Impact Investing: In Conversation With Myleen Verstraete
Impact Investor for MC Collignon, The Conscious Collection (Headquartered in Belgium) A Prêt-à-Porter line made from recycled plastic bottles
“For the sake of my children’s generation, I feel if I can make a difference through my investments, then I must.”
For Myleen Verstraete, the decision to become an impact investor was a turning-point in her quest to progress the causes she cares about. “A couple of years ago, I went to a conference on impact investing. It opened my mind to hear what people in business can do beyond philanthropy.”
She adds: “At that point, I was already helping a number of organisations that were focussed on preserving the planet and supporting specific social projects. After hearing the presentations, I discovered new ways to contribute.”
She later decided to invest into a business venture supporting ethical fashion: The Conscious Collection, where 70% of the collection is made with Waste2Wear fabrics from recycled plastic bottles. She works closely with Waste2Wear because of the huge impact this company has on plastic reduction, and also with its social programme, Waste2Weave.
“Waste2Weave is designed to help women out of poverty in Asia by providing them with the means to increase their income while improving their work conditions. The organisation creates items anywhere that regular textiles are used, from pillows and bedsheets
to bathrobes and uniforms made out of recycled plastic bottles.”
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Like many of the Elite Entrepreneurs, environmental degradation was top of mind in her decision to commit: “It’s our planet and it’s not going well. There is huge pollution as a result
of the textile industry. For the sake of my children’s generation, I feel if I can make a difference through my investments, then I must.”
Up until then, the Belgium-based entrepreneur had focussed her commercial efforts in real estate. She began her career in salaried employment working in the Telecoms sector but believes “entrepreneurship was always a part of who I am. I had a drive for business success.” She left to start her own business providing accommodation to expatriate residents in Brussels.
A relatively recent convert to impact investing, Ms Verstraete has combined her direct investments into ethical businesses with allocations to impact investment funds. She has
been working closely with one microfinance development fund that has supported businesses across sub-Saharan Africa for more than a decade.
Their initiatives enable entrepreneurs to deliver basic goods and services, such as clean drinking water, health care and education programmes.
Ms Verstraete comments: “Direct deals are critical to the field of impact even though they are high risk. If we are not willing to provide our capital and support these entrepreneurs,
then who will? If we shy away from investing in these more risky companies today, there will be no mature companies to invest in tomorrow."
"Fund investing has been a more straightforward approach. I allowed myself to spread my risk and expand my impact. Fund investing might be an easier ride for somebody who is just getting started. I’m driven to make a difference and want to be part of that change.”
The above article is an excerpt from BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report 2018. You can read more about the report here.
Picture source: www.sisterhoodinbusiness.com