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 Co-operative. La Siembra is 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.” Dickinson is clearly a discerning investor and was looking for a good investment that met her financial expectations – but she was also looking at the triple bottom line.

Why was it an impact investment?

First, 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,” reads the mission statement published on the Camino website. “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 Dickinson’s first reason to invest.

“Your [La Siembra’s] social conscience is really important to the future of doing business in this country,” Dickinson said.

Second, 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 in Southeast Asia.

Dickinson also identified Camino as having high potential for return. The brand is already well regarded by the industry and 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.

from Shutterstock

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

“I love Camino,” she said. “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 question is, which dragon will be next? Robert Herjavec, Jim Treliving or Bruce Croxon? Or maybe Kevin O’Leary?

O’Leary Funds has about $1.2 million under management. Perhaps Dickinson can convince O’Leary to carve out 0.1%. (Don’t think it’s crazy – O’Leary is the entrepreneur advisor on the Discovery Channel’s Project Earth Task Force, 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. That’s okay, we can wait. Among many things, we’re patient capitalists.

For now, we should recognize Dickinson’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.

Photo credit:  Shutterstock