Published on 12 July 2019


Five celebrities using their fame and fortune for a sustainable future

Robert Downey Jr., the actor known for his role as Iron Man, wants to launch the Footprint Coalition in 2020, a project aimed at using science to protect the environment. He is not alone in using his fame - and fortune – to serve the common good. Bono, Leonardo DiCaprio, Serena Williams, and Bill Gates have all been engaged in similar efforts. For some, this engagement has been going on for years. Novethic has identified these celebrity initiatives and how they are financing the ecological transition.

Much like his character Iron Man, actor Robert Downey Jr. wants to invest in environmentally friendly technologies.

Robert Downey Jr. stands for science and the environment

Reality meets fiction for Robert Downey Jr.  In the Marvel universe, Iron Man turns his company, Stark Industries, from an arms manufacturer into a clean energy company. This plot the lead actor some interesting ideas. Downey Jr. was so inspired by his alter ego on the big screen that in June 2019 he announced the launch of the Footprint Coalition, an organization which aims to use technology to positively impact the environment. The details are still unclear: the actor and his team have given themselves a year to refine and officially launch the coalition in April 2020.

Leonardo DiCaprio advises startups

The Titanic star has not created his own investment structure, yet he is an important member of the green finance community. A true green business angel in Hollywood, DiCaprio has invested in several startups with social or environmental goals. At the end of March 2019, he took a stake in Aspiration, a new online bank that guarantees clients' deposits are not invested in fossil fuels. By 2018, he had already invested in Allbirds, a shoe manufacturer that uses only natural materials, and Bluon Energy, an energy efficiency company where he also serves on the board of directors.

Leonardo DiCaprio, who created his own foundation to fund wildlife protection in 1998, is also recognized as a climate expert. Last March, he took a seat on the advisory board of venture capital fund Princeville Climate, which is also investing in cleantech.

Bill Gates brings the wealthiest together to fund new technologies

Despite resigning from Microsoft’s executive management, Bill Gates remains an active retiree. In 2015, he launched the Breakthrough Energy Coalition with some 30 billionaires to promote clean energy innovation. This coalition was extended by a venture capital fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which is also supported by most of the billionaires in his coalition. Together, these wealthy elites are aiming to invest up to $1 billion in disruptive technologies. The fund, which Bill Gates chairs, has taken stakes in the capital of a little less than twenty energy companies and contributed to the creation of a cleantech fund worth €100 million just this year. The European Investment Bank has been designated for European companies.

Serena Williams funds inclusive companies

Serena Williams is a discreet investor. Five years ago, she created Serena Ventures, an investment company that promotes diversity and empowerment. However, the tennis champion only revealed her fundraising activity last April with a post on Instagram. In five years, the company has taken shares in about thirty companies. Their commonality: offering affordable products for the greatest number of people and better representing the diversity of society. Their cumulative valuation is approximately €12 billion.

Bono wants to create an impact

The U2 frontman has been an environmental activist for many years. Bono is also militant with his investments, notably via The Rise Fund, which is an American investment fund managed by his firm TPG. This fund distinguishes itself by its desire to quantify the environmental and social impact of its equity investments, with ambitions to help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The investment company recently created Y Analytics, a subsidiary dedicated to research on measuring the impact of investments. The Rise Fund has invested in 25 companies, totalling €2 billion.

Arnaud Dumas @ADumas5

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