Raised in the steelmaking hub of Youngstown, Ohio, Steve Oyer saw the impact pollution can have on a community. As he described to GreenBiz, he witnessed “the devastation economically, when an industry pollutes and destroys the environment and ultimately creates economic and ecological disaster.” Oyer recognized the need to make a change and the power of socially responsible investing to do so: “We have a chance to change that now — this is a new industrial revolution, and it’s got to be the same mechanisms of capital that are deployed. . . but it can do it to decarbonize and lessen the impact on the planet.”
In 2015, Pär Lindström, Trevor Neilson, and Warren Buffett’s grandson Howard W. Buffett founded the investment company i(x) Net Zero, of which Oyer became CEO in 2018. i(x) Net Zero’s strategy is “profit with purpose,” working to generate great investment returns and scalable impact and solutions to some of the world’s most challenging problems. Each company that i(x) Net Zero invests in aims to start with at least a 20 percent stake and actively works to help them grow by providing expertise and capital. As of last year, the company has funneled $60.7 million into three portfolio companies involved in the energy transition and three related to sustainability in the built environment.
Regarding the energy transition, WasteFuel is a standout, featuring i(x) co-founder Trevor Neilson as its CEO. The Los Angeles-based company turns trash and agricultural waste into sustainable fuels like low-carbon aviation fuel (WasteFuel Air), renewable natural gas (WasteFuel Land), and green methanol to power container ships (WasteFuel Sea). WasteFuel recently secured a major deal to supply 30,000 tons of green methanol each year to shipping conglomerate Maersk.
Carbon Engineering, another portfolio company, removes carbon from the air using its Direct Air Capture technology. Its first large-scale facility will be in the Permian Basin and will remove one million tons of carbon annually. Enphys Acquisition is a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) focused on business combinations with Latin American renewable energy companies.
In the world of the built environment, a portfolio highlight is Context Labs. Headquartered in Massachusetts, the software company offers a data and analytics platform with an ESG focus. For example, its Impact Analytics solution uses artificial intelligence to summarize companies’ environmental data and predict climate impact. In March, Context Labs partnered with Fortune 500 energy company Williams to deploy its Decarbonization-as-a-Service solution across the natural gas supply chain.
More specifically, regarding affordable and sustainable housing, Sustainable Living Innovations (SLI) produces tech-enabled buildings made of pre-fabricated panels and optimized with advanced data management systems, making them more affordable. Solar power generation, greywater, and waste heat recovery systems feature heavily, and SLI is currently building the world’s first certified Net Zero Energy multifamily tower in Seattle. In contrast to its small initial stake in SLI, i(x) Net Zero actually co-founded another company, MultiGreen Properties, to build multi-family homes that are attainable – aimed at the workforce and entry-level renters – and sustainable by meeting LEED or Green Globes standards. The goal is to build at least 40,000 Workforce Plus homes by 2030, with 1,106 already in construction.
Beyond expanding its reach of impressive investments, i(x) Net Zero also went public on February 9, listing on the AIM submarket of the London Stock Exchange, after raising £10.7 million. As Oyer told Proactive Investors, “the company’s first few months as a public company have crystalized further the need to provide investors transparent access to ESG investing at scale in a public market forum. . . Each of our portfolio companies represents a long-term opportunity for investors who wish to align their values with their investments.”
Plus, several influential and recognizable backers have invested in the company. Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia are prime examples.
With such game-changing investments and well-known names, the future for i(x) Net Zero seems promising.
As Oyer explained, “looking ahead, i(x) Net Zero’s strategy remains an effective driver of its platform for growth, with a number of investment opportunities under active consideration. We are confident and excited about what the future holds.” The company is not only confident about its future but about the future of the planet, as well. In the words of chief investment officer Pär Lindström, “as more investors follow i(x) Net Zero’s lead and invest in sustainable opportunities to fight climate change, we are excited by the number of new businesses we are seeing within the space.” Perhaps the future is promising for us all.