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Apple unveils clean energy initiative in India with impact VC firm Acumen

Applications are open through July 24 for social entrepreneurs to join Acumen's Energy for Livelihoods Accelerator

Harichandan Arakali
Published: Jul 13, 2023 11:04:48 AM IST
Updated: Jul 13, 2023 12:24:24 PM IST

Apple unveils clean energy initiative in India with impact VC firm AcumenClean energy for underserved communities is one of Acumen's focus areas. Image for illustrative purposes only. Image: Getty Images

Apple on Thursday unveiled a new clean energy initiative in India aimed at supporting social entrepreneurs to scale and refine their businesses so that they can make a bigger impact on the lives of the poor that they are trying to help, and protect the environment at the same time.

Financial details aren’t available, but Apple has partnered with Acumen, a New York-headquartered global non-profit venture capital (VC) fund that focuses on poverty alleviation projects.

They are offering spots on the Energy for Livelihoods Accelerator where Acumen experts will lead a free 12-week programme designed to help social entrepreneurs.

“Apple is committed to helping ensure everyone can share in the benefits of a greener economy,” Sarah Chandler, Apple’s vice president of Environment and Supply Chain Innovation, said in a press release. “We’re demonstrating the transformative potential of clean energy in everything we do, and we are excited to support social innovators who share that goal.”

Programme participants will get access to a network of peers, facilitators and mentors. Afterward, they’ll be included in Acumen Academy’s global community, The Foundry, and will be eligible for technical assistance and early-stage investment from Acumen’s Pioneer Energy Investment Initiative (PEII+).

“For over 20 years, Acumen has invested in early-stage social enterprises addressing problems of poverty in India, and some of our most innovative recent investments have been at the intersection of energy access and livelihoods,” Mahesh Yagnaraman, Acumen’s director of India, said in the release.

Founder and CEO Jacqueline Novogratz started Acumen in 2001. She is an American entrepreneur, author and philanthropist known for her work in the field of impact investing and social entrepreneurship.

The Energy for Livelihoods Accelerator spun out of Acumen’s Pioneer Energy Investment Initiative: Powering Livelihoods Using Solar (PEII+), which was launched in July 2022. PEII+ is a five-year, $25 million-initiative that will invest early-stage capital in companies that provide renewable energy-powered appliances.

Also read: 5 difficult but feasible steps to reverse the climate crisis

These companies could be making products ranging from mills and irrigation pumps to electric motorbikes and refrigerators. They could also be microentrepreneurs and smallholder farmers in India and East and West Africa. “The goal is to leverage these technologies to boost incomes and climate resilience in vulnerable communities,” Acumen had said in the press release announcing the investment.

PEII+ is supported by the IKEA Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, Autodesk Foundation, and Distributed Power Fund, and has been awarded follow-on funding with UK Aid from the UK government via the Transforming Energy Access (TEA) platform. PEII+ is also “strategically aligned” with the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) commitments in India and East and West Africa.

In India, in addition to working with Acumen, Apple has partnered with Frank Water to expand access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene; and with the Applied Environmental Research Foundation (AERF) to preserve mangroves along India’s west coast.

Applications are open now, with programming beginning in September. Leaders of social enterprises—businesses with a clear social or environmental mission—working to advance sustainable energy solutions for small businesses and farmers in India can apply through July 24.

Apple aims to be carbon neutral for all its products by 2030. Today about 250 of the iPhone maker’s global manufacturing partners — accounting for over 85 percent of Apple’s direct manufacturing spend — have committed to 100 percent renewable energy for all Apple production by 2030, according to Apple’s Environmental Progress Report 2023.

Of those, 12 have operations in India, and all final assembly sites in India have achieved zero waste, according to Apple.

This year, Apple expanded its innovative Restore Fund for high-quality, nature-based carbon removal, and announced new 2025 targets to use 100 percent recycled cobalt in all Apple-designed batteries, recycled rare earth elements in all magnets, and recycled gold plating and tin soldering in all Apple-designed printed circuit boards.

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