A Dragon Becomes Canada’s Newest Impact Investor

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.

Arlene spoke in the clear language of an impact investor looking to support the foundations of a new, vibrant and just economy:

I love Camino. Why? They care about people, they care about the planet, and they care about profit. That’s as good as it gets in the businesses of the future.

The next question is, which Dragon will be next? Robert, Jim, Bruce? Kevin O’Leary? O’Leary Funds has about $1.2 million under management. Perhaps Arlene can convince him to carve out 0.1 per cent. (Don’t think it’s crazy. Kevin is the Entrepreneur advisor on the Task Force for Discovery Channel’s Discovery Project Earth, a program where several groups of scientists experiment with radical ideas to slow and/or stop global warming with the financial aid of the Discovery Channel.)

But we might need to wait a while for the other Dragons. We can wait. Amongst many things, we’re patient capitalists. 

For now, we should recognize Arlene’s leadership in impact investing, and congratulate La Siembra for securing an investment.

You can see all the drama of the Big Decision online. The fun part starts at 40:51.

Recommended for you

  • Job Posting: Senior Associate, Capital Advisory Services

    Muska Ulhaq Program Coordinator, MaRS Centre for Impact Investing and Interim- Managing Editor of SocialFinance.ca

    MaRS Centre for Impact Investing is now seeking a Senior Associate, Capital Advisory Services! From persistent poverty to climate change, we face entrenched social and environmental problems. Fortunately, a growing number of charities, non-profits, co-ops and for-profit companies are building business models to tackle these problems. They are turning to investors for the financing to […]

    Read More ›
  • Announcing the 2015 Social EnterPrize Recipients

    Daniel Overall Director of Collaboration & Innovation, Trico Charitable Foundation

    Recipients Generate Millions in Market Revenue While Serving Social Needs  Created by the Trico Charitable Foundation in 2011, the biennial Social EnterPrize celebrates Canadian social enterprises that demonstrate best practices, impact and innovation. Social enterprises are organizations, for-profit or not-for-profit, that blend financial success and social impact by using markets to solve social problems. The […]

    Read More ›
  • Launch of the Cambridge-Chicago Americas Benchmarking Survey

    Catherine McGill Program Coordinator, Research and Curriculum, Centre for Social Impact

    The Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance and the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center have recently launched the 2015 Americas Alternative Finance Benchmarking Survey, which will serve as the main data-collection vehicle for the 2015 Americas Alternative Finance Benchmarking Report. According to Robert Wardrop, the Executive Director of the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance: “The structural changes […]

    Read More ›
blog comments powered by Disqus