In our “Meet the Council” series, hear directly from the our Stewards and Allies why they are committed to making business fairer, more inclusive, and more sustainable.
Elfid Torres is the Chief Executive Officer of FUNDES, a financial consultancy firm specializing in the development of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
Tell us about FUNDES and your priorities for inclusive capitalism.
FUNDES enables corporations, foundations, and governments access to the engine of growth that small businesses represent. At the intersection of economic value and sustainability, from strategic consulting that capitalizes over 40 years of MSME insight, to project implementation that spans across Latin America, we capture opportunities for our partners by disrupting overlooked traditional economies.
FUNDES’ priority for inclusive capitalism is to create sustainable development and a more equitable economy in Latin America through the empowerment of small businesses.
What was the inspiration behind joining the Council and making commitments to inclusive capitalism?
We learned about the Council through VISA, our partner in developing an e-learning platform aimed at enhancing the business skills of micro-merchants. After discovering a synergy in promoting economies and societies through business-led actions, we decided to become members.
How are the ESG and responsible investing movements perceived in Latin America? How has this evolved in recent years?
Organizations committed to social and environmental factors in Latin America are looking for more efficient ways to fuel systemic change. From an ecosystem perspective, the responsible investment movement continues to gain traction, with stakeholders increasingly recognizing that long-term prosperity requires moving away from short-term profit as the only definition of value.
However, when it comes to leveraging capital to drive impact at scale, there is no one-size-fits-all financial instrument, and next-level results call for partners who are ready to co-design alternative and innovative investing models.
What is FUNDES long-term strategy for these issues?
Micro and small businesses can change the world under one condition: being empowered, digitized, and organized in networks. As the lifeblood of the Latin American economy and the backbone of local communities, MSMEs can adapt their business practices to the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, and enhance social and environmental wealth at scale, while generating prosperity for their communities.
Our vision for reinventing the system in the long-term is to incubate high potential social programs that we’ve piloted in the past years and to turn them into social ventures with sustainable business models. We call this initiative FUNDES Catalyst, and it pushes for a shift from non-repayable grant projects to venture philanthropy, delivering accelerated and scalable impact while achieving funding independence.
How did the work of the Council motivate you to act?
By defining bold and forward-looking criteria for the commitments, the Council has set the bar for members to demonstrate the transition of their operations into meaningful contributions towards sustainability. As a firm with 40 years of testing and learning from on-the-ground reality in emerging markets, we share the passion for measurement and analysis of impact to be able to pinpoint what works, and what doesn’t, and look forward to gaining insight and exchanging experiences with other members.