Nicolette Boele is Expert Adviser at Smart Energy Council, and Shadow Representative for the People of Bradfield.
What was your first job?
When I was 14 years old, I organised children’s birthday parties after the Saturday pantomimes at the Northside Marian Street Theatre in Killara, NSW.
My first career role was at the then freshly minted Sustainable Energy Development Authority where I led energy efficiency programs and policy for households in NSW.
When did you know you wanted to work in finance/business?
It was probably my final year university during a planning law lecture when the concept of ‘relative power’ landed for me. I was doing an internship (for what is now called Property Council Australia) on streamlining the approvals processes for ‘sustainable tourism ventures’.
I learned super quickly that it didn’t matter just how sustainable a project was if the people in the area didn’t want it in their backyard. I learned how a project can be halted when those dissenting voices have access to people in power via business, local government, and the courts. This was my entre to understanding how power works and the necessity for business to put people at the centre of its plans, not just an environmentally friendly marina development.
When did you first discover the concept of Impact Investing?
I deeply understood the concept of impact investing when I met Carly Hammond, now Senior Sustainability Analyst at New Forests. She introduced me to the Impact Management Project and painstakingly walked me through the dimensions of avoiding harm to contributing to solutions, and from asset level through to fund manager.
That was a good thing because I was the executive in charge of the Responsible Investment Association Australasia’s (RIAA) RI Certification Program. One day, I hope that impact is embedded in all investments.
What’s one exciting development you and your team have in the pipeline?
With my advisory work at the Smart Energy Council, we’re teaming up with Saul Griffith’s Rewiring Australia to help advocate for energy upgrades for the 440,000 community and public housing throughout Australia, as a well as means tested low interest loans to the remaining 9.5 million households.
Creative ways to leverage private wealth and recycling public funds makes for a very rewarding deal – for the residents of these drafty, expensive-to-run homes, but also for the investor and taxpayer.
What was the most interesting impact deal (from any team across Asia/Pacific) in the past 12 months?
In my role on the Climate Impact Committee of the Climate Venture Capital Fund, operating out of Aotearoa New Zealand I have been particularly excited about MGM Thermal. Based in the Hunter, MGA Thermal is manufacturing long duration thermal energy storage blocks using aluminium to serve renewable energy and heat storage markets. AGL has recently contracted to trial their technology and with the recent uptick in climate policy in Australia, opportunities for MGA Thermal will only grow.
Much of the confidence in this invested stemmed from the people involved including the likes of board member Kara Frederick who advised the $1.2 billion deal to list on the NASDAQ for Tritium, a world leader in mobility and EV fast charging technologies.
Company to keep an eye out for?
The Good Car Co. Investing in this Tasmania-based business won’t necessarily make you rich, but that’s sort of the point of this social enterprise – making EVs as affordable as possible for all Australians.
The founders are anything BUT used car salesmen, they’ve re-engineered the car ownership experience from the perspective of an environmentally committed, financially cautious and technically limited customer. Their end-to-end service system is what makes them more likely than others to succeed over the mid to long term.
What’s your vision for impact investing in 5 years time?
I plan on advocating for all businesses to have purpose embedded in their constitutions – a public good – social or environmental. So done well, money will help support not just HOW a business operates but WHAT it’s in the business of achieving through the goods and services that it sells.
So, not in five years, but in the foreseeable future, I see all finance – debt, equity, insurance, private, public and blended – to be driving towards public good.