“Is mining the sky a better investment than mining the earth?”

This might not seem like an obvious question in the fight against climate change. Landfills, cars groaning out exhaust, and rivers red with pollutants are far more visible than the air we breathe. 

But if we are going to meet the challenges of the climate crisis facing our planet, we must go beyond the visible and the obvious — and for anyone interested in a return with their impact investments, the visible and the obvious are rarely the most lucrative. 

When we launched Align17 at UBS Private Wealth last year, our vision was to find the investment-ready innovations that were hiding in plain sight. This is where the transformative payoff is likely to be the greatest, and where it can be delivered by our select global group of diverse, experienced, and dedicated investment teams. 

Align17’s platform curates hidden opportunities aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, creating a bridge between the newly possible and profitable with previously untapped sources of capital.

Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing stories about the opportunities that the Align17 platform has curated for investors interested in more than just a traditional approach to impact investing. 

That brings us back to mining the sky. Taking CO2 emissions out of the atmosphere is not a new idea, but until recently it hasn’t been economically viable. When using renewable energy meant paying a premium, carbon capture via a green supply chain wasn’t a feasible option. Additionally, the technology wasn’t yet available to turn that captured CO2 into valuable products.

Today, with clean electricity cheaper than fossil fuels, we’re able to offer resource efficiency opportunities that don’t just build on these new innovations — they create new ones. Rusheen Capital Management, one of the private equity investment opportunities on our digital platform, has a portfolio company that removes atmospheric CO2 using a wind-and-solar-powered facility and injects it at high pressure into oil wells. The resulting crude oil ends up being carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative, as CO2 is geologically sealed before the oil is combusted. Captured CO2 can also be recycled into non-emitting products or injected into concrete.

What was invisible and impossible less than a decade ago is now projected to be a $1 trillion market by 2030 — and it could get even bigger as companies go beyond industrial products and begin making consumer goods out of the recycled carbon. 

By looking at the world differently, our team at Align17 is able to uncover opportunities like these: creative, scalable, and financially rewarding solutions that fly under the radar of traditional financial markets. This complementary offering sits perfectly alongside our distribution partners,  whose clients are then able to access the full range of sustainable and impact opportunities they increasingly crave. 

Once we can hold recycled carbon products in our hands, perhaps they’ll seem as visible and obvious as innovations like electric cars. But right now, looking beyond the next quarter and picturing the world we want to be invested in ten, twenty, or fifty years from now means surfacing the less obvious and perhaps even invisible — and then positioning it for the right injection of capital. 

What’s visible to us is an opportunity for private capital to drive a newer and cleaner industrial revolution through deep collaboration and creativity at the service of humanity. We look forward to sharing these stories with you.