Danielle Joseph is Executive Director of the Closed Loop Ventures Group, the seed and pre-seed investment division of Closed Loop Partners. A 40 Under 40 award winner, Joseph spoke with Waste360 about how Closed Loop connects entrepreneurs, industry experts, financial institutions, municipalities and other partners to create solutions that reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions.
Waste360: How does the Closed Loop business model work, and what types of companies or industries does the firm prioritize for investment?
Danielle Joseph: We are a New York based investment firm comprised of venture capital, private equity and project finance as well as an innovation center focused on building the circular economy. To achieve that goal, we have four primary vehicles. First, the Center for the Circular Economy, which is a hub for collaboration, research and innovation to advance the transition from a linear take-make-waste economy to a circular economy in which materials are shared, re-used and continuously cycled.
Second, Closed Loop Ventures Group, which makes early-stage equity investments focused on catalyzing breakthrough solutions for the circular economy across specific verticals of plastics and packaging, food and agriculture, fashion and supply chain optimization technologies.
Third, Closed Loop Infrastructure Funds, which provide loans to private and public entities to scale recycling and circular economy infrastructure across North America, and fourth, the Closed Loop Leadership Fund, which is a private equity fund focused on acquiring companies with the goal of vertically integrating supply chains.
Waste360: Why, in your opinion, are these companies and industries critical for the circular economy model?
Danielle Joseph: Closed Loop Partners is focused on creating a systemic shift in how we consume resources. In order to do this work, many different types of capital, business models, and collaborations are required.
Closed Loop Partners was designed to provide different types of capital for these different business models, for the various needs across the system (innovation through infrastructure) and to bring together multiple stakeholders to make the system function.
A great example of this kind of work is from the NextGen Cup Challenge, where the Center for the Circular Economy led a pre-competitive collaboration of brands, material science and recycling industry experts and innovators to bring a fully recoverable hot and cold fiber cup system to the market.
Waste360: What is the business case for investing in the circular economy?
Danielle Joseph: The circular economy redefines how products are designed, manufactured, sold, refurbished and recycled. The framework can be applied to global corporations, start-ups, and governments to reimagine business-as-usual in order to reduce costs, increase efficiency and create positive environment outcomes.
Taking waste out of a system is an inherently good business practice. Current cost savings are estimated at $700 billion annually in the consumer goods segment alone, and we saw during 2020 that companies with more local, more circular supply chains also experienced more resiliency in the wake of global supply chain disruption. Not only is the circular economy better business, it is also the macro-trend that consumers, investors and policy are moving toward.
Waste360: What impact has Closed Loop made?
Danielle Joseph: We just published our 2020 Impact Report. (ed note: impact includes 2.3 million tons of waste diverted from landfill and 5.3 million tons of greenhouse gases avoided).
Waste360: What led you to your position with Closed Loop, and did you have previous professional experience working with waste management, recycling or related companies?
Danielle Joseph: My background is in investing in the environmental sector across private asset classes. I have worked in private equity, project finance and venture capital, all with the aligned incentive of creating positive environmental outcomes and financial returns.
Waste360: What do you find personally or professionally rewarding about working to bring investors together with companies focused on creating circular economy solutions?
Danielle Joseph: Investing in the circular economy allows me to be eternally optimistic about the future. Every week we are speaking with incredible founders who are developing new technology, material or business models for the circular economy.
The level of commitment, enthusiasm and innovation is astounding. I feel lucky to support such incredible people and businesses, to help take these companies to market, and to connect the teams with resources that can help them grow and reach broader audiences.
Waste360: Why do you think the waste management industry might be a great opportunity for emerging professionals?
Danielle Joseph: Prior to joining Closed Loop Partners, I had spent a significant amount of time in the clean energy industry, and I saw a number of the same fundamental drivers that propelled the growth of clean energy in the last 15 years present in the waste industry. This thesis has been proven out since I joined Closed Loop Partners. The waste industry is undergoing a massive transformation towards circularity, and this is an exciting time to be a part of that shift.