Portfolio Partner Profile
The eco.business Fund is a joint initiative of investors intent on supporting the promotion of business and consumption practices that contribute to biodiversity conservation, the sustainable use of natural resources, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Calvert Impact Capital has been working with Finance in Motion, the Germany-based fund manager of eco.Business Fund, since 2017.
The fund's current geographical scope is Latin America, the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa. In providing financing to the fund’s target group for investing in activities that conserve nature and foster biodiversity, the eco.business Fund seeks investments that yield both financial and environmental returns. The financing can be provided directly or through local financial institutions with the capacity to reach the eco.business Fund’s target group, i.e. local enterprises engaged in or intending to engage in business activities related to the fund’s environmental goals. The eco.business Fund concentrates on the following four types of sustainable activities: Agriculture and agri-processing, fishery and aquaculture, forestry, and tourism.
In 2020, Calvert Impact Capital furthered its commitment to the eco.business Fund by renewing and increasing its first financing commitment to the Fund, and also partnering with the eco.business Fund on financing for five financial institutions across Panama, Honduras, and Costa Rica. Through this innovative transaction, Calvert Impact Capital is directly supporting financing for biodiversity conservation in the region, as well as increasing investment capacity for the eco.business Fund, enabling the origination of more green investments and thus augmenting the impact achieved through its funding base. This feature is particularly relevant for public investors in the fund, who see the impact of their contributions being leveraged beyond the size of their own investments.
In order to finance sustainable businesses in Latin America and the Caribbean, the eco.business Fund uses a blended financed approach designed to attract capital from public investors and private institutional investors, such as Calvert Impact Capital, offering different risk/return profiles. Together with the eco.business Fund, the partners are contributing to the mainstreaming of green finance by applying techniques aimed to enhance efficiency in traditional capital markets, while remaining exclusively dedicated to supporting green endeavors. The expected impacts of the eco.Business Fund include: i) reduced use of agrochemicals; ii) improved management of liquid waste; iii) improved socio-economic condition throughout the value-chain; iv) CO2 stored by agroforestry activities, and v) farmland under sustainable management.
Finance in Motion values Calvert Impact Capital’s financing because it has allowed them to grow their base of private investors, says their Managing Director Sylvia Wisniwski. “Calvert Impact Capital’s financing has had a positive impact on our ability to raise additional capital for the funds we manage, particularly from US investors. Their support has had a signaling effect, as many of our other investors see Calvert’s financing as a stamp of approval given their reputation as a robust and serious impact investor. Calvert Impact Capital has a name that travels.”
To learn more about eco.business Fund and it's impact, check out the Fund's latest Impact Report at: https://www.ecobusiness.fund/en/impact
Watch the videos below to learn more about eco.business Fund and its impact.
Featured Impact Story
Supporting sustainable cacao production in Ecuador
The eco.business Fund provides financing for practices that promote sustainable use of natural resources and contribute to biodiversity conservation. This is done by mainly by providing funding to financial institutions who on-lend to their clients, the ultimate target group for the eco.business Fund, by using certain eligibility criteria. One such partner financial institution is Banco Pichincha from Ecuador. By furnishing information on current sustainability standards, practices and certifications, the fund enabled Banco Pichincha to identify suitable clients to receive funding. Eco Kakao, a cocoa exporter based in Ecuador, was chosen as an eligible client as they hold a Rainforest Alliance certification. With cocoa being a huge part of the Ecuadorian economy, this industry forms an important part of Banco Pichincha’s loan portfolio. In order to ensure the wellbeing of the industry in the long run and contribute to climate change mitigation, Banco Pichincha decided to support businesses within the industry that use sustainable standards and practices in their business model. Eco Kakao has over 25 years’ experience in the cocoa industry, covering the entire value-chain from production to transformation and trading sourcing cocoa from small and medium-scale cocoa producers in the country. With the support of Banco Pichincha, Eco Kakao provided trainings for its cocoa producers on sustainable crop management using environmentally friendly agricultural practices. These included promoting the management and conservation of water sources, recovering degraded areas and preventing soil erosion. The eco.business Fund enables partner institutions such as Banco Pichincha to on-lend to sustainable businesses like Eco Kakao, to contribute to an environmentally sound value chain.
Photo Credit: Pedro Samper | Surreal S.A.S.
The Salvadoran shade-coffee scene
"Don Miguel Menéndez has been a client of Banco Hipotecario, a key partner institution of the eco.business Fund, since 1997. Miguel oversees the family-run company Casal, an integrated producer, processor, and exporter of green coffee for buyers interested in specialty Salvadoran coffee. Don Miguel’s farms shade-grown coffee which are often called coffee forests for the numerous and vital environmental services they provide. These include the sequestration of CO2, soil preservation, protection of the region’s biodiversity (such as migratory and resident birds, small mammals, and reptiles, among other species), and preservation of groundwater resources. Today, Casal operates eight farms which altogether produce around 4,000 bags of 46 kg of coffee per year. Casal employs around 100 full-time employees year-round, of which 40% are female, plus an additional 20 staff at the mill that increases to 500 during the harvest season. By applying sustainable practices throughout the entire value chain, Casal protects natural resources, thereby ensuring production well into the future. Casal’s farms are exemplary of the Salvadoran shade-coffee scene where coffee production interacts freely with native tree species; Don Miguel’s company has created a reserve of more than 50 hectares of protected native forest on one of its farms. For Casal, sustainability builds its business foundation while improving productivity and quality and reducing costs. The company’s strategy is clear: Focusing on producing high quality coffees which can be differentiated not only by their quality and traceability but also by their genetic material, processing methods and the sustainable agricultural practices applied."
Photo Credit: Carlos Romero | 1espacio
Flower sustainability in Colombia
Colombia is ranked second globally in terms of flower exports which is why it is high on the agenda for the eco.business Fund to make this sector more sustainable. In order to identify businesses that are eligible to receive funding, the eco.business Fund draws on sustainability standards as a high-quality tool to make a trusted selection of investees, which believe in sustainability. An example of this can be seen in Colombia where the now internationally recognized Florverde Sustainable Flowers® certification was designed. Thus far, partner financial institutions of the eco.business Fund, Itaú Colombia and GNB Sudameris Colombia, are on-lending to flower producers certified by Florverde. The certification ensures that only farms products whose processes meet the environmental and social requirements established in the Florverde normative documents are certified. Each month the farms must report their consumption of water, energy, and active ingredients to Florverde so that they can be monitored on the efficient management of these resources. With its high social standards, Florverde can also guarantee that the flowers offered under its sustainability label are produced by farms that meet basic labor conditions as set by the International Labour Organization and national laws. The eco.business Fund’s approach of combining financing with sustainability standards and practices provides an innovative approach to create much needed synergies, for people and the planet.
Photo Credit: Pedro Samper | Surreal S.A.S.
Upala Agrícola’s commitment to sustainability in growing pineapples
The region of Upala, Costa Rica, is bordered by Nicaragua to the north, by two rivers to the northwest and southeast, and the Cordillera de Guanacaste mountain range to the south. Although traditionally a cattle ranching region, its microclimate and rich soil make it ideal for growing pineapples. Upala Agrícola, one of Banco Davivienda’s borrowers, was established in this region in 1996 and acquired in 2008 by a group of Costa Rican entrepreneurs interested in growing and exporting sustainable pineapples produced according to environmental best practices. Today, the company grows pineapples on more than 2,400 hectares, has two packaging facilities, and exports around 100 containers weekly. It employs more than 950 people, making it the largest employer in the region. Upala Agrícola’s sustainability certifications include Rainforest Alliance, among others, as well as ISO 14001 which refers to environmental management standards.
Upala Agrícola’s commitment to sustainability can be appreciated throughout the entire pineapple production process. Three full-time employees are responsible for ensuring the implementation of good agricultural practices and the responsible use of natural resources. Approximately 38% of its land is allocated for conservation and used as biological corridors, allowing connectivity between habitats, while great care is given to the land used for production.
An environmental risk matrix is used to identify potential impact of pineapple cultivation based on soil studies and landscape assessments. Water is also important for Upala Agrícola. Water sources and nearby communities are protected by establishing buffer zones where no chemical products are applied. Vegetation zones are respected along roads. Drainage systems and pathways are created to avoid erosion from planted areas and prevent water sedimentation. The company treats wastewater in its own water treatment plant. The company also reduces its carbon footprint and environmental impact through precision agriculture. For example, Upala Agrícola is experimenting with precision agriculture by using drones to conduct field and soil analyses, and planning seed planting patterns to enhance environmental benefits.
Upala Agrícola has also achieved carbon neutrality by minimizing energy use, planting trees, and buying carbon credits. More than 3,000 native trees are grown in the company’s tree nursery. These trees are used for restoration projects. For example, the company grows the tropical hardwood Almendro Amarillo – the main shelter of a local endangered green parrot. On top of the efficient management of natural resources, Upala Agrícola has also been able to recover land that was degraded and deforested due to livestock farming. Water sources previously contaminated by cattle are now protected by natural barriers that prevent runoff of polluted water.
Finally, as the company is the largest employer in the area, it runs a Corporate Social Responsibility program aimed at maintaining good relationships with local communities. This includes helping improve roads and supporting educational and health projects.