A people, planet, profit investment fund
A Sambazon employee unloads açaí berries.
As a social investor, Oikocredit invests directly in organizations as well as a small number of social or sustainable funds. One of Oikocredit’s sustainable investments is in EcoEnterprises Fund, which Oikocredit has $2 million invested. First launched under the umbrella of The Nature Conservancy, Costa Rican-based EcoEnterprises Fund provides growth capital to businesses in rapidly expanding environmental sectors such as organic agriculture, ecotourism, sustainable forestry and aquaculture. This fund shares Oikocredit’s triple bottom line of social, environmental and financial returns. We recently spoke with president and CEO of the fund, Tammy Newmark, about sustainable investing and why EcoEnterprises Fund and Oikocredit are a good fit.
You’ve been working with EcoEnterprises Fund since its beginning. How did you get involved in sustainable investing?
“I actually began my career as an investment banker on Wall St. I was involved in the mining and metals industry and at the time I found it interesting. However, in my after work hours, I began engaging in the early stages of the microfinance business. It was then that I decided to go back to business school and do an MBA. I did my thesis on entrepreneurs, specifically those in developing countries. I became fascinated with women entrepreneurs and others who, using ingenuity and creativeness, developed successful businesses with limited to no resources. From there I began working with clean energy and joining EcoEnterprises Fund was a natural progression from that.”
EcoEnterprises Fund describes itself as a fund that ‘invests in natural capital’. How do you prove this investment concept?
“When I worked with renewable energy in the 1990s, I saw that this was a sector that was up-and-coming. At that time, renewable energy was seen as risky, however over time, people realised that it was a sector with great growth potential. We’ve experienced similar challenges, so for us it’s been more about pushing the envelope to show people that an investment that is sustainable and social can also be financially viable. Over the years we’ve transformed the way people think about sustainable investments. So it’s been more of an educational role than proving it actually works, because it does.”
EcoEnterprises Fund has been working with Oikocredit for a few years now. Why is Oikocredit a good fit?
“Oikocredit came on board as an equity partner, taking a seat on our investment committee as well as our advisory committee. This partnership began because Oikocredit is what we describe as a ‘like-minded organization’. Our missions are very similar and we share an investing understanding. In the beginning, what we really liked about Oikocredit was its work in rural areas, specifically agriculture. Many of Oikocredit’s partner organizations are involved in sustainable farming, having organic, fair trade and environmental certifications. So we share an environmental, social and financial mission.”
Many investors could think sustainable investments are risky. What would you say to those investors?
“Investing always holds risk and when looking to invest, you should look at the whole picture. There are many companies that our fund would love to invest in, which are very strong on the social and environmental side, but can’t because they are too weak on the financial side. You should always look at a balance of these. If there is a balance, then sustainable investments are no more risky than investing in conventional funds. However, we feel we give an added value, as our investments are not only financially viable but also give something back to communities and the planet.”
EcoEnterprises has invested in Sambazon as part of its sustainable portfolio. More about EcoEnterprises Fund’s portfolio