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.

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