Friday, March 23, 2012

A Dragon Becomes Canada’s Newest Impact Investor

Re-posted from

by Adam Spence

This past Wednesday, a Dragon became Canada’s newest impact investor.

Arlene Dickinson, a leading Canadian investor and entrepreneur, CEO and owner of Venture Communications, and one of the “Dragons” on CBC’s Dragons' Den invested $450,000 in La Siembra, an Ottawa-based worker co-operative that owns Camino, a Canadian brand of fair trade, organic food products including chocolate and coffee.

It was a Big Decision. Arlene is clearly a discerning investor, and she was looking for a good investment that met her financial expectations. But she was clearly looking at the triple bottom line, too.

Why was it an impact investment?

La Siembra has a clear social mission:

"We, the worker-owners of La Siembra Co-operative, are committed to a model of equitable trade rooted in co-operation and the social solidarity economy. We offer consumers high-quality ethical products through partnerships with producer co-operatives that foster sustainable livelihoods and community development. We believe in meaningful, dignified employment and are guided by the co-operative principles, by the Fair Trade principles, and by a respect for the environment."

This mission clearly aligned with Arlene’s first reason to invest:

"Your (La Siembra’s) social conscience is really important to the future of doing business in this country."

They have demonstrated impact: La Siembra works directly with 18 producer co-ops, supporting more than 35,000 family farmers in 10 countries across Central and South America, and Southeast Asia.

Arlene also identified Camino as having high potential for return. It is already well regarded by the industry and by consumers for its quality, and she believed it could be a very significant, high value brand.

So why is this important?

A high profile, well-respected Canadian entrepreneur and investor made a very public and conscious commitment to make an investment that generates social and environmental impact alongside the potential for financial return. This bodes well for impact ventures and funds looking to secure capital from local, impact investors.

For more, please visit the Social Finance blog.

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