Impact Investing and Alternative Transportation


The field of impact investing is a relatively new phenomenon, but its popularity is growing quickly, as investors seek financial AND other returns on their investments, usually environmental and social benefits. In impact investing, investors get to make a buck and feel good about it, too. Impact investing includes fairly mainstream investments, like Tesla’s initial public offering (IPO) that netted the company over $200 million. Other impact investing may take the form of angel investing in smaller companies, pre-purchasing on crowdfunding campaigns, “friends and family” loans to help green startups, or more creative efforts.

Impact investing has the potential to rev up the alternative transportation sector. By pushing startup capital into alternative transportation companies, investors can help revolutionize the way we move about. That, in turn, can help us reduce our dependence on oil. Consider Zipcar, whose own IPO netted over $170M for the world’s biggest carsharing company. Ford and Zipcar teamed up to increase enrollment at college campuses across the U.S., which is not just strategic partnership strategy, but effectively by subsidizing student enrollment, Ford did its own impact investing by helping ZipCar increase its reach.

Investors in Zipcar and Tesla should not only be able to make money, but their environmental impact is apparent: each Zipcar helps remove 20 vehicles from the road. People enrolled in Zipcar reduce their driving substantially, and save an average of 219 gallons of gas annually and $500 per month.

The concept of impact investing to help reduce our fuel dependency is one of the main strategies in the new board game GBO Hawaii. In the game, players are impact investors who invest in clean tech, sustainable food, green building, and alternative transportation businesses to help the state of Hawaii reduce its dependence on imported oil and processed food.

Here’s a montage of cards from the game. As a player, you can invest in things like algae biofuels, car sharing services, electric vehicle charging stations, and the like. To do so, you need an entrepreneur to run them (in the form of an Alternative Transportation Entrepreneur card), and some employees (Green Collar Worker cards). The businesses help offset waste and oil imported to the state (note the dumptrucks and barrels of oil in the red circle with the lines through them on the business cards). It’s not just high tech stuff, you can invest in a pedicab business in the game. After all, what’s greener than biking?


Check out the game here and challenge your friends to see who’s a better alternative transportation investor. Here’s a 1 minute video that further introduces the game.


Scott Cooney

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on