Meridiam, Rockefeller Foundation to launch resilience fund – exclusive

The move comes less than two weeks after the French fund manager announced its switch to a Benefit Corporation.

Meridiam and the Rockefeller Foundation will launch a new fund dedicated to urban resilience infrastructure with the aim of raising more than €500 million, Thierry Déau, the Paris-based fund manager’s founder and chief executive, told Infrastructure Investor.

The new vehicle will invest in both developed and emerging markets and across sectors, or as Déau explained, “[in] anything that can help urban environments”.

The Rockefeller Foundation will be investing in the fund, though Déau did not provide a specific figure. The objective is to mobilise more private capital into a vehicle that will “really support project development and project preparation at the city level with both capital and human resources”, he said, as well as using a wide range of facilities to de-risk projects and make them investable.

“The goal of this partnership is to create an industry standard for resilience infrastructure,” the Rockefeller Foundation said in a blog post, referring to infrastructure that “is built to improve daily life, ensure survival and support continued growth in the face of increasingly hazardous climate events”.

The partnership with Meridiam is part of a climate and resilience initiative the New York-based foundation announced in July. It’s a “follow-up initiative”, Déau said, to the 100 Resilient Cities platform the foundation launched in 2013 and which ceased operations on 31 July, with the aim of helping cities around the world tackle growing urbanisation, globalisation, and climate change.

Meridiam and the Rockefeller Foundation will also develop an Urban Resilience Screen based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals that will help investors evaluate the resilience of an infrastructure project based on its ability to withstand sudden shocks, minimise negative impacts on the environment and society and provide benefits to the community it serves.

Meridiam will be responsible for managing the fund, which it expects will reach final close in early 2020.

Asked whether the new vehicle will invest in greenfield or brownfield projects, Déau said: “Obviously, the more greenfield [projects], the better, but it’s really about helping resilience and the transition to a low carbon economy.

“For example, there are many cities that want to ‘green’ their central heating systems but have trouble doing it because the systems are owned by some municipal utility that is unable to invest or is having difficulty finding ways to fund the switch from coal-fired power generation to greener energy sources.

“So, the fund can invest in brownfield assets, but the whole concept is to focus on what the impact [of an investment] is on a city,” Déau explained.

The move comes less than two weeks since Meridiam announced it had changed its by-laws to become a Benefit Corporation, one of the first companies to do so in France, and made possible with the passage of the Pacte Act in May. The move was “an obvious step”, Déau said in a statement announcing the change, noting the firm has been focusing on ESG issues since its founding in 2005.

“We already make decisions based on carbon footprint impact, resilience and sustainability and have quite a lot of negative screening. But in addition to that, we also want to see and improve the positive impacts,” he told Infrastructure Investor at the time.