Investment

The Walton fortune links up with Norwegian family office to save the world’s oceans

Lukas Walton’s Builders Vision global impact platform has arrived in Europe to invest in a business that pledges to seek returns from reviving the health of the oceans.

The deal involves Swen Blue Ocean Partners Fund which has so far raised €95 million and hopes to hit €120 million. 

Lukas Walton, 35, is grandson to Walmart founders Sam and Helen. He believes capitalism needs to develop a sense of purpose via social, environmental and philanthropic pursuits, rather than driving for short-term profits.

Ferd is a strong believer in impact investing and the sense of purpose it brings to bear: “We will create enduring value and leave clear footprints.”

The Walton family is the richest in the world, worth $238 billion, according to Bloomberg. Alongside Walmart, its investment team backs a range of ETFs and stocks. Lukas Walton inherited 20% of Walmart stock from his father, John.

Several members of the Walton family have used Walmart inheritances worth several billion to drive sustainable deals. For more details, go to Family Capital’s article here. 

Lukas Walton chairs the environmental programme created by the $5.6 billion Walton Foundation, which provides grants to a broad range of sustainable deals.

His passion for the environment developed when a plant-based diet contributed to his recovery from cancer at the age of three. 

Lukas Walton has put money into several clean energy stocks and recently launched a $300 million clean energy fund. He led investment in plant-based meat and sustainable agriculture through S2G Ventures, best known for backing Beyond Meat, which it exited. S2G has become part of Builders Vision’s private capital initiative.

According to Crunchbase, S2G has backed more than a hundred ventures. The most recent investments are in Zero Farm, which produces alternatives to vegetable oils; Future Meat, based on cellular meat products and Faeth Therapeutics, a developer of cancer cures. 

Builders Vision has invested in a $25 million fund run by Circulate Capital of Singapore which invests in a range of recycling projects which bear down on waste. 

It has partnered with Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy to drive down the cost of climate technology. It has backed a business called Urchinomics which wants to turn ecologically destructive urchins into seafood.  Its key sectors are oceans, food, energy and community affairs.

Builders Vision has invested in Blue Ocean alongside Norway’s Ferd family investment office, chaired by Johan Andresen and owned with his daughters Katharina and Alexandra. Ferd is a strong believer in impact investing and the sense of purpose it brings to bear: “We will create enduring value and leave clear footprints.”

Blue Ocean’s other investors include BPI, the French sovereign investment fund and Ifremer, a national institute for ocean science. Fund manager Swen Capital Partners manages private assets worth €6.8 billion. It is owned by French asset manager OFI, Crédit Mutuel Arkéaand team members.

Oceans are threatened by pollution, overfishing, global warming and the loss of seafood products, collectively producing annual losses of $400 billion by 2050. Finding solutions to these multifaceted problems is one of Builder Vision’s missions. 

Peter Bryant, its senior programme officer, says: “Blue Ocean Partners will bring much-needed capital into ventures focused on ocean health and sustainability.”

Blue Ocean aims to back up to 25 startups. Its first deal is an investment in Optoscale of Norway, which monitors fish farms to ensure their fish are the right weight and the sea is protected from their waste.

Builders Vision wants to redress the corporate obsession with profits, which takes no account of the impact of their policies on society and the environment. In this respect, for the younger generation seeking employment, the current outlook is depressing.

Margaret Heffernan is author of a renowned book on willful blindness, where you ignore situations you find painful. She recently asked college students to interview potential employers: “Of the 14 companies they visited, just one was carbon net positive.” Biodiversity loss? “Not our problem.” 

According to PwC, 57% of global business leaders do not believe their companies emit carbon. Around 55% say they don’t know how to measure emissions. A mere 13% have incentives linked to decarbonisation. Heffernan concludes: “If companies seek to attract an eager, educated, workforce, they will have to do better than this.” 

Asset managers tend to benchmark their green funds on so-called ESG indices because their returns do not stray far from the mainstream – even though they include banks notorious for their fossil fuel loans; food businesses consuming vast quantities of beef, and tech firms with social issues. Direct engagement, through impact investing, is rarer. 

Blue Ocean is paid, in part, by its green achievements. Around 50% of its carried interest will only be paid if it hits impact targets confirmed by third parties.  Swen is also a shareholder in NEC Initiative which enables investors to measure progress towards sustainability.

Lukas Walton says: “We believe markets must fundamentally shift and the most successful businesses in the future will be those driven by purpose…We cannot accept the status quo. We can no longer go for what’s easiest or most profitable in the short term.”

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