Any entrepreneur knows that it’s not easy to find investors who share the founders’ vision for the company. It’s even more difficult to find investment partners ready to stand behind early stage social (impact) businesses. Encouraging more social impact investment and harnessing the power of good are what inspired Gamil de Chadarevian to join forces with Giuseppe Dessi to create GIST, Global Impact Solutions Today.

GIST aims to make impact investments a more recognised investment class and inspire wealth managers to put more of their funds behind businesses that deliver results while leaving a positive mark on people and planet.

In an interview with MIA, GIST founder Gamil de Chadarevian shares his insights, why GIST invested in MIA and what the organisation has planned for the future.

 

     Gamil (far right) and Giuseppe (far left) receive Proudly Made In Africa Award with co-founder.

Above: 1) Gamil, 2) Giuseppe (far left) and Gamil (far right) join MIA co-founders to receive Award for Excellence in African Industry.

MIA – What inspired you to start GIST when there are many other paths you could have taken following a successful career in biotechnology?

Gamil – I’m a big believer in the power of positive change and I thought we could make a real mark on the impact investing and community and cause-driven businesses, both in terms of the role impact investing plays in larger portfolios and the companies GIST supports as proof of concept.

MIA – Who was instrumental in helping get GIST off the ground?

Gamil – The list of people who have helped is long but one that must be mentioned specifically is Giuseppe Dessi. Even though Giuseppe has his hands full as founder and CEO of Method Investment & Advisory, he has provided the financial support to get GIST off the ground, contributed his expertise to the organisation and is a primary contributor to our annual Investing for Global Impact Report. While I am responsible for developing GIST initiatives and driving them forward on a day-to-day basis, the organisation would definitely not exist in its present form without Giuseppe’s contributions.

MIA – What are the initiatives that GIST has undertaken to date?

Gamil – Since 2014 we have co-authored the Investing for Global Impact Report. The report presents the results of extensive interviews with investment offices to understand their attitudes towards impact investing, how many of these investments they make and how they measure results. The report also allows impact investors to share best practices and success stories, creating a community around impact investing. The overarching objectives are to drive interest and confidence in impact investing while helping the investor community find common measures so they can compare impact returns across different businesses. (Get Investing for Global Impact Reports here: https://gistltd.com/knowledge-platform/investing-for-global-impact-report/.)

Besides generating our annual report, GIST takes a direct financial involvement in scalable businesses that can serve as role models for impact investing. We selected MIA for this programme for its promise to bring four times more revenue to communities in Africa by making finished food products on the continent.

 

GIST also has an equity stake in Carbon Gold, a biochar producer that provides an alternative to chemical fertilisers while helping gardeners and farmers around the world multiply their yields.

MIA – You mention pilot investments as a means to demonstrate that financial and positive impact can be delivered by businesses with a higher purpose. How do you add value to these businesses beyond the financial investment?

Gamil – We support businesses in a number of ways beyond the financial investment. The initial investment is crucial to give start-ups the chance to develop, but we take a long-term vision by uniting a network of investors that can support business growth as activities are scaled up. We also make the GIST network available to support the business. For example, we brought expertise from the GIST network to MIA by arranging for one of our investment partners, Megan Taylor, to join the board. Megan brings a valuable perspective to MIA as she is an experienced business consultant and the founder of Move the World, an NGO that does development work in Africa. Megan’s involvement in Move the World gives her an   understanding of the African setting, which  is valuable to understanding and supporting work MIA does.

 

     

Above: 1) Megan, MIA board member and Move the World founder, 2) Beneficiaries of Move the World development projects with children, facilitators, schools and communities in Ghana. 

MIA  – What does GIST have planned for the future?

Gamil – We will launch a series of catalyst funds to unite the potential and vision we see in the investment and social business communities. The first of these funds is called the Green Impact Catalyst Fund. The fund will focus on co-investing its capital in innovative agriculture, farming and food initiatives and businesses in less developed countries. The vision is to develop a global portfolio of sustainable and replicable investments so we can raise the status of impact investing as a way to realise a financial return while giving something back to the world.

Learn more about GIST at www.gistltd.com

Unlike 99% of chocolate that is made in wealthy nations, MIA makes chocolate in Africa – the world’s poorest continent – to provide sustainable jobs, transfer skills and create four times more revenue than the export of raw cocoa.

In 2019, MIA production addressed eight United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, supported 15 full-time jobs and protected over 5,000 trees in Madagascar.

The MIA ‘1 for Change’ impact programme committed to ‘MIA Green’ to offset CO2 with a tree planting programme and created a ‘Fruit Tree Scholarship’ fund to facilitate secondary school education for vulnerable students.

MIA works with a variety of suppliers in Africa to make products locally. The purpose is to unite a network of the best supply partners around the production of delicious products and to support their businesses in the process.

 

 

The chocolate making team is at the heart of the Made-In-Africa business model that creates value-added products to improve livelihoods. Beyond the production team, each batch of MIA made in Madagascar also benefits the communities that provide the ingredients, materials and services to transform fine flavour cocoa into delicious chocolate.

 

 

Below is a summary of the the social benefit enjoyed by the communities that form a network of 14 local supply partners.

 

 

The fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar’s flora and fauna evolved in isolation for millions of years. As a result, the island nation is home to 15% of the world’s species and 80% of all plants and animals found in Madagascar are endemic. Creating sustainable livelihoods that protect the environment while providing local communities with jobs is crucial to save the unique species that live in Madagascar.

Cocoa trees are beneficial for the environment as they form forests and require a shade canopy from a second layer of hardwood trees. These forests form ecosystems for indigenous plants and animals.

 

 

The Sambirano Valley is in Northwest Madagascar, just outside the cocoa capital Ambanja. The Sambirano River extends from the mountainous Upper Valley that lemurs call home to the coastal Lower Valley with rich mangroves forests.

 

 

The Upper Valley is also home to the Tsaratanana Nature Reserve, a park under the highest protected status due to its unique flora and fauna.

Protecting the environment with sustainable livelihoods is crucial to safeguarding the region’s rich natural resources and providing local communities with alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture. 

 

 

In addition to the benefits of value-added chocolate production, MIA dedicates 1% of sales to the ‘1 for Change’ social development programme that can either help protect a local endangered species, create a healthier environment or improve a community’s livelihoods.

 

 

Projects completed in our first two years of trading include a school kitchen for better nutrition, fruit tree scholarships to support secondary education and a reforestation programme to offset CO2, provide environmental education and protect lemurs. The school kitchen benefits 272 students, 50 fruit trees scholarships were awarded and 60 trees were planted to offset CO2.

 

 

MIA is the work of many. In addition to extending our appreciation to our supply partners in Africa, we want to thank the rest of you who make the MIA vision possible.

Customers are creating positive change in Africa with their purchases of MIA at retailers around the world, and it’s thanks to the shared passion of investors, suppliers, distributors and everyone in between that we have the opportunity to bring MIA to market and tell the Made-In-Africa story.

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You can download the full PDF 2019 Impact Report here: https://we.tl/t-ToEtMy30YV