Latin American Green Businesses Compete for Investors' Attention

By Alejandra Herranz

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, September 26, 2000 (ENS) - Investors and entrepreneurs gathered at the New Ventures Investor Forum in Latin America this week are raising awareness about the increasing importance of green investments and enterprises among business people in the region.

Organized by the Washington, DC based World Resources Institute (WRI), the forum, "Growing Enterprises for the New Milennium," is using an entrepreneurial contest to call attention to sustainable devlopment as the most important business path for the coming century.

Launched in January, 1999, the New Ventures Forum has received some 200 business plans from Latin American companies who wish to participate in this contest.

The panel of judges has chosen eight projects to compete in the final round. They are the Argentinean companies Guenguel and Ferfinac, the Bolivian firm Jolyka Bolivia, the Brazilian Ouro Fertil Agropecuaria, the Colombian Café Mesa de los Santos; there is Greenaqua and Signum from Ecuador, and Noram from Mexico.

coffee

Organic, shade grown, bird friendly coffee from business plan competitor Café Mesa de los Santos in Colombia (Photo courtesy Café Mesa de los Santos)
The projects participating in the New Ventures contest offer organic foods and fibers, eco-innovation, non-timber forests products and certified woods, ecotourism, aquaculture, renewable energy, and Internet and information technology projects that support environmental and social development.

The first, second and third place winners will receive awards of US$65,000, US$25,000 and US$10,000, respectively.

Members of the panel of judges are executives of WRI sponsoring organisations which represent some US$300 million in capital earnmarked for environmental business in Latin America.

Opening the two day Forum, WRI senior vice president Mathew Arnold said the goal is to encourage the business community and all the stakeholders to build a sustainable economy, and manage natural resources in a sustainable way. "We have a great challenge: to make deeper the understanding of the triple bottom line that combines economic, ecological and social balance, as well as expanding the action of the private equity for growth and for new entrepreneurship," Arnold stressed.

guanacos

In the Argentine Patagonia, Guenguel raises guanacos commercially. The company is one of the eight contest finalists. (Photo courtesy Guenguel)
"We aim to create a network of green pioneers and potential investors, as well as to link their talent for green investments," Arnold said.

The Forum has three primary areas of focus: investors, entrepreneurs and the business plan competition.

Speaking about venture capital and entrepreneurship in emerging markets, strategic director at Matrona Venture Fund, William Ruckelshaus, said that he came to the Forum to see how the green dreams of Latin entrepreneurs are fulfilled. "Capital investors, angel investors and entrepreneurs, they all together show the way in which the economy produces the well being," said the former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The investors discussed investing one million dollars in a sustainable asset management. In the view of John Forgach, president for A2R Investimentos, what makes "green investments" interesting is that there is no other market which is so well worth investing in.

Raquel Rinaldi, environmental manager for the Brazilian personal hygiene company Natura, announced the launch of the Natura Ekos Line, which aims to promote the sustainable use and extraction of natural Brazilian plants for use in natural personal products.

rainforest

Rainforests of South America contain a wealth of beneficial plants. (Photo courtesy Rain-Tree Pharmaceuticals)
"We are commited to the preservation of biodiversity with all the stakeholders," she said proudly. Natura's Ekos Line will carry a product certification for forest items which will guarantee that the plant comes from a sustainably managed forest.

Natura has future plans to invest US$100 million in a new plant in Cajamar, Brazil.

Among the venture capital funds and financial institutions presented at the forum are: A2R Fundos Ambientais based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Advent International, the Brazilian Development Bank, the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange, equity investor CDC Capital Partners with more than US$2.5 billion invested in some 400 businesses, Conceptual Technologies, the energy investment service E&Co, the Environmental Enterprises Assistance Fund, the Global Environmental Fund, the International Finance Corporation, the consulting firm KPMG, the EcoEnterprises Fund created by The Nature Conservancy, with US$10 million investment portfolio, e-Company Now, and the Fondo para las Americas.

The World Resources Institute works as an independent center for policy and business research on global environment and development issues.

Sponsors that have showed interest in supporting to the business plan competition include: Procter & Gamble, AVINA Foundation, Banco do Brasil, Corpacion Andina de Formento, Brazil's Ministry of the Environment, Motorola, Organizacion Techint, The Summit Charitable Foundation, the W. Alton Jones Foundation. Other supporters are the magazine "Latin Trade," the Brazilian postgraduate educational center Fundaçao Getulio Vargas, and the consulting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

For further information on the New Ventures Forum, visit the WRI website: http://www.wri.org or http://www.ecofinance.net.