For some people the terms “green” and “investing” are as diametrically opposed as Democrat and Republican or oil and water. Green denotes tree-hugging hippies and notions of starry-eyed idealism. Investing, on the other hand, is the heart and soul of hard-edged capitalism, and nowhere more so than in the hedge fund space.
Like many generalizations this one differs from reality. Today’s green investors may want to change the world, but they’re going to use market forces to do it and want to make some money in the process.
A case in point is TerraVerde Capital Partners, a hedge fund of funds with a green orientation. It was launched on July 1 of this year and is managed by Richard Bookbinder, managing member of Bookbinder Capital Management and a hedge fund veteran with more than a decade of experience running money.
Bookbinder says the idea for TerraVerde grew out of the ongoing due diligence that he does for his three other hedge funds. It’s interesting to note that for Bookbinder this is about green as a viable investment theme, not a crusade to save the world, although that’s a nice side effect. “We started looking at some things in the green space a couple of years ago,” he explains. “We thought there were a lot of interesting things taking place in the broadly defined environmental space, but specifically for us as we defined the green space.”
Writing the Definitions
Defining common terms like “green” can be important because not everyone uses them to mean the same thing.
“As we have put together our official legal documents as well as the marketing stuff,” reports Bookbinder, “we had to come up with a definition, and for us it’s very simple–investing in green strategies is investing with those managers that serve to reduce the carbon footprint.”
Bookbinder says he’s identified and either met or spoken by phone with more than 100 managers globally that focus on clean energy, clean tech, water, solar and wind power, and other renewable energy sources, but limits the number of managers in the portfolio at any one time to between 15 and 20. “We also allocate money to managers that are involved in carbon–that’s carbon arbitrage, carbon trading, carbon project finance, and the other related strategies.”
The managers in the TerraVerde fund follow a universe of about 1,000 companies, and Bookbinder says the stocks they trade in are about one-third each in the U.S., Europe, and Asia/Australia. “Many of the financial advisors and family office and high-net-worth investors that we deal with look for portfolio diversification and a lot of the clean energy, clean technology stocks are very geographically diversified,” he explains. “What we’re trying to do is to provide a product in a hedge fund format that will give diversification globally.”
Getting Green With Green
Although the fund has only been open for a few months, Bookbinder’s due diligence and research was going on for about two years prior to that. He says there was a number of developments during that time that indicated to him that this would be a viable theme with long-term potential. One was that during the long Presidential campaign season, “the leading candidates only had one thing they agreed on, other than how American and patriotic they are, and that was the environment and that they wanted to do something about it.” Another was the seesawing price of crude oil.