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SOCAP11 Panelist Spotlight: Ben Sandzer-Bell, CO2 Bambu

SOCAP August 15, 2011

What is your role in the Social Capital Market?
My role in the Socap market is to illustrate a case where an ancestral material, bamboo, can be at the heart of an emerging social, economic and ecological impact movement.    Working with indigenous communities in Nicaragua, the rediscovery of bamboo as a unique building material is solving a myriad problems: a large housing deficit at the base of the pyramid can be solved by using sustainable bamboo material; an area plagued with 85% unemployment is experiencing for the first time in decades a boost in job creation;  Women, traditionally sidelined in these communities, are finding a place in the emerging bamboo value chain;  In short, many of the priorities of SOCAP community members can be addressed through the development of a bamboo economy in Latin America. Come and find out more about how you can play a supporting role in promoting this bamboo economy.
How might we re-imagine resources to create self-sustaining and thriving local communities?
One way to re-imagine resources is to start with demand, demand for what? demand for  some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as housing — the housing deficit in Latin America alone is over 40 million households.  Having identified existing source of demand for materials, the next step is to focus on material substitution — i.e. to look for any opportunity to replace traditional high carbon footprint materials, with sustainable materials.  CO2 Bambu is doing precisely this in Nicaragua and Haiti — pushing traditional builders to incorporate sustainable bamboo in lieu of timber, concrete or steel.  The result of this material substitution strategy is the creation of demand for sustainable bamboo, which in turn motivates small farmers to plant more bamboo, and in turn accellerate the emergence of a thriving bamboo centric economy.
What does Money + Meaning = to you? What should the social capital market stand for?
The social capital market has a unique role to play in support of impact entrepreneurs.  If all entrepreneurs need funding to realize their vision, impact entrepreneurs have all the traditional challenges of typical entrepreneurs, plus the added burden of structuring and nurturing ecosystems (vendors, own company, customers) that combine resources to have social, economic and ecological impact.  Whatever slice of an entrepreneur’s time is slated to raise capital, due to the nature of impact entrepreneurs’ missions, the time required to line up funding for impact is even greater due to the need to satisfy not only financial return requirements, but also to confirm social impact.  The social capital market can reduce the burden on impact entrepreneurs by aligning impact investors who are already pre-disposed to look for multi-faceted returns and to value the non-financial performance aspects of impact entrepreneurs’ business models.

Impact Investing
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