Catalyzing Climate Solutions with Sarah Kearney


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Pioneering Change: Catalyzing Climate Solutions with Sarah Kearney

Climate change, a defining challenge of our time, requires both existing and new technological solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the scale required. Yet, the path from groundbreaking idea to scale is fraught with financial and structural obstacles.

Prime Coalition, founded and led by Sarah Kearney, stands at the forefront of this journey, steering catalytic capital through Prime and influencing capital outside of Prime toward scalable solutions to climate change.

Prime Coalition’s mission transcends just money; it involves substantiating, designing, constructing, fundraising, implementing, and evaluating groundbreaking impact-first investment programs, and providing resources to help many hundreds of other investment managers consider the future climate impacts of their investment decisions. Prime’s approach has been pivotal in turning potential into progress in the fight against climate change.

In this Luminarias Series webinar, Impact Entrepreneur’s Laurie Lane-Zucker welcomes Sarah Kearney to explore the transformative role of Prime Coalition in addressing climate change.

Topics to be discussed include:

  • Engaging Philanthropic and Impact Investors: Understanding Prime Coalition’s role in bridging the gap between donor advised funds, private foundations, corporate giving programs, and other mission investors to support impactful investment opportunities in climate technology.
  • Mission governance: Hearing about Prime’s lessons learned across its first decade about the roles the nonprofit plays to safeguard impact and avoid slippage toward finance-first practices on a day-to-day basis.
  • Prime Coalition’s Investment Strategy: Exploring Prime’s venture capital programs’ investment criteria from its first ten years and looking forward to Prime’s ambition to stand up at least four impact-first investment teams over the next ten years.
  • Spotlight on Success Stories: Showcasing specific early-stage companies supported by Prime Coalition over the past ten years. Examples include breakthroughs in carbon capture and storage, novel sustainable agriculture techniques, and advancements in zero-emission transportation.
  • Catalytic Capital in Action: Delving into how Prime Coalition’s unique approach has been instrumental in bringing these innovations from concept to market-readiness.
  • Overcoming the ‘Valley of Death’: Discussing the challenges faced by early-stage climate solutions in securing funding and how Prime Coalition’s programs offer a lifeline.

This session promises to be a deep exploration into the world of climate solutions, offering a unique perspective on the role of catalytic capital in absorbing disproportionate risk across a variety of climate-related cause areas. Participants will gain valuable insights into the mechanics of impact investing in the climate sector and the transformative work of Prime Coalition.


Sarah Kearney

Sarah Kearney

Sarah Kearney is the Founder and Executive Director of Prime Coalition, a nonprofit public charity that partners with philanthropists to place catalytic capital into market-based solutions to climate change. She has designed and implemented interventions at the nonprofit/for-profit boundary of climate innovation since 2006, first on behalf of a philanthropic grantmaking organization, then as a scholar investigating both the innovation and philanthropy systems globally, and then founding and building Prime. Prime is a 501c3 public charity founded in 2014 that invests in extraordinary companies that combat climate change, have a high likelihood of achieving commercial success, and are otherwise unlikely to be sufficiently supported. It has mobilized over $300MM in catalytic capital since its founding from over 250 philanthropic partners, where 78 partners were first-time catalytic investors and 50 were first-time climate financiers.

Before Prime, Sarah served as Executive Director and Trustee of the Chesonis Family Foundation, a grantmaking organization that supports transformational energy research, development and deployment. Her work at CFF led her to conduct research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where in 2012 she published her thesis “The Role of Philanthropic Capital in Entrepreneurship: An empirical analysis of financial vehicles at the nonprofit/for-profit boundary of science and engineering.” Based on her work, Sarah was inducted into the Raven Society at the University of Virginia, and has been awarded the 2012 MIT Ronald Heller Entrepreneurship Award, 2014 Caltech Resonate Award, 2014 Echoing Green Fellowship, the MIT Technology Review’s 2014 35 Innovators Under 35, and the 2015 Forbes 30 Under 30. She was featured as ImpactAlpha’s “Agent of Change” in May 2020.


Laurie Lane-Zucker

Laurie Lane-Zucker

Laurie Lane-Zucker is Founder and CEO of Impact Entrepreneur, PBC, an impact economy business that hosts the Impact Entrepreneur Network — a large, global network of “systems-minded” entrepreneurs, investors, and scholars of social and environmental innovation — and editor and publisher of Impact Entrepreneur, a digital magazine covering the emerging Impact Economy. For over 30 years, Laurie has been a “pioneer” (Forbes) and recognized leader in sustainability, social enterprise, and impact investing. Laurie was the founding Executive Director of the international environmental organization, Orion Society, which publishes the celebrated Orion Magazine, as well as the founder of a global sustainability think-tank, the Triad Institute, and Hotfrog, a Founding B Corporation, GIIRS Pioneer Company, and the first company ever to complete an equity transaction on an impact investment exchange. Laurie is the bestselling and multiple award-winning publisher and editor of books and magazines on sustainability and social impact — having worked with such acclaimed authors as Wendell Berry, Barry Lopez, Terry Tempest Williams, and David James Duncan — and the author of numerous articles on entrepreneurship and impact investing. Laurie is contributing author to the recently published academic textbook from World Scientific, Sustainability: Business and Investment Implications (2023).

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