’re the kind of clients you’ve been seeking). So even if you don’t have the infrastructure in place to complete the work or project, you make it happen anyway. It’s a tricky thing to get right, but in the beginning like all successful startups, you’ve got to work your butt off.

Cook ethos has considered this very scenario, “We’ve considered a situation where we might have more work than we can handle. Ultimately we would never say no to clients and we would just work it out. Although we don’t foresee this happening in the next year, if it were to happen before we had the infrastructure in place, we would adapt. We’d probably get all of friends and family on board. We’d do whatever it takes to make it happen!”

This is a good problem to have for any business. And the difference between a successful business and a non-successful one is all in the approach and attitude. In short: adapt to the research, know your product or service better than anyone, and check back in to find your balance.

[1] –

[2] –

[3] – Jeanna McGinnis, ReResumeMe®

Help us share the stories of those who are doing the most good in the world. Get an autographed book from Devin when you pledge just $2 per month. Visit

US Senator Kamala Harris To Keynote Annual Pratham Gala In New York

The sold-out event includes cocktails, dinner, a live auction, entertainment and the opportunity to help educate underprivileged kids in India.

Press Release – New York, NY, September 26, 2018 – The New York Tri-State chapter of Pratham USA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of education in India, is scheduled to hold its annual gala this coming Friday, September 28, 2018, at the luxurious Cipriani Wall Street.

The sold-out event will include a keynote speech from California Senator Kamala Harris, who will discuss her connection to India and the challenges currently faced by the US. Harris, the second African-American woman and first South Asian-American senator in history, has spent her life fighting injustice, first as the district attorney of San Francisco and then as attorney general of California.

“All children around the world deserve access to a great education. In fact, I would not be where I am today without the education I received. That’s why I’m proud to support the mission of an organization like Pratham, which has impacted the lives of tens of millions of children by increasing access to education and improving the quality of learning for children in India,” said Senator Harris.

The evening will include internationally renowned mentalist Oz Pearlman, a live auction featuring a Maharajas Express luxury travel experience and a round of golf at the acclaimed Royal Portrush course in Ireland, courtesy of MasterCard.

The gala is an excellent opportunity for the local community to learn more about Pratham’s efforts to address a learning crisis that leaves nearly half of India’s fifth graders unable to read or write. “We are humbled by the support and look forward to an amazing night celebrating Pratham’s work,” said New York Tri-State president Gagan Singh. Last year’s gala attracted more than 500 business leaders and philanthropists and raised a record $3.6 million to support Pratham education programs.


Established in the slums of Mumbai in 1995, Pratham is now one of India’s largest non-governmental education organizations, having affected the lives of more than 58 million underprivileged children in the past two decades. To achieve our mission of “every child in school and learning well,” we develop practical solutions to address gaps in the education system and work in collaboration with India’s governments, communities, educators, and industry to increase learning outcomes and influence education policy.

Pratham USA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a consistent four-star rating from Charity Navigator that seeks to raise awareness and mobilize financial resources for our work in India. For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution, visit

Help us share the stories of those who are doing the most good in the world. Get an autographed book from Devin when you pledge just $2 per month. Visit

Grameen America Hits $1 Billion Milestone in Microloans to Low-Income Women

Press Release – September 27, 2018 – New York, NYGrameen America, the fastest-growing microfinance organization in the United States, has distributed a historic $1 billion in microloans to more than 100,000 low-income women entrepreneurs in the country since its inception 10 years ago. The organization now has 20 branches in 13 American cities and plans to open a branch in Houston, expand to other cities, and deepen its footprint. Over the next decade, the organization aims to touch the lives of 1 million people, create 360,000 jobs, and invest $12 billion in women-owned businesses.

The organization has successfully adapted its small-group, trust-based microfinance model in different markets across the United States. Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, first brought his Nobel Peace Prize-winning model to Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City. Currently, the organization has seven locations in the New York area, a significant and growing presence in northern and southern California, and branches in cities throughout the country, including San Juan, Puerto Rico. It serves women who are usually not eligible for loans from traditional banks and largely excluded from the mainstream U.S. financial system.

“This record $1 billion achievement is proof that the model can scale successfully, and we are excited to see where the next decade takes us,” said Yunus. “Many had doubts that microfinance would be effective as a poverty alleviation tool in the United States, but we have clearly proved them wrong.”

Loans from Grameen America have direct impact on the lives of the women and their families. Women who have received microloans from Grameen America can better afford their basic needs, have less material hardship, and have developed credit histories. Cumulatively, women small business owners who have received loans from Grameen America have created more than 109,000 jobs.

“By investing $1 billion in the entrepreneurial businesses of low-income women, Grameen America has helped over 100,000 women in the United States break out of the cycle of poverty,” said Andrea Jung, President and CEO. “These small loans enable women to start or grow their own businesses, which boosts local economies and is a significant force in revitalizing American communities.”

Founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus, Grameen America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit microfinance organization dedicated to helping entrepreneurial women who live in poverty build small businesses to enable financial mobility. The organization offers microloans, training, and support to transform communities and fight poverty in the United States. Grameen America has locations in New York City, NY, Austin, TX, Boston, MA, Charlotte, NC, Indianapolis, IN, Los Angeles, CA, Newark, NJ, Omaha, NE, Oakland, CA, San Jose, CA, San Juan, PR, Union City, NJ, and Miami, FL.

Help us share the stories of those who are doing the most good in the world. Get an autographed book from Devin when you pledge just $2 per month. Visit

The Surdna Foundation Announces Refined Program Strategies

Refined strategies further the Foundation’s commitment to social justice

Press Release – NEW YORK – The Surdna Foundation announced today refined strategies for its grantmaking programs, intended to reflect the Foundation’s belief that racial justice must underpin social justice.

These refined strategies are the culmination of a yearlong process of introspection to ensure the Foundation’s work is as relevant and effective as possible, and they explicitly articulate the changes the Foundation seeks to achieve.

As one of the oldest family foundations in the country, Surdna is dedicated to ensuring its strategies foster a culture of learning and reflect the Foundation’s deep commitment to the values of justice, equity, and inclusion.

“Our ongoing commitment to learning requires constantly examining our own assumptions and having continuous conversations with organizations on the frontlines tackling society’s biggest challenges,” said Don Chen, incoming president of the Surdna Foundation.

These shifts come at an important moment in the Foundation’s journey – 10 years after announcing its shift to an explicitly social justice approach to philanthropy, and six years after launching its current program strategies. Surdna sees this as an opportunity to further the Foundation’s commitment to working together with its partners to amplify the power that exists within communities to drive change.

“We understand that our dollars are limited and the needs of marginalized communities are great, and it is out of deep respect for those communities that we are resolved to spending our funds in ways we believe they can have the most impact,” said Peter Benedict II, board chair.

Surdna believes it can have the greatest impact in achieving a more just and sustainable society by addressing the historical and structural racial inequities at the root of the deeply embedded challenges that communities face across America.

To achieve this, Surdna will direct its financial and human resources towards efforts that further the following three outcomes:

  • Democratic Participation: Supporting communities of color and low-wealth communities to use their decision-making and political power to enable self-determination.
  • Building Wealth: Catalyzing capital to support communities of color and low-wealth communities in their efforts to build and sustain wealth, in all its forms, and economic power to achieve a more just and sustainable society.
  • Building Accountability: Investing in the capacity of communities of color and low-wealth communities to hold policymakers and institutions accountable to ensure all community benefits are shared equitably.

The program strategies were refined to reflect these desired outcomes. Over the next few months, the Surdna Foundation will implement the following refined strategies to continue to grow its impact and live out its commitment to equity:

  • The Inclusive Economies (IE) program (formerly known as Strong Local Economies) will include two integrated strategies: Business Start-up and Growth and Equitable Economic Development. Overall, IE grantmaking will foster the creation of an inclusive and equitable economy in which people of color can maximize their potential as leaders, creators, and innovators across sectors.
  • The Sustainable Environments (SE) program strategies will include: Environmental and Climate Justice and Land Use Through Community Power. SE grantmaking will ensure low-wealth communities and communities of color have control, ownership, and stewardship of infrastructure and the land on which it sits.
  • The Thriving Cultures (TC) strategy, Radical Imagination for Racial Justice will support the creation of new creative works, translate racial justice strategies generated by artists, culture-bearers, and designers, and connect artists and their work to larger movements to advance equity. TC’s grantmaking will focus on shaping and influencing future policies, technologies, and narratives to build more just and sustainable communities.

To learn more about Surdna’s refined program strategies, please visit the Foundation’s new website.

Help us share the stories of those who are doing the most good in the world. Get an autographed book from Devin when you pledge just $2 per month. Visit

Blackrock Targeted As Largest Driver Of Climate Destruction In New Campaign

Leading climate groups call out the world’s largest owner of fossil fuel companies, tell BlackRock CEO to walk the talk

Press Release – NEW YORK – A campaign launching today is holding BlackRock accountable as the single largest contributor to climate destruction. The campaign, BlackRock’s Big Problem, asserts that as the world’s biggest owner of fossil fuel companies, BlackRock is putting the planet on a path towards runaway climate change. The campaign launches as world leaders in climate policy, solutions and finance gather in New York for Climate Week.

BlackRock’s Big Problem demands that the company stop investing in climate destruction by divesting from fossil fuel companies unwilling to change their practices and prioritizing fossil fuel-free and deforestation-free funds. The campaign also urges BlackRock to push companies it owns to align with the Paris Climate Accord and pressure industry laggards through transparent shareholder engagement.

These actions, the campaign asserts, would help align BlackRock’s climate action to the rhetoric of its CEO, Larry Fink, who regularly expresses his belief that corporations should play a positive role in society or risk losing their social license.

“Larry Fink wants to be thought of as a socially responsible corporate leader,” said Moira Birss, spokesperson for Amazon Watch. “Yet BlackRock refuses to divest from tar sands, coal, Arctic oil, Amazon crude and rainforest destruction, and votes against shareholder demands for climate action and transparency. That is not social responsibility.”

Today’s campaign launched during Climate Week NYC at both BlackRock’s headquarters and the week’s preeminent climate investor events. Organizers engaged with Climate Week attendees as well as BlackRock employees, offering wristbands and other small gifts with campaign messaging, while other campaigners circled the events with a digital banner truck and other advertising. These actions were designed to celebrate investors who are leading on climate action and raising awareness about BlackRock’s role as a laggard.

BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager. With $6.3 trillion under management, it’s portfolio is equal to the world’s top 20 pension funds. BlackRock is the largest investor in new coal plant developments worldwide, one of the largest investors in oil and gas companies, and the largest U.S. investor in rainforest destruction, the second largest driver of climate change.

Fink has publicly expressed the importance of responsible investing, saying, “every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.” Yet BlackRock lags behind its fellow asset managers, refusing to divest from dangerous fossil fuels and voting against shareholder demands for climate action and transparency.

“Larry Fink may talk a good game about sustainable investment, but when it comes to action he is a hypocrite,” said Lukas Ross, Senior Policy Analyst at Friends of the Earth. “Under his leadership, Blackrock is a leading investor in fossil fuels and rainforest destruction.”

Asset managers are the biggest owner of the global economy, controlling approximately 90 trillion USD. This consolidation of wealth means asset managers like BlackRock are among the largest shareholder in most publicly traded companies, wielding enormous influence with little accountability for their investment approach or shareholder votes. BlackRock’s Big Problem, the first major climate campaign targeting a U.S. asset manager, hopes to shed light on the magnitude of BlackRock’s potential to combat climate change and push asset managers to proactively lead.

“BlackRock has an enormous amount of power, and it’s time for them to start using that power for good rather than supporting climate destruction,” said Sierra Club Campaign Representative Ben Cushing. “If Larry Fink is serious about his climate legacy, it’s going to take more than good intentions and public statements. He must act now to align BlackRock’s actions with his words and stop funding dirty fossil fuels.”

Help us share the stories of those who are doing the most good in the world. Get an autographed book from Devin when you pledge just $2 per month. Visit

WE and College Board Launch Joint Effort To Incorporate Service Learning Into All AP Courses

-AP with WE Service will engage a new generation of youth in service learning while earning course credit-

Press Release – New York, NY (September 27, 2018) – Today, WE and the College Board announce a collaboration that will incorporate service learning into all AP courses. The College Board gives students the chance to earn college credit and placement through the AP program, which now includes AP with WE Service. AP with WE Service connects challenging academic experiences with service-learning opportunities that translate classroom lessons into hands-on problem-solving, allowing students to complete service projects on topics they are most passionate about. Through AP with WE Service, College Board’s network of 160,000 teachers and 2.8 million students across 85 countries will have the opportunity to create meaningful impact in their local and global communities.

Rooted in over 20 years of service learning, WE Schools, WE’s free domestic service-learning program, has been engaging its global network of 16,000 schools in creating meaningful change. During its pilot phase from 2015 to 2017, AP with WE Service was available in six AP courses and is now available across all AP courses. The program’s approach to course work allows students to engage in academic material through an experiential and problem-based lens, empowering them with the opportunity to take action while cultivating leadership and civic skills. To date, AP with WE Service has enhanced the AP experience for over 5,000 students in over 45 states and 15 countries. Of the teachers who incorporated the program into their course WE found that,

  • 81% reported that they will continue AP with WE Service in their classroom.
  • 73% reported that the program deepened their students’ understanding of course content

“All AP students now have access to one of the most powerful learning tools, the combination of classroom knowledge and working in real world settings and situations,” said Jason Manoharan, Vice President for AP Program Management and Strategy at the College Board. “AP students in this program have the chance to tackle real issues and challenges, find a passion and help the community around them.”

Students who complete the program requirements will earn the AP with WE Service Recognition on their official score reports shared with colleges and universities, and a certificate of completion. Schools may also update transcripts for relevant AP with WE Service courses.

“We are thrilled to partner with the College Board to bring AP with WE Service to life across all AP’s course offerings,” said Carrie Patterson, Chief Operations Director of WE Charity. “AP with WE Service challenges both students and teachers alike to reflect on every day issues in the AP course of their choice. For students, this is an incredible opportunity to not only work towards earning college credit, but also inspires them to become agents of change taking action in support of local or global causes.”

Educators and students will have tools and resources to effectively achieve service-learning outcomes. The AP with WE Service for All module guides teachers in modifying their current lessons to include learning and investigation around a specific actionable topic. WE and the College Board will offer free professional development opportunities to teachers to help prepare them to introduce service learning into their curriculum in the coming school year.

“My AP Computer Science A students and I partnered with a local community service organization in our area as well as a remote community in Kenya. Students and I agree that this work forced them to grapple with many very real world issues regarding software development. It was incredibly valuable for me and my students to participate in this project,” said Katie O’Shaughnessey, Rye Country Day School, Rye, NY

Administrators and teachers interested in participating can go to and complete the form. Students interested in joining the program should talk to their AP teacher. For more information about WE, visit

Help us share the stories of those who are doing the most good in the world. Get an autographed book from Devin when you pledge just $2 per month. Visit

PCB Pollution Threatens To Wipe Out Killer Whales

In what is being called a ‘killer whale apocalypse’ by ZSL scientists

When killer whales like these hunt small fish like herring, the exposure to PCBs is much less than if they fed on large fish or marine mammals. Photo: Audun Rikardsen –

Press Release – More than forty years since the first initiatives were taken to ban the use of PCBs, the chemical pollutants remain a deadly threat to animals at the top of the food chain. A new study, published in the journal Science today (27 September 2018) shows that the current concentrations of PCBs can lead to the disappearance of half of the world’s populations of killer whales, from the most heavily contaminated areas, within a period of just 30-50 years.

Killer whales (Orcinus orca) form the last link in a long food chain and are among the mammals with the highest level of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in their tissue. Researchers have measured values as high as 1300 milligrams per kilo in the fatty tissue (blubber) of killer whales. For comparison, a large number of studies show that animals with PCB levels as low as 50 milligrams per kilo of tissue may show signs of infertility and severe impacts on the immune system.

Together with colleagues from a range of international universities and research institutions, researchers from ZSL (Zoological Society of London) and Aarhus University have documented that the number of killer whales is rapidly declining in 10 out of the 19 killer whale populations investigated. The species may disappear entirely from several areas within a few decades.

Killer whales are particularly threatened in heavily contaminated areas like the waters near Brazil, the Strait of Gibraltar and around the UK. Around the British Isles, the researchers estimate that the remaining population counts less than 10 killer whales. Also along the east coast of Greenland, killer whales are effected due to the high consumption of sea mammals like seals.

Dr Paul Jepson from ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, co-author and killer whale expert said: “This suggests that the efforts have not been effective enough to avoid the accumulation of PCBs in high trophic level species that live as long as the killer whale does. There is therefore an urgent need for further initiatives than those under the Stockholm Convention.”

PCB transport in the food chains: When foreign hazardous substances enter the marine environment, they are assimilated into the first link in the food chain, phytoplankton. The phytoplankton is consumed by zooplankton, which in turn is consumed by smaller fish, etc. The chemicals accumulate in each link of the food chain, and this means that killer whales that feed on large animals in contaminated areas may contain concentrations of PCBs so high that the survival of the species is threatened. Killer whales that primarily feed on smaller fish are not threatened in the same way.

The killer whale is one of the most widespread mammals on Earth and is found in all of the world’s oceans from pole to pole. But today, only the populations living in the least polluted areas possess a large number of individuals.

Overfishing and man-made noise may also affect the health of the animals, but PCBs particularly can have a dramatic effect on the reproduction and immune system of the killer whales.

Killer whales whose diet includes, among other items, seals and large fish such as tuna and sharks critical accumulate PCBs and other pollutants stored at successive levels of the food chain. It is these populations of killer whales that have the highest PCB concentrations and it is these populations that are at the highest risk of population collapse. Killer whales that primarily feed on small-sized fish such as herring and mackerel have a significantly lower content of PCBs and are thus at lower risk of effects.

PCBs have been used around the world since the 1930s. More than one million tonnes of PCBs were produced and used in, among other things, electrical components and plastics. Together with DDT and other organic pesticides – PCBs have spread around the global oceans.

Through the 1970s and 1980s, PCBs were banned in several countries and in 2004, through the Stockholm Convention, more than 90 countries have committed themselves to phase out and dispose of the large stocks of PCBs.

PCBs are only slowly decomposed in the environment. Moreover, PCBs are passed down from the mother orca to its offspring through the mother’s fat-rich milk. This means that the hazardous substances remain in the bodies of the animals, instead of being released into the environment where they eventually deposit or degrade.

“We know that PCBs deform the reproductive organs of animals such as polar bears. It was therefore only natural to examine the impact of PCBs on the scarce populations of killer whales around the world,” says Professor Rune Dietz from the Department of Bioscience and Arctic Research Centre, Aarhus University, who initiated the killer whale studies and is co-author of the article.

The research group, which includes participants from the United States, Canada, England, Greenland, Iceland and Denmark, reviewed all the existing literature and compared all data with their own most recent results. This provided information about PCB levels in more than 350 individual killer whales around the globe – the largest number of killer whales ever studied.

Population development: By collecting data from around the world and loading them into population models, the researchers can see that 10 out of 19 populations of killer whales are affected by high levels of PCBs in their body. PCBs particularly affect the reproduction and immune system of the whales. The situation is worst in the oceans around Brazil and the UK where the model predicts that populations have been cut in half over the first decades since the use of PCBs became widespread. Here, the models predict a high risk that the species will disappear within a 30-40-year period. The line indicates median values, while the shaded field shows the variation.

Applying models, the researchers then predicted the effects of PCBs on the number of offspring as well as on the immune system and mortality of the killer whale over a period of 100 years.

“The findings are surprising. We see that over half of the studied killer whales populations around the globe are severely affected by PCBs” says postdoc Jean-Pierre Desforges from Aarhus University, who led the investigations.

The effects result in fewer and fewer animals over time in these populations. The situation is worst in the oceans around Brazil, the Strait of Gibraltar, the northeast Pacific and around the UK. Here, the models show that the populations have virtually been halved during the half century where PCBs have been present.

“In these areas, we rarely observe newborn killer whales,” says Ailsa Hall, who together with Bernie McConnell developed the models used by Sea Mammal Research Unit in Scotland.

“As the effects have been recognized for more than 50 years, it is frightening to see that the models predict a high risk of population collapse in these areas within a period of 30-40 years,” says Jean-Pierre Desforges.

A female killer whale may live for 60-70 years, and although the world took its first steps to phase out PCBs more than 40 years ago, killer whales still have high levels of PCBs in their bodies.

In the oceans around the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway, Alaska and the Antarctic, the prospects are not so gloomy. Here, killer whale populations grow, and the models predict that they will continue to do so throughout the next century.

Help us share the stories of those who are doing the most good in the world. Get an autographed book from Devin when you pledge just $2 per month. Visit

Big Brothers Big Sisters Of New York City Appoints Two New Members To Board Of Trustees

Press Release – NEW YORK, September 25, 2018Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City (BBBS of NYC), the nation’s first and New York’s largest youth mentoring organization, has named two new members to its Board of Trustees: John Dowd, chief executive officer of Fiduciary Trust Company International, and Sky Milch, partner of PwC’s Advisory practice in New York.

“John and Sky are incredibly talented leaders within their respective industries who are committed to serving the community and fostering the success of our city’s youth,” said Erin Scanlon, board president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC. “We look forward to working with them as we continue to raise awareness for the organization and further develop our life-changing mentoring programs.”

Mr. Dowd brings more than three decades of wealth management experience to BBBS of NYC’s Board. Prior to joining Fiduciary Trust, Mr. Dowd served as executive vice president and senior management director for Wells Fargo’s Wealth Management, where he oversaw the northeast region, focusing on investment management, trust and real estate, financial planning, custom credit, brokerage and insurance services. He previously served as a management executive for BNY Mellon’s wealth management business for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Mr. Dowd holds an MBA from Columbia University and received his undergraduate degree from Guilford College. He is a past chairman of the trust and investments section of the New York State Banker’s Association and has served on the boards of Junior Achievement of New Jersey and the Senior Care and Activities Center. He is currently a trustee of the Montclair Art Museum in Montclair, New Jersey.

Mr. Milch has been an active leader at PwC for more than 14 years. As partner in the firm’s Deals practice, he leads the Pharma & Life Sciences sector team with a focus on advising clients on merger integration planning and execution, divestiture and separation management, and pre-deal due diligence. He is an active coach and mentor and is a partner sponsor for many of the practice’s community service events. Prior to PwC, Mr. Milch worked for Lehman Brothers and GE Aircraft Engines.

He earned his MBA from Goizueta Business School at Emory University and his bachelor’s degree in business management from North Carolina State University.

About Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City

Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC (BBBS of NYC), the nation’s first and NYC’s largest youth mentoring organization, has served the changing needs of New York City’s most at-risk youth since 1904. The volunteer- and donor-based organization offers a variety of specialized mentoring programs to help children facing more complex challenges – including immigrant youth, children of incarcerated parents and those in foster care – as well as the Workplace Mentoring Program, which helps businesses throughout New York City positively impact the lives of young people and build a foundation for professional success. Additionally, since 1992 BBBS of NYC has worked through its Center for Training and Professional Development to equip non-profit professionals throughout New York City to develop and enhance their own mentor-based programs and organizations.

Through the support of individuals, foundations and corporations, this not-for-profit agency has been able to change the lives of the city’s most disadvantaged children, matching them with caring adult role models – dependable friends who can help to expand their horizons, realize their potential and enrich their futures. All contributions enable BBBS of NYC to continue to foster current match relationships and also provide more New York City children with life-changing mentors. Approximately $3,500 funds the establishment of a new one-on-one match relationship for one year. To learn more, become a mentor, donate and/or offer support, please visit

Help us share the stories of those who are doing the most good in the world. Get an autographed book from Devin when you pledge just $2 per month. Visit

Adopting a “Gender Lens” Perspective May Help Institutional Investors Not Only Make a Social Impact, but Also Reap Strong Returns

According to a New Cambridge Associates Report, Investing in the Unique Capabilities and Perspectives of Women Can Help Investors Not Only Address Social Challenges but Also Find New Opportunities for Strong Financial Returns

Press Release – BOSTON, Sept. 27, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Gender lens investing – investment strategies designed to make a positive impact in the lives of women and girls, while also meeting necessary return and risk objectives – may provide a unique road toward higher financial returns and greater social impact, according to a new report by investment firm Cambridge Associates.

“Research has shown time and again that diversity of thought and perspective leads to better investment returns, better business strategies and stronger organizations as a whole,” says Deborah Christie, Managing Director at Cambridge Associates and a coauthor of Gender Lens Investing: Impact Opportunities Through Gender Equity.

“That’s why an institutional investor who looks at strategies through a ‘gender lens’ may see excellent opportunities they may have otherwise missed – opportunities to both make an impact that aligns with their mission and to benefit from investment diversification.”

The report points out how much room there is for a gender lens approach to grow. For instance, as of 2017, only 16% of board seats and 4.4% of CEO roles across Russell 3000 companies were held by women – even though by 2020 women are projected to control $72 trillion of wealth, or 32% of global wealth.

The report cites a variety of third-party studies that advance the gender lens argument…

  • Sales growth, earnings per share growth and return on assets were all higher in companies where women comprised 50% or more of leadership positions.
  • Start-ups founded by women generated 10% more revenue than male-founded counterparts.
  • The performance of venture capital firms improves as the ratio of investment in women-led businesses increases, despite these businesses receiving less funding.
  • Female investors are less likely to churn portfolios, which helps net returns, whereas male investors trade 45% more than women, which lowers net returns.
  • The overall intelligence of a team or company increases when women are included, due to more perspectives and fewer blind spots.
  • According to an analysis of 37 female hedge fund managers, female-led hedge funds outperform a general sample of hedge funds over a ten-year period.

Although gender lens investing strategies are not as numerous as other impact strategies, the lists are growing. According to the report, Cambridge Associates monitors about 30 strategies in the public markets that are considered gender lens investments (with $1 billion in aggregated assets). And Project Sage, a research initiative of the Wharton Social Impact Initiative follows 58 private investment strategies with a gender lens focus (at a total of $1.3 billion aggregated assets).

So how can institutional investors enact a gender lens approach? The report says it’s helpful to think about gender lens initiatives in three categories:

  • Increasing access to capital for women. This can mean investing in female entrepreneurs and female fund managers or educating women about finance to help them grow assets. It can also mean empowering women through microfinance and small business lending.
  • Creating workplace equity for women. This can take the form of investing in companies with gender equity policies – like wage equity and paid family leave – and those that have a certain number of women in senior management positions.
  • Supporting products and services that benefit women and girls. This approach means investing in companies focused on improving health and education for women and girls, investing in female-oriented products or investing in products that mitigate societal problems that primarily affect women.

In terms of specific potential strategies, one gender lens strategy might, hypothetically, involve providing private equity capital to female entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and another may entail investing with a company or investment manager that makes loans to women in rural communities in emerging markets to help them start small-scale businesses. In another gender lens approach, institutions might deliberately seek to have investment strategies and funds managed by women alongside their traditional investment portfolio. One more example could be a venture capital fund that funds products designed to improve the lives of girls.

Adds Christie, “Most importantly, as gender lens investing expands, it will ultimately promote a culture that extends beyond just counting women in the workplace toward one that views investing in women as a societal norm.”

About Cambridge Associates

Cambridge Associates is a leading global investment firm. We aim to help endowments & foundations, pension plans, and private clients implement and manage custom investment portfolios that generate outperformance so they can maximize their impact on the world. Working alongside its early clients, among them leading university endowments, the firm pioneered the strategy of high-equity orientation and broad diversification, which since the 1980s has been a primary driver of performance for institutional investors. Cambridge Associates delivers a range of services, including outsourced CIO, non-discretionary portfolio management, and investment consulting.

Cambridge Associates maintains offices in Boston; Arlington, VA; Beijing; Dallas; London; Menlo Park, CA; New York; San Francisco; Singapore; Sydney; and Toronto. Cambridge Associates consists of five global investment consulting affiliates that are all under common ownership and control. For more information, please visit

Help us share the stories of those who are doing the most good in the world. Get an autographed book from Devin when you pledge just $2 per month. Visit

1 2 3 12
Don't miss any Good News!
Subscribe to news from!
* = required field
Content I want:

Find Us On

amazon facebook_32 gplus_32 linkedin_32 pinterest_32 tumblr_32 twitter_32 website_32 youtube_32 email_32 rss_32