Sustainable investments not only consider financial returns but also positive social and environmental impacts. Green investment is a component of green finance1, that represents an investment in endeavors aimed at a positive environmental impact such as pollution reduction and nature conservation. These include investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste management, climate change adaptation, biodiversity protection, and clean transportation among others1. Sustainable and green investments are present across the board and vary depending on the needs of each country or industry. While some are looking to achieve universal access to energy, develop infrastructure, and food security, others are looking to transition to clean energy, adopt infrastructure to foster sustainability and resilience to climate change, and look into ways of mainstreaming sustainable food production, in essence, either developing or adopting systems and infrastructure. Every country has a degree of unmet needs, and each requires adaptation of systems and infrastructure, but the extents vary. For those countries developing systems and infrastructure to meet unmet needs, how can sustainable and green investments offer an opportunity to meet these needs sustainability and facilitate climate change mitigation?

The Sustainable Development Goals provide a blueprint for a sustainable future. For investors, they provide a compass and reference point for investments. There is consensus that large-scale private investments are required to meet the SDGs, climate adaptation, and mitigation measures. For achieving the SDGs by 2030, it is estimated that USD 3.3 to 4-5 trillion is needed per year to meet these goals. There’s a current annual deficit of USD 2.5 trillion in countries with great gaps in this goal2. A key step towards bridging this gap is identifying needs, the challenges, and developing projects, entrepreneurial activities, and initiatives that provide an avenue for financial flow to address them whilst achieving Agenda 2030. In essence, converting these needs into investment opportunities.

As an example, 6.4 million out of the 12 million Kenyan households practice agriculture. Of the 5.6 million growing crops, only 6.6% practice irrigation3. The rest practice rain-fed agriculture, depending on the bimodal rains. These rains have become less dependable with the past seasons experiencing below-average rains and some regions experiencing failed rains. A review on investments in small-scale irrigation found that targeted investments in agricultural land and water management systems could double or even triple rain-fed crop yield6, with the Kenyan governmental agency Water Fund attributing the low irrigation capacity to poor infrastructure and lack of investment. Goal 2 of the SDGs aims at zero hunger with target 2.3 endeavoring to double agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers while 2.4 purposes to ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient practices. Renewable energy for irrigation has great potential with projects, businesses, and partnerships providing an avenue through which these needs become investment opportunities. Such other opportunities exist across the board in areas such as transport and waste management.

Entrepreneurial activities have contributed substantially to the current global challenges like environmental degradation and pollution but are in themselves solutions to these challenges given their ability to take them as business opportunities4. There are two companies in Kenya that come into mind, Equity Bank and Safaricom. These two companies are the biggest in their individual sectors i.e., banking and telecommunication receptively, and are seeming to take these tides across the region. One thing they have in common: they targeted the masses. The target markets forming the bulk of the population that conventional institutions or businesses didn’t consider. Equity Bank’s success story lies in innovation, and focus on client service but what made it the success it is today was targeting the ‘unbankable’ and low-income clients, providing diversified products that suited their needs and means5. Both met needs in an innovative and targeted manner, addressing exclusion that denied low-income clientele an opportunity to save and borrow, while the other provided solution to affordable communication and money transfer services, revolutionizing money transfer in the country with mobile phone financial services M-Pesa (Mobile – Money).

There is a large population locked out of access to basic amenities. In the Kenyan clean cooking landscape, a whopping 74.5% according to the Kenya 2019 Census lack access to clean cooking. 55% are using firewood, 11.6% charcoal and 7.8% paraffin/ kerosene. Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) estimates that one-third of the population paying for charcoal and wood in Sub-Saharan Africa comprises an estimated US$12 billion annually, which is poised to double in size due to rising incomes, growth in population, and urbanization7. This is a key way sustainable and green investments can facilitate climate change mitigation, more so by protecting carbon sinks, and by providing access to clean energy. This will ensure an increase in population is not synonymous with an increase in the usage of fuels such as firewood and charcoal.

Coming back to the two companies, they came to mind as I thought there is potential for such a business model in meeting these needs. Looking at the energy sector, I believe a company that can offer accessible, affordable, clean, sustainable, and reliable energy, in particular cooking energy, might just be enthroned to the status of these companies. What is interesting about their story, even some users of other banking or telecommunication services either shifted or added these companies to their pool of service providers. I see sustainable and green investments as solutions to future problems. Be it ensuring food security in the face of climate change impacts such as droughts, reducing emissions through investment in waste management and sustainable transportation, or saving on losses caused by the increased flooding events because of sustainable and climate-resilient infrastructure. Key efforts are needed to create investment opportunities out of these needs to provide avenues through which the finances can flow. There is definitely great potential in this. The first green bond in Kenya by Acorn Holdings Limited to build eco-friendly accommodation for initially 5000 students in Nairobi was oversubscribed raising Ksh. 6.358 billion (USD 54.5 million) against the targeted Ksh.5.7 billion (USD 48.9 million).


Lindenberg, Nannette (2014): Definition of Green Finance. German Development Institute.
UNSDG (2018): Unlocking SDG Financing: Findings from Early Adopters July, 2018.
KNBS (2019). 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census: Distribution of Population by Socio-Economic Characteristics (Volume IV). Kenya.
Cohen, Boyd; Winn, Monika I. (2007): Market imperfections, opportunity, and sustainable entrepreneurship. In Journal of Business Venturing 22.
Gerhard, Coetzee; Kamau, Kabbucho & Mnjama, Andrew. (2002): Understanding the Re-birth of EquityBuilding Society in Kenya. Giordano, M, Fraiture, d., C, Weight, E, J (2012). Water for Wealth and Food Security: Supporting Farmer-Driven Investments in Agricultural Water Management. Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP). (2020): The State of Access to Modern Energy Cooking Services. Washington, DC: World Bank. License: Creative Commons Attribution CC.