There is a veritable shift occurring in the world of venture capital and investment. A new class of investor is emerging that puts a premium on not only achieveing financial returns, but also selecting their investment targets with a view to maximize economic, social and ecological impact.
Of course some argue that any successful investment by definition has social impact in that investment leads to revenue growth which leads to job creation. However, this new class of impact investors is going a step, or in fact several steps further.
They look for companies that can achieve rapid growth in areas for instance where unemployment is unusually high; or companies that are susceptible to create jobs for women; or companies that contribute directly to have positive environmental impact.
Agora Partnership, a U.S. and Nicaraguan venture fund has made it its business to play matchmaker between this new class of impact investors and impact entrepreneurs in the Central American region.
In July Agora Partnership held its first annual impact investment conference in Granada, Nicaragua and CO2 Bambu had a chance to present the companies results to date and vision for the future in front of impact investors who flew in for this conference, as well as impact investors who tracked the proceedings on line through live video streaming with translation.
It was exciting for us to come face to face with potential financial partners who “get” what impact entrepreneurs are all about!
In all, nine Central American impact entrepreneurs were selected to present. Our favorites being: A Guatemalan company Quetsol that delivers solar panel solutions for low income rural villages, an innovative company Tegu that seeks to reinvent wooden building blocks creating jobs and reforesting in rural Honduras, and Ostuya a produce farmer introducing environmentally sound farming techniques for vegetables in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.
This impact conference has already yielded two investors who are seriously interested in helping CO2 Bambu achieve its vision. One of them a European impact fund, who arrived in Nicaragua before the conference to visit CO2 Bambu’s facilities in Rosita and see firsthand the bamboo forests, nurseries and community members living in our recently constructed eco houses.
FOR MORE ON IMPACT INVESTING AND THE ACCELERATOR PROGRAM, SEE
Businesses must reconnect company success with social progress. Shared value is not social responsibility, philanthropy, or even sustainability, but a new way to achieve economic success. It is not on the margin of what companies do but at the center. We believe that it can give rise to the next major transformation of business thinking.
– Michael E Porter
Business sustainability today means not only the ability to make profits but the ability to do so in ways that protect and preserve our environment.
Growth is straining our planet’s resources as never before, and we won’t be able to solve the problem unless we build a culture, from the ground up, of environmental stewardship among all businesses – big and small – developed world, developing world.
Fortunately, a movement of citizens is stepping up to try to balance the needs of our generation with that of future generations. They realize we are all in this together, and every act we do, no matter how small, makes a difference. Impact entrepreneurs take this long term approach.
They look to see what they can do, with their limited resources, to forge a path for how business can lower their carbon footprint, limit waste, and help protect the environment. One of our key goals is to help entrepreneurs value the environment and give them specific actions to lower their environmental impact, no matter how big or small they are.
The future role of business in society — what we expect from companies and how they relate to their customers – will look very different 25 years from now than it does today. The best businesses, we believe, will align their core strategy around the interests of their key stakeholders – employees, customers, the community, investors, and the environment. Our hope is to accelerate the day when concepts like shared and blended value and the the triple bottom line seem quaint – because any business to survive will have already incorporated these ideas into the very DNA of the business. Organizations like B Corporation and theSocial Venture Network are leading this change in the U.S. We hope to bring a vision of the power of business to improve people’s lives to some of the poorest places in our hemisphere by demonstrating that businesses that care about their community are not only the work horses of development – but the most successful businesses in their industries.
Great small businesses make the world better in many ways.
They build products and services for the poor (low income houses, access to health care), create and sustain jobs (jobs that allow children to go to school &and get proper nutrition), and become role models, inspiring others to innovate (wow, if she did it, maybe I can too?).
There’s something else they do, which is especially relevant in regions with weak institutions where democracy and due process under the law are under attack: they help strengthen democratic capitalism, the best political system to promote sustainable growth, protect human rights, and ensure long term stability.
In areas of extreme poverty, the key social impact of business is job creation. Most people in the world want a stable job that gives them an honest wage and treats them with dignity and respect. If we had more jobs in the world, we would eliminate many of our social problems. The problem is that jobs are very hard to create, as we know too well. Historically the number one job creators in the world are… small businesses.