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Green Businesses Win Investors' Attention

A coffee producer, a supplier for the shrimp acquaculture industry, a charcoal producer, and a hardwood floor manufacturer were the big winners at the New Ventures Business Competition, part of the New Ventures Investor Forum in Latin America, held this week to raise awareness about the increasing importance of green investments and enterprises among business people in the region.

"Growing Enterprises for the New Milennium," a forum organized by the Washington, DC-based World Resources Institute, held the entrepreneurial contest Monday and Tuesday to call attention to sustainable development as the most important business path for the coming century.

Launched in January, 1999, the New Ventures Forum received some 200 business plans from Latin American companies.

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

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 Winning Companies

The winners were selected on the strength of their business model, including their competitive advantage, market opportunity, quality of their management team, and the company's social and environmental value. The winning companies are:
  • Café Mesa de los Santos, one of the largest Colombian producers of bird-friendly, shade-grown specialty organic coffee

  • Greenaqua Ltd., the first provider of 100% natural bio-inputs for Ecuador's shrimp acquaculture industry

  • JOLYKA Bolivia S.R.L., the only South American producer of certified hardwood flooring products from sustainably managed Amazonian forests

  • Noram de Mexico, S.A. de C.V., one of the three companies worldwide that sells charcoal from sustainably grown hardwood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council
Members of the panel of judges are executives of WRI sponsoring organizations representing some $300 million in capital earnmarked for environmental business in Latin America.

‘We Have a Great Challenge’

Opening the two-day Forum, WRI senior vice president Mathew Arnold said the goal was 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 said.

"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.

Green Dreams Up Close

William Ruckelshaus, strategic director at Matrona Venture Fund, speaking about venture capital and entrepreneurship in emerging markets, 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 Ruckelshaus, former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Investors also discussed putting $1 million in a sustainable asset management fund. 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 Natura, a Brazilian personal hygiene company, 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.

"We are commited to the preservation of biodiversity with all the stakeholders," Rinaldi said. 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 $100 million in a new plant in Cajamar, Brazil.

Among the venture capital funds and financial institutions presented at the forum were 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 $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; consulting firm KPMG; the EcoEnterprises Fund created by The Nature Conservancy, with $10 million investment portfolio; e-Company Now; and the Fondo para las Americas.

Environment News Service contributed to this report.

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