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November 23, 2022

Bas: Social Fellowship on sustainable finance

Hi everybody, my name is Bas and I'm a Senior Consultant in the Amsterdam office. I've worked for Roland Berger for almost four years, mostly in the mobility and (sustainable) energy sectors.

Earlier this year I worked for the Rainforest Alliance for a period of three months, as part of Roland Berger's social fellowship program. At the Rainforest Alliance, I supported the development of their sustainable finance strategy. For me, this was a great opportunity to work on ESG and sustainability topics in a new sector and with international impact.

The Rainforest Alliance is a non-profit organization working to make responsible and sustainable business and agriculture the new norm. The Rainforest Alliance is mostly known for their sustainable agriculture certification used for cocoa, coffee, tea, bananas, and many other agricultural products. As of December 2021, about four million farmers work on certified farms worldwide. Besides certification, the Rainforest Alliance also runs projects to support farmers in their livelihoods and make landscapes more resilient.

My assignment at the Rainforest Alliance was to help them develop their sustainable finance strategy. Currently, most projects are funded by private or government donors and not by investors looking for a return on their investments. However, more and more (institutional) investors are looking to make a positive impact on the world and not (only) maximize returns.

Sustainable agriculture is seen by many investors as a field where they are looking to make an impact. Unfortunately, it is often difficult for farmers in developing regions to access loans and investments, as they are small-scale and have limited track record and collateral.

I investigated the opportunities for the Rainforest Alliance to help these so-called impact investors find suitable investment opportunities. Through their projects and certification programs, the Rainforest Alliance has a lot of knowledge about, and contact with, these farmers. The Rainforest Alliance can support investors in finding investment opportunities, determining creditworthiness and demonstrating impact. By actively engaging with the financial sector, the Rainforest Alliance can improve the livelihoods of farmers.

During my social fellowship, I detailed these opportunities for the Rainforest Alliance and engaged with financial institutions to explore how the Rainforest Alliance can help them increase investments in sustainable agriculture and livelihoods for farmers.

During my time at the Rainforest Alliance, I learned a lot about the challenges facing farmers, communities and landscapes around the world. It was inspiring to see colleagues from all over the world work together to improve lives as well as the natural environment. I hope to bring some of that passion back to Roland Berger and inspire our company, as well as our clients, to be mindful of the impact they are having, or could be having.

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