The SRI Conference is proud to have Gary White kicking off the SRI Conference main stage on November 13, 2019 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.
Gary co-founded Water.org and WaterEquity with Matt Damon, and we sat down for an interview with both of them to learn more about the origins of both organizations, the challenges and opportunities in their work, and how more investors can get involved in addressing water scarcity.
The SRI Conference: How did you meet Gary and get involved in the issue?
Matt Damon: Gary and I met at the 2008 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York. He was the founder of WaterPartners International and I was helping communities in Africa get safe water though my organization, H20 Africa. We determined that together, we could have significantly more impact around the world. So in 2009, we merged our two organizations to become Water.org, a global nonprofit that helps people get access to safe water and sanitation through affordable financing.
Then in 2017, we co-founded our second organization — WaterEquity, which builds on Water.org’s 20+ years of experience in water and sanitation microfinance in emerging markets.
The SRI Conference: Can you tell us a little more about your new organization— WaterEquity? For those who haven’t heard of you before, what does WaterEquity do?
Gary White: WaterEquity is an asset manager exclusively focused on ending the global water crisis. Our funds invest in a portfolio of financial institutions and enterprises in emerging markets—enabling them to scale, meet increasing market demand, and deliver access to safe water or sanitation. Our current two funds are performing strongly, with investments in India, Indonesia, and Cambodia. We’ve deployed these funds rapidly, and as a result, already reached one million people with access to safe water or sanitation.
The SRI Conference: What was the genesis of WaterEquity?
Gary White: Matt and I co-founded WaterEquity in response to three insights:
Market opportunity: Economists estimate the market opportunity to provide water and sanitation services to all by 2030 at $1 trillion. That’s what it will take to provide water and sanitation for all by 2030 (United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #6).
Market demand: People moving out of poverty are the single largest source of untapped economic growth on the planet. And today there are nearly 800 million people living in poverty who would pay for improved water and sanitation services if they could just secure a microloan. That’s an $18 billion unmet market demand.
Strong investment pipeline: Our 20+ years of experience working directly with water and enterprises and financial institutions in emerging markets taught us that they could reach more people, more quickly with access to more affordable capital. It also taught us that water and sanitation microloans have a 99% repayment rate.
The SRI Conference: How can people get involved in WaterEquity?
Gary White: Given the market demand and potential, we’re going to market with a new fund — the WaterEquity Global Access Fund — a $150 million global fund for accredited investors. The WaterEquity Global Access Fund provides debt capital to financial institutions, including microfinance institutions, in emerging markets to expand household lending for water and sanitation products and services. The fund aims to reach 5 to 8 million people living in poverty with safe water or sanitation over its seven-year term. Investments target sustainable returns and are organized around three components: water and sanitation financing, gender-lens investing, and financial inclusion.
The SRI Conference: How can people get involved in Water.org?
Matt Damon: The best way to become a part of the solution to the global water crisis is to get informed and donate. Support Water.org, and you support a solution that reaches more people, faster. Learn more at Water.org.
If you want to see Gary White in person, register today for The 30th Annual SRI Conference!
Water.org is an international nonprofit organization that has positively transformed more than 22 million lives around the world with access to safe water and sanitation. Founded by Gary White and Matt Damon, Water.org pioneers market-driven financial solutions to the global water crisis. For more than 25 years, we’ve been providing women hope, children health and families a future.
WaterEquity is the first-ever asset manager dedicated to ending the global water crisis, with an exclusive focus on raising and deploying capital to financial institutions and water and sanitation enterprises in emerging markets. Co-founded in 2017 by social entrepreneur Gary White and actor Matt Damon, WaterEquity combines decades of financial and in-market experience to provide investors a unique opportunity to drive positive social and financial impact.
Learn more at https://waterequity.org/.