With success through another exceptional year: five new impact ventures to fight absolute poverty.

31 December 2021

elea Foundation for Ethics in Globalization, a Zurich based active philanthropic impact investor, looks back on a successful year 2021: Despite pandemic-related restrictions, elea was able to enlarge its portfolio by five innovative impact ventures, could further grow its philanthropic investor circle and expand the elea team with new talents as well as established professionals. Notwithstanding these successes, we end the year with conflicting emotions: gratitude for our own privileged situation, concern and uncertainty over the future of our ventures as well as compassion and solidarity with people in low-income countries.

Another extraordinary year is coming to an end. While some countries could enjoy fragile pockets of normality thanks to the implementation of comprehensive health measures including strong vaccination campaigns, once again, the poorest nations were not so fortunate. “This situation not only worsens the livelihood opportunities of the poor but also represents massive challenges for our impact entrepreneurs who work tirelessly to improve them”, Peter Wuffli, Founder and Chairman of elea, comments. While elea's actions in the first half of the year were mostly confined to immediate crisis interventions, it was only over the summer, with an improving global outlook, that we could begin to plan beyond the immediate health crisis and work together with our partners to further the medium- and long-term development of their impact and business models. For other ventures, the environment remained challenging. Andreas Kirchschläger, CEO of elea: “Our ventures in India, in particular, demanded attention due to another destructive wave of the pandemic gravely manifesting itself last spring. To mitigate the severity of human hardship, elea, in combination with personal commitments of individual elea team members, provided humanitarian aid directly to selected in-country organizations.”

Crisis as an opportunity

Fortunately, most of our ventures coped well with the challenges of the pandemic and many were able to transform them into impact opportunities. This included adjusting customer service, accelerating the digitization of enterprise processes or re-thinking their offering. “Yet, we also had to experience setbacks. awamo, a software solution provider to microfinance institutions in Uganda, and Lynk, an online platform which connects households with skilled craftsperson services in Kenya, greatly struggled against the consequences of the pandemic and their survival was called into question. While we succeeded in selling the operational core of awamo, thus securing the continuity of their impact, we remain in the process of finding a sustainable solution for Lynk”, Adrian Ackeret, CFO of elea, explains

Five new impact ventures to fight absolute poverty

Our search for and assessment of new investment opportunities continued to require a great deal of flexibility. This included pioneering our first ever virtual scouting tours as well as continuing to conduct most of our due diligences online only. “It is thus with pride that despite the constraints, we added five new ventures to our portfolio”, says Stefan Kappeler, COO of elea, happily. ATEC has an innovative approach to distributing pay-as-you-go electric cooking appliances in Cambodia and Bangladesh which combines alleviating absolute poverty with reducing global CO2 emissions. In India, Hasiru Dala Innovations provides fair working conditions and perspectives for development to waste pickers. Lernern furthers careers by making on-the-job vocational skill training accessible and affordable for entry-level, blue-collar workers. Meanwhile, J-Palm works with smallholder farmers in Liberia to produce and market sustainable palm oil. Finally, Kwanza Tukule offers a low-cost and reliable cooking ingredient delivery service to street kitchens in informal settlements in Kenya. "We are convinced that, with our investments in these five ventures, we are making another important contribution to the fight against absolute poverty with entrepreneurial means", summarizes Stefan Kappeler.

Foundation of a platform for elea entrepreneurs

A highlight of this year was the launch of our elea Entrepreneurs’ Community. This community is designed to act as a catalyst for impact by promoting peer-to-peer exchange between our entrepreneurs and by providing a platform for mutual learning. We kickstarted the process with a tailor-made “Leading for Impact” program in partnership with our academic partner IMD (a world leading business school based in Lausanne, Switzerland). Members of the elea team also taught in the MBA program at IMD and accompanied their EMBA discovery expedition to Peru.

Strengthening the Philanthropic Investors’ Circle and the team

Another highlight in this challenging year was the elea Philanthropic Investors’ Circle dinner, where we could host four of our impact entrepreneurs from India, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe physically and virtually in Zurich. The evening was dedicated to thanking our investors and friends for their unwavering support and trust in elea. Even in this challenging year, elea's group of philanthropic investors continued to grow and we renewed existing partnerships. We extend a special thanks to Jürg and Manuela Schaeppi, who joined the elea Comité de Patronage, and to Felix and Maria Haldner for the generous increase in their commitment.

In order to further intensify its activities in the fight against poverty, elea has strengthened its team accordingly: With Greta Carioli, Karoline Rast, Arnaud Schuele, and Isabelle Sun our elea Talent Program grew by another generation of top university talent. We further expanded our leadership resources with the appointment of Benoît Demaurex as Executive Director. Finally, with the joining of Lars Flükiger as IT analyst and with Elena Torresani as Head of Communication & Partnerships, we filled two additional key positions within our team.

Peter Wuffli looks ahead to the coming year with confidence: "Even if the framework conditions are not likely to get easier in the foreseeable future, I am convinced that we are very well positioned with elea to be a reliable partner for our impact ventures, to become one of these for new ventures and ultimately to get one step closer to achieving our goal: the reduction of absolute poverty with entrepreneurial means."

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