Author Archives: Shaun Paul


Investing with Indigenous People

Translating indigenous values into finance and enterprise

Venture philanthropy and impact investing are rapidly growing fields blurring traditional lines between philanthropy and for profit investing. Instead of turning a blind eye to applying values to investing, people are increasingly working from a perspective of interconnectedness where the same values that would be applied to grantmaking are applied to investing. While this is a new paradigm for finance, many indigenous societies have never separated commerce from honoring the earth and valuing the well-being of community. This lively panel was convened in October 2014 at the World Summit on Indigenous Philanthropy to share perspectives of indigenous values-driven business, grant makers and impact investors working to foster practical solutions to complex social and environmental challenges including job creation, cultural revitalization and environmental stewardship.

Moderator: Shaun Paul, Reinventure Capital
Amy Fredeen, Cook Inlet Tribal Council
Sonja Swift, Swift Foundation
Donna Morton, Principum
Kevin Jones, Social Capital Markets (SoCap)



Riding a food fad to an opportunity

A recent article on investigating if rising consumer demand for chia seeds can help farmers in developing countries.  It would be an ironic return for an ancient crop. Chia originated in Mexico and Guatemala some 3,500 years ago, when the seeds were a staple food of the Mayans and Aztecs. The Spanish conquistadors, in attempting to squash the local culture, banned the indigenous peoples from eating it.


Climate Risk Reduction Index

Climate Risk Reduction Index

Managing climate risk is increasingly taking on many forms.  This UN backed initiative is undertaking regional, national and sub-national assessments where action can make a difference. They have begun with Central America followed with West Africa.  While oriented toward informing governments and aid agencies, it is also relevant at a local and enterprise level that can also consider what they identify as the most important risk drivers.

  • Risk Driver 1: Environment and natural resources.
  • Risk Driver 2: Socioeconomic conditions.
  • Risk Driver 3: Land use and the built environment.
  • Risk Driver 4: Governance.

This related Climate Vulnerability Monitor is a real eye opener offering a ‘guide to the cold calculus of a hot planet.’

Investing in ancestral superfoods: sustainable solution or passing fad?

I just gave a very well received presentation at Tufts University on ancestral superfoods. Densely nutritious foods like chia used by indigenous people for centuries worldwide are being discovered in a new way in response to consumers growing demand for naturally healthy food in developed and emerging markets. With demand exceeding supply for a variety of products, opportunities are abound to invest in expanding sustainably grown food that affirms traditional ecological knowledge, can be good to local people and the environment while bringing highly nutritious food to market.


Fair Trace Tool launches campaign furthering innovation to build value in transparent supply chains

Let’s make sure devastating tragedies, like the ones in Bangladesh, will never happen again.

Fair Trade USA

Fair Trade USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have the technology to intervene—and you have the power to help us put it in place. Can you please help us get the word out and share the INDIGENOUS Indiegogo campaign with your networks? This campaign will allow us to share breakthrough technology with other brands and organizations around the globe.

This year, nearly every INDIGENOUS garment comes with a QR code attached that makes it possible for our customers to meet the artisans who make our fashion, see a map of our supply sourcing, and read about the social impact of their purchase. This simple technology, called the Fair Trace Tool ™, was created with the help of our good friends at RSF Social Finance, Worldways Social Marketing, SourceMap, Good World Solutions and the Grameen Foundation.

We are calling on YOU to help make it possible for us to share this technology with fair trade brands that are otherwise unable to afford it. Your donations will also help fund social impact studies that prove the astounding value of fair trade in the lives of artisans and farmers.

We’ve offered some amazing perks for donors, including merchandise, discounts, even a trip to Peru. Check it all out at

Supply chain transparency can truly save lives and change our world.
Give a little, give a lot, but please give something. And whatever you do, share it with everyone you know!

Yours in collaboration,
Scott Leonard

Investing in systems change with superior albiet very early returns

Investing in resilience and sustainability clearly needs to take on many forms. At its core, it’s about taking common sense approaching to nurturing people and planet. Many flip the challenge of climate change into an opportunity to invest in resilience.

I was really excited to learn today of Green Alpha Advisors new mutual fund launched with Shelton Capital Management.

It is one of the few fossil fuel free investment portfolios backed by! Launched in March ’13, their year to-date returns are 29%, well exceeding market benchmarks!!

Let’s keep our eye on Green Alpha Advisors putting into practice principles of making the transition to the ‘New Economy.’ Sierra Club has even branded a sub-fund as possibly the greenest stock portfolio on Earth! offers their blog at the Sierra Club.

And, is the portal directly to Green Alpha Advisors.

Planting Empowerment succeeds at mobilizing crowd-funding for forestry in Panama with Indigenous Peoples

I was inspired today to learn from the company principals of Planting Empowerment, a social enterprise devoted to reforestation in the Darien Province of Panama, that they were the first Kiva project in Panama and met their capital goals within days of launching their campaign! Proceeds are already being put to work to increased production of plantains which will contribute to a long-term investment in building out community reforestation while also providing a source of near term employment.