Let's dive into the inspiring world of impact investment with a spotlight on one of SAMBAZON's primary investors, the EcoEnterprises Fund III, and their recent public art exhibition collaboration with FinDev Canada which features SAMBAZON and its harvesters. We're lucky to work with a fund driven by a fierce commitment to safeguarding our planet's biodiversity and empowering communities through purpose-driven businesses. With over two decades of groundbreaking work, this women-led initiative has impacted the landscape of sustainable investment, nurturing companies that are not only financial powerhouses but also environmental stewards and agents of social change.
We interviewed Julia Santander, the Managing Director of Investments of the EcoEnterprises Fund, about the impact of their investment as a force for good. EcoEnterprises is set apart because they pursue working with companies that carry sustainability and social impact in their DNA. Beyond the capital infusion, they also bring a hands-on approach that nurtures growth by sharing expertise and fostering holistic progress.
We also delve into EcoEnterprises partnership with FinDev Canada, an alliance centered around gender equality and economic empowerment. The public art exhibition commemorates FinDev's 5-year milestone and aims to broaden awareness by showcasing the diverse regions impacted by its investments.
So, if you're curious about how businesses can thrive while championing positive change, if you're passionate about the intersection of finance, sustainability, and community development, read on! Get ready to be inspired, educated, and invigorated by the stories of innovation and purpose that define the EcoEnterprises Fund III and their Art Exhibition with FinDev.
SAMBAZON - In your own words, how would you describe the EcoEntreprises Fund III?
JS - EcoEnterprises Fund is a women-led impact investment fund with an unparalleled 20+ years track record of identifying and scaling companies that - through their businesses - help protect our world’s biodiversity and vulnerable ecosystems, promote climate action, and build climate resilience in the regions where they operate. They do that by joining forces with local communities, bringing fair and equitable economic opportunities to those that live in close proximity to the natural assets we want to protect, and by promoting social equity, diversity, and inclusivity as an integral part of conducting business.
Key sectors we invest in are sustainable agriculture and food systems, agroforestry and wild-harvest models, ecotourism, and other nature-based sectors, but also tangents like ag-tech or climate tech solutions that support companies operating in these sectors.
SAMBAZON - Who started the EcoEnterprises Fund III?
JS - EcoEnterprises launched its first fund under the umbrella of The Nature Conservancy over 20 years ago and spun off as an independent entity when we launched Fund II. Right now, we manage our third fund under management and are in the middle of raising Fund IV. Since the beginning the Fund has been led by our CEO Tammy E. Newmark and our COO Michele Pena.
SAMBAZON - How does SAMBAZON fit into EcoEnterprises portfolio?
JS - SAMBAZON is one of our legacy investments that has been part of our portfolio since our first fund, when impact investing was still an experiment that we betted on and that we wanted to take mainstream and SAMBAZON was a startup company with small sales and a large vision, looking for a partner to support its growth. SAMBAZON as a sustainable, high-impact business and EcoEnterprises Fund as an impact investor have grown and matured together, proving that the famous triple bottom line of achieving financial, social, and environmental returns really is possible.
What we loved about SAMBAZON from the beginning is the company’s pioneering role in building a sustainable bioeconomy in the middle of the Amazon, protecting this crucial ecosystem by partnering with communities locally. And we are honored to have been able to continue to work on this mission together with SAMBAZON for so many years and see the company transform from a startup into a mature growth business, reaching so many people along its value chain, from Açaí collectors to consumers all around the world.
SAMBAZON - What do you look for in companies that you invest in?
JS - A true commitment to sustainability and that environmental and social impact is baked into the company’s DNA. We love businesses that demonstrate that they can shake up the status quo and achieve better outcomes, making it impossible for others in the sector to say that sustainability is a luxury they cannot afford. Also, we are looking for companies that want to build a long-term relationship with, as we are a hands-on investor and try to add value beyond our financing through advisory, technical assistance, Board participation and so on.
SAMBAZON - What ways are the investments that Eco Enterprises Fund III provides utilized by the companies you support?
JS - All our investments are aimed at stimulating growth and boosting positive social and environmental impact. Specific use of proceeds varies and may include Capex for the construction of new plants, as in the case of SAMBAZON that used part of our Fund III investment to finance its second processing plant in Brazil, investments in product development, expansion of supplier networks, capacitation and certification efforts, raw material purchases and others.
SAMBAZON - How did the investment from FinDev Canada come to be?
JS - FinDev joined us as an LP, when we launched EcoEnterprises Fund III in 2018 and has become a very important partner for us. As a Development Finance Institution, FinDev is a leader in gender lens investing and selected EcoEnterprises Fund due to its strong track record and gender lens contribution under the criteria of the “2X challenge”, a global initiative that aims to direct billions of dollars towards strengthening women’s economic empowerment and gender equality through investments.
EcoEnterprises Fund not only invests in high-impact companies in rural sectors that protect fragile ecosystems, create jobs, and empower women in rural areas, but also as an investment team, we meet the threshold of the 2x challenge, as both our Managing partners and over 85% of our team overall are women, which is exotic in the financial sector.
SAMBAZON - Why did you choose Montreal for the exhibit location?
JS - The exhibition is organized and curated by FinDev, the Canadian Development Bank that is headquartered in Montreal.
SAMBAZON - What are the intentions of the exhibit featuring SAMBAZON?
JS - The exhibition is part of the celebration of FinDev’s 5-year anniversary and wants to share the diverse realities of the regions that FinDev supports through its investments with a broader audience.
SAMBAZON - How would you encourage small or medium sized businesses that are looking to partner with funds such as this one to continue their growth?
JS - The Impact investment space has grown manyfold over the past 20 years and there are many impact investors focused on different target sectors, countries, and impact strategies. As an impact business it is worth the effort to look beyond the traditional financial markets to find a strong long-term partner, that can add value beyond writing a check. At EcoEnterprises Fund we help our portfolio companies to “DO WELL BY DOING GOOD,” continuously strengthening governance, ensuring inclusive stakeholder management, supporting best environmental practices, and, importantly by collecting and reporting impact metrics to be able to share social and environmental achievements the same way as financial outcomes.
We are thrilled that SAMBAZON is a part of FinDev’s art exhibit showcasing our impactful work with local harvesters and communities in the conservation of the Amazon. What did you learn about impact investment from the interview? Share with us in the comments below.