Title &Green, Sail Ventures
Country/Location Global – Latin America, Southeast Asia, Africa
Size $144m in capital – target size of $1bn within the next 10 years
Revenue Model Business growth driven by access to capital and technical assistance
Private Investment/Finance Structure Long-term debt (senior and subordinated loans), avg. 6-10% yield
Public/Philanthropic Investment Funding largely from public and philanthropic sources to date – grants, redeemable grants and concessional loans.
Env/Social Impact Sustainable agriculture
Protection and restoration of forests and peatlands
Support to smallholder farms and households

 

Despite growing concerns around the loss of natural ecosystems, deforestation persists at a high level. In 2020 alone the planet lost an area of forest larger than the United Kingdom [1]. Agri-commodity businesses, such as rubber plantations and cattle ranches, are often linked to this practice as they use increasing land space to keep up with global demand for their products. Some businesses recognise that a business model shift is necessary, but often they lack the funding and the technical expertise required.

Launched in 2017, &Green is a private-debt Investment Facility that aims to decouple these supply chains from deforestation. It helps businesses operating in tropical regions – where most primary forest loss occurs [1] – in transforming their business models to be commercially viable, sustainable, and replicable at scale. &Green intends to grow in the coming decade and reach an overall portfolio beyond $1 billion, with a blended public-private investor base.

 

Businesses

&Green looks for projects run by industry influencers who are able to transition to sustainable no-deforestation agriculture. It starts by analysing certain commodities – such as grains, rubber, cattle, palm oil, timber and cocoa – and then identifies businesses that are directly or indirectly involved in their production. These can include medium to large scale farmers and plantations, but also their service providers, financial institutions, and companies sourcing directly from land-users.

Carlota Fernández de León, Head of Fundraising and Investor Relations, Sail Ventures

Carlota Fernández de León, Head of Fundraising and Investor Relations at Sail Ventures, which manages the Investment Facility, states that &Green looks for opportunities to create a positive impact from an environmental and social perspective, and a clear ambition and ability from the clients to achieve the desired impact.

Clients must also be located in jurisdictions approved by &Green’s Advisory Board through its Jurisdictional Eligibility Criteria (JEC) Assessment, which, among other things, identifies states and countries with progressive forest protection policies. Since &Green’s establishment, 10 jurisdictions have been approved across South America, Southeast Asia, and Central Africa. Two new jurisdictions are being assessed in 2022.

&Green targets clients that are financially robust, with an operational and commercial track record. This is so that, through their work with &Green, they will provide blueprints for other companies looking to transition towards sustainable production.

Once the Investment Facility has identified a potential investee, Sail Ventures works with the client to design a project that will transform its business model to improve its environmental and social impact. On the investees’ side, there are three commitments that all of &Green’s clients undertake to support long-lasting and scalable impact:

 

  • A No Deforestation, No Development of Peatlands, and No Exploitation (NDPE) policy.
  • An Environmental and Social Action Plan. This identifies the existing risks and shortfalls the company has against international standards for environmental and social impact. &Green predominantly uses the International Finance Corporation Performance Standards (IFC PS) and the Equator Principles. This work is conducted by a third-party assessor and its recommendations are included in the project design, in order to address these shortfalls. The ESAP also contributes to their impact tracking strategy (see ‘Impact’ section below).
  • A Landscape Protection Plan (LPP). This targets a defined physical area that the investee has influence over. This is a land use plan that sets out the targeted impact throughout the lending period. It considers the history of the landscape, the associated stakeholders, scenario modelling and monitoring strategies. LPPs are developed by the investees together with &Green’s support, taking around one to two years to form.

 

These three criteria must be met before the investment is made. Fernández de León says that this process is key for ensuring that the investments are transformative and bring additionality, with higher expected environmental and social impact giving the investee more favourable terms.

Once the investment proposal has been approved, &Green offers ‘patient’ (long-term) capital that businesses’ traditional lenders are often unable to provide. &Green provides loans and credit guarantees of $5-30 million with tenors of between five and 15 years. “The project design phase is crucial to making sure the changes in this timeframe are durable, meaning that the transformational changes that have been offset by &Green’s funding will not be easily reversed after the lending period is over,” says Fernández de León.

Technical Assistance (TA) funding is also available to &Green’s potential clients. This is predominantly used to enable them to reach the standard of impact and E&S compliance required to make a project viable for investment.

 

Investors

&Green is funded largely through philanthropic and public finance, with $180 million of total contributions made in the form of grants, redeemable grants and concessional loans. &Green has six key contributors, including Norway’s International Climate and Forests Initiative (NICFI), Unilever, and the UK government’s Mobilising Finance for Forests (MFF) programme. In the near-term, &Green intents to attract commercial financing able to leverage the finance already provided by its initial contributors (see below).

 

Impact

To monitor, report, and verify the progress toward the targeted change in each project, &Green has embedded a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Framework in its investment process. The Framework measures KPIs across:

  • Forest protection
  • Climate benefits
  • Improved resilience of ecosystems
  • Improved resilience of communities
  • People benefitting
  • Capital mobilised

The data for these indicators is aggregated from operational indicators that receive emphasis for each project, and are complemented by transaction-specific information. For example, the operational indicators that measure the number of people benefitting from &Green’s projects may be based on the number of jobs supported and/or of people receiving community services. This depends on the client and the landscape in which it operates.

Additionally, for each client, the Environmental and Social Action Plan (ESAP) sets specific actions for the implementation on the ground, as well as performance indicators for the impact. For example, for an actor like Marfrig Global Foods S.A. (see ‘Client Spotlight’ below), the actions of the ESAP would relate to supply chain management (through risk mapping and sector engagement), environmental returns (through forest protection and sustainable intensification), and E&S management (through health and safety at facilities).

The full set of KPIs form part of &Green’s Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS). &Green’s goal is to have a unified and standardised investment process flow that covers financial, impact and E&S compliance aspects. Its ESMS is underpinned by the International Finance Corporation Performance Standards (IFC PS), a globally recognised benchmark for identifying and managing environmental and social risks.

To further demonstrate measurable net positive outcomes, &Green also makes use of a Forest & Biodiversity Framework, which ensures compliance with biodiversity-related IFC PS 6, and other certification standards, where applicable to the project. These include standards from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, Forest Stewardship Council, and Rainforest Alliance. The Framework supports the delivery of ‘No Net Loss’ or ‘Net Gain’ in biodiversity across its investments.

For ongoing monitoring and verification against the agreed milestones, &Green uses a combination of satellite data, self-reporting from the clients that takes place at least once a year, local NGO partner verification, and visits from Sail Ventures.

 

Client Spotlight

In January 2021, &Green agreed to a $30 million 10-year loan to Marfrig Global Foods S.A.(Marfrig), to help the company transition to a no-deforestation business model. Marfrig is the second largest meat producer in the world with a supply chain of c.30,000 direct and 60,000-90,000 indirect cattle ranchers across the Amazon and Cerrado biomes.

&Green chose to support Marfrig in order to build momentum around sustainable and inclusive production models in Brazil. Cattle ranching is seen as the sector with the greatest impact on Brazilian forest and natural habitat loss, caused by the conversion of forests to pastureland.

&Green’s investment aims to bolster Marfrig’s ambition to be the first Brazilian meatpacker to trace and monitor both direct and indirect suppliers. After mapping the origin of all the cattle Marfrig purchases – both direct and indirect – the meatpacker will extend eligibility conditions (no deforestation) across its supplier network, and apply control measures to verify compliance.

As of December 2021, &Green’s investment in Marfrig resulted in 1,205,511 hectares of forest protected and 20,870,007 tCO2e of climate benefits. Marfrig’s commitments serve as a potential proof of concept for the Brazil meat industry.

 

Challenges

Since its inception in 2017, the main challenges experienced by &Green include:

  • A lack of precedent in sustainable land-use co-investment. Fernández de León remarks that &Green is an early mover in the space it is operating, leading and arranging transactions without co-investors.
  • Helping potential clients to understand their role in the climate transition. &Green’s engagement with potential clients includes awareness-raising on the opportunities for transformational change within their business models and the influence this could have on the wider sector.
  • Overcoming commercial investors’ bias towards emerging markets. &Green’s portfolio is structured with downside protection, from the security pledged.

 

What’s Next

Having made seven investments with its business model, &Green will now open to private investors within the next year and use a blended structure to reach a goal of $1 billion of assets under management.

The Investment Facility will move from a foundation entity status (Dutch Stichting) to a Dutch B.V., the Dutch equivalent of a private limited company, to issue commercial debt. It will offer commercial investors a return in the range of 5-6% and a minimum ticket size of $25 million, while subordinating the philanthropic and public capital. &Green also plans to expand its philanthropic capital, aiming for a 60:40 split between private investors (debt) and philanthropic (equity) investors respectively.

 

Sources

  1. ‘The year in rainforests 2021’, R.E. Butler, Mongabay, 2021
  2. Interview with Carlota Fernandez de Léon, Head of Investor Relations, Sail Ventures