There is no denying the prevalence and prominence of the impact investing discourse these days. A hot topic? Absolutely. A brand new conversation? Not even close.
So, when you can hear from one of the early pioneers of the industry, it is always insightful.
This week we hosted Tammy Newmark and Michele Pena of EcoEnterprises Fund who joined us as part of the Skoll Centre Speakers Series. They have been investing growth capital in sustainable businesses in Latin America for over a decade – and have the battle wounds to prove it.
Not that it’s been all setbacks and scars — but because they simply are open and transparent about the challenges they (and other risk-taking impact investors) have faced over the past 10 years.
Set up in 2000, EcoEnterprises Fund provides long-term investment capital and business advisory services – one without the other would be ineffectual and downright bad business, they say. The Fund has invested in 23 companies from ecolodges to organics, sustainable forestry to aquaculture. Most of these investments have been wildly successful (20 companies still in operation, 11% p.a. return, and most importantly, measurable social and environmental impact) but of course, there have been challenges.
Which is no surprise, seeing that they are injecting risk capital into companies that are, well, risky. They bet on the companies that are first-movers and market makers, whose products and services have yet to gain market acceptance. As such, they are cultivating new demand and a vibrant marketplace that moves these eco-enterprises from the outskirt to the mainstream.
What’s next for EcoEnterprises Fund? Be on the look out for their book this fall called “Portfolio for the Planet”, which is an open playbook to their tools, indicators and investment cases. Also, they are currently raising $30 million for a new fund EcoE II, which will target 10-12 small and growing community-based businesses via mezzanine investment instruments.