Increasing Forest Friendly Investment in the Amazon Rainforest
Carolina Suárez is the CEO of impact investment community Latimpacto, which seeks to co-create valuable opportunities for investment in the people, businesses, and ecosystem services of the Latin American region.
Tell us about the work of Latimpacto. How have you and other companies worked together to represent thousands of capital providers in Latin America and around the world?
Latimpacto in Latin America and the Caribbean and our sister networks in other regions worldwide are communities of capital providers looking to break away from their siloes and achieve more profound social and environmental impact. When we start a conversation with impact-driven investors, such as philanthropists, corporate firms, family offices, or impact investors, they express their concerns about creating impact and using resources more effectively to that end. We provide a networking home for these providers, understand their needs and challenges, and address them through a complete value offer that will help detonate learning and collaboration.
We have contributed, over these two years of existence, to the establishment of new partnerships, connections, and ways of deploying capital, unlocking more impact in the region and filling the gaps that capital providers have expressed they struggle with.
Latin America is a region full of opportunities, and by establishing more connections and contributing cutting-edge knowledge, we will be able to respond more strategically to the enormous social and environmental challenges facing us.
What are some of the unique challenges impact investors in the Latin American region face?
Impact-driven investors are crucial in addressing pressing social or environmental problems where no commercially viable solutions are available or market rules prevent early-stage entrepreneurs from accessing them.
Latin America faces macroeconomic challenges such as devaluation and high interest rates, which make it difficult to generate returns and raise capital, directly affecting impact investors.
In response, Latimpacto encourages the design of innovative financial instruments to meet society’s challenges. We promote investments along the capital continuum to leverage different financial tools, combining grants, debt, and equity in multiple investments within the impact-driven investors’ portfolio to achieve a more profound social impact and, in turn, find key partners and collaborators who are willing to join in investing in that capital continuum. Collaboration is vital. For that reason we are orchestrating new philanthropic funds to create real models that respond to some crucial themes for Latin America such as STEAM and Pan Amazonia.
You recently announced a partnership to increase forest-friendly investment in the Amazon rainforest. How will you advance the work to drive ecological regeneration in this partnership?
We aim to create investable opportunities and build working groups to address biodiversity restoration and protection through nature-based solutions and novel land management practices.
When professional organizations working on these topics in the region connect with the wisdom and understanding of the rainforest local communities possess, they can co-create long-lasting, sustainable solutions that are attractive to impact investors.
We aim to create a catalytic fund that deploys seed capital to promising cooperatives and community enterprises. Another opportunity we seek is working with a venture studio to build small community-led enterprises with social and environmental impact identifying market demand in the region and abroad. What is important here is for investors to understand that we are not in a quest to fund or find unicorns but to use economic sustainability to uplift communities and protect the toucans, jaguars, otters, and so many other species.
Finally, with our partnership, we hope to create more awareness of how philanthropy can understand and support the development of bioeconomy in the Pan-Amazon region through a venture lens, something much needed in the region.
Why do companies like yours and others have a responsibility to support environmental entrepreneurship and innovation?
The transition to a more climate-friendly and nature-friendly economy is still considered too costly for most of society. Capital must flow more strategically to solutions that can be scaled to create results that can be affordable and impactful for the more significant portion of society, both in the global north and in the global south.
The two main reasons that companies should support environmental entrepreneurship and innovation are:
- They provide solutions to pressing challenges that can be replicated and scaled. The leaders of these enterprises tend to be forward thinkers and sensitive to responding energetically towards making challenges into solutions.
- Not only do their products and services benefit the environment and society, but they can also offer essential solutions to the needs of corporations. As capitalism becomes more socially and environmentally conscious, identifying the pain points in the operation that can be solved through these entrepreneurs and innovators is a huge reason why they should be supported. Making the business value chain and internal operations more efficient, clean, and green is a step in the right direction, and these entrepreneurs and innovators are there to help out.
Latimpacto has now created a program to work in the Amazon, could you tell us more about this?
The Pan Amazonian Impact Ecosystem Program calls attention to the Amazon as an interconnected, vibrant region and will build a movement that fosters comprehensive and impactful progress.
Our goal is to create open-sourced Funds using different innovative vehicles to support the nexus between the protection of the biodiversity in the region and the well-being of the communities inhabiting the Amazon, who have always acted as guardians of the rainforest.
The purpose is to make social and environmental investment more effective in the Amazon region, increase the involvement of local sources of impact capital, and foster a more strategic relationship with international ones. We also aim to support the Local Amazonian Impact Ecosystems by following and adapting the model and learnings from the more advanced Brazilian Amazon Impact Ecosystem.
All the learnings we extract from these approaches will be shared with the Program members and the whole Latimpacto community.
Where did the idea of creating the Pan Amazonia program come from?
From our impact communities, where we work on climate action and conservation issues, there was a need to work on a critical issue to leverage the impact we want to have in the region.
The Amazon is an interconnected region, and organizations often overlook this fact when considering the impact of their interventions and the potential partners they can work with when looking for support and mentoring.
This new initiative resulted from the Pan-Amazon Working Group Sessions carried out from May to September 2022, funded by the European Union and WINGS. During these sessions, we worked on four main topics – governance, economic, social, and environmental issues – and this work led to the structure and planning for the Program.
By understanding that this issue deepens in the private impact ecosystem, Latimpacto decided to establish a Program where we connect organizations from all the Amazonian countries (starting with Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil) through finding common challenges and opportunities that a regional outlook and an innovative approach to finance can support more efficiently.
How can organizations become part of this program?
We hope those organizations interested in sustainable work in the Amazon will become part of our Program. There are several ways in which your organization can be part of this Program:
- Fund the governance of the Program.
- Deploy capital through Latimpacto to establish the pooled fund and regrant or identify impact initiatives aligned to your interest.
- Sponsor and participate in Study Trips, Exchanges, Reports or Conferences.
- Finance the online portal of the Program/Community.
- Become a patron of specific topics: bioeconomy, renewable energy, indigenous communities, urban Amazon, transport, biodiversity, etc.
The impact we expect by 2025 is to create new funds and investments and deploy strategically in the Amazon, resources (mappings, reports, toolkits) shared widely through a functional webpage, strengthened research collaboration, partners scaling the courses and workshops delivered to SPOs (NGOs, entrepreneurs, community organizations, indigenous and environmental leaders), among others.
We are ambitious in what we want to achieve, but we are sure that we can do it if we count on organizations that are committed to working in the Amazon and its impact on the region.