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Rise of Impact Investing in Latam a Catalyst for Positive Change

By Iris Parra - Enlaza
Co-Founder and Director


Iris Parra By Iris Parra | Co-Founder and Director - Thu, 09/07/2023 - 13:00

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In the ever-evolving landscape of global finance, a profound transformation is underway — one that transcends traditional profit-driven motives. Impact investing is a well-known practice that seeks to generate positive social and environmental change alongside financial returns, and it has emerged as a powerful force for good, reshaping the landscape of investment strategies. It has been present for over 10 years, but its significance has been profoundly amplified by its newfound relevance in the context of post-pandemic recovery efforts.

Nowhere is this evolution more evident and promising than in the dynamic region of Latin America, where impact investing is not only driving innovation but also catalyzing much-needed progress in economic development. 

According to the World Economic Forum, impact investing in Latin America has experienced exponential growth over the past 10 years, increasing by over 10 times to reach a total ofUS$25 billion. Notably, 65% of investors initiated their inaugural investments in the region after the year 2010. But there is a “missing middle” of impact investment, focused on tickets from US$10,000 up to US$500,000, which is a crucial funding phase for early-stage companies. 

As corporate leaders, investors, and startup founders, we hold the reins of change in our hands. The decisions we make, the capital we allocate, and the partnerships we forge can pave the way for a future where financial success is inextricably linked with social advancement. Impact investing is not a fleeting trend but a seismic shift in mindset that embraces the dual pursuit of profit and purpose. This philosophy is particularly relevant in Latin America, a region rich in diversity, culture, and entrepreneurial spirit. 

As stated by the Global Impact Investing Network, the impact investing sector remains diverse and it has grown in depth and sophistication over the years. Its expansion is evident in terms of market evolution, indicators of market growth, incentives and gross returns. 

Let’s take a look at Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) firms that see ESG as a vital component of their strategy for enhancing value and managing risk, aiming to foster better businesses and create sustainable value. CVCs are creating frameworks to incorporate ESG considerations into their investment thesis.

One of the cornerstones of impact investing is collaboration. It's about uniting diverse stakeholders — venture capitalists, corporations, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, government agencies, and local communities — to address complex challenges. For example, in Latin America, systemic inequalities persist, so impact investing is becoming a catalyst for change by channeling funds from corporations, impact funds, and the government into businesses and initiatives that empower minorities economically and socially.

Consider the case of IluMexico, a company catalyzing development through solar energy, or Prestamype that is facilitating access to credit for SMEs. Both are great examples of profitable businesses creating impact in their own countries and both are profitable businesses that are also raising capital from a variety of investors globally. 

While the allure of impact investing is undeniable, it's essential to acknowledge the challenges that come with forging a new path. Latin America, despite its tremendous potential, faces a set of unique obstacles that require innovative thinking and collaborative efforts to overcome.

One notable challenge is the need for robust impact measurement mechanisms. Unlike traditional investments, where financial returns are straightforward, assessing the social and environmental impact of investments requires more nuanced evaluation frameworks. However, this challenge also presents an opportunity for the development of new metrics that can better reflect the multidimensional nature of the impact. By collaborating with researchers, institutions, and fellow investors, you can contribute to the creation of effective tools for measuring progress.

Another hurdle is the relatively underdeveloped impact investing ecosystem in some parts of Latin America. While countries like Brazil and Mexico have made strides, other nations in the region still lack the necessary infrastructure and networks to support impact-focused ventures. This is where your expertise and influence can make a difference. By actively engaging with key players of the ecosystem, such as entrepreneurs, local communities, governments, and organizations, you can help nurture an environment that fosters innovation, collaboration, and sustainable growth.

One area that demands attention is bridging the gender gap. Women in Latin America face numerous barriers to economic empowerment, including limited access to education and financial resources. Impact investing can play a pivotal role in dismantling these barriers by directing funds toward businesses that prioritize women's economic inclusion. Imagine the impact of investing in companies like Mujer Financiera promoting financial inclusion from Argentina or GenderLab from Peru, which is taking effective actions against sexual harassment in the region. By investing in such ventures, you not only contribute to financial growth but also help reshape societal norms and practices.

Another sector ripe for impact investment is clean energy. Latin America boasts abundant renewable resources, from solar and wind to hydroelectric power. By investing in clean energy projects, you support both reducing carbon emissions and creating job opportunities. As you evaluate potential investments, consider the positive ripple effects that can extend far beyond financial returns.

While challenges undoubtedly exist, Latin America's potential for impact investing remains unparalleled. The region is a hotspot of innovation, with vibrant startup ecosystems and burgeoning industries. As investors, your capital can fuel these ventures, propelling them to new heights of success while simultaneously driving meaningful change.

To embrace the power of impact investing and its profound potential for positive change in Latin America and beyond, we have the opportunity to be pioneers in this transformative journey. Let’s forge a path toward a future where financial prosperity goes hand in hand with societal progress. Impact investing is not just a choice; it is a responsibility, a commitment to building a world that is more equitable, sustainable, and compassionate.

Photo by:   Iris Parra

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