The Editors' Post: LatAm impact leaders seek top goal-scorers

We report from the Latimpacto conference in Rio de Janeiro – where impact investors and venture philanthropists are urged to make up for lost time on inequality, conservation and more. Plus top tips on getting corporates on board with impact initiatives.

Last year the Latimpacto team were anxious about selling enough tickets for their first ever conference. This year brought the opposite problem, with organisers having to increase capacity to accommodate the nearly 600 attendees from around Latin America and beyond. They weren’t just jumping at the chance to come to Rio de Janeiro – even an unseasonably rainy, cold Rio is hard to resist – but also because this was a fairly unusual convening. Few networks bring together “capital providers” of all kinds, insiders say. And one attendee described it as a “real achievement” to run a LatAm event that fully involves Brazil – since the Portuguese-speaking country is often treated as a separate category, and it aligns itself in many cases with the US or Europe rather than its closest neighbours. 

There is plenty here for impact investors and venture philanthropists to get their teeth into. Latin America, I heard more than once, is the most unequal region in the world. In Colombia, it would take a poor family 11 generations to reach average income levels without any outside help. And running a social project in the “deep Amazon” is, as one of the speakers put it, like starting a football match when you’re already 3-0 down: the immense distances, the logistics required to get there, the lack of infrastructure. In this region – home to the planet’s largest rainforest, and to 50m indigenous people – social and environmental progress are inextricably linked, perhaps more so than anywhere else.

The private sector is waking up to some of these issues. As Latimpacto’s Greta Salvi said: businesses now “understand that they’re responsible for bringing solutions” when it comes to diversity and equality. One of those is L’Oréal Brazil, which sponsored a group tour on Monday to Rio’s Pequena Africa neighbourhood. There, the company’s director of CSR and human rights – and its first brown woman in such a senior position – told me why L’Oréal supports the New Blacks Museum, a sobering memorial of the transatlantic slave trade. 

Many are pinning hopes on two key opportunities to shape a more progressive global agenda, with Brazil hosting the G20 summit next year, and COP30 the year after. What’s clear – even if it’s repeated so often that it risks becoming a cliché – is that there’s really no option now but to involve all sectors, all sides. And, as is also repeated at every conference: we need to get a move on. Or, as one speaker this week put it, more poetically: “We have to score goals very fast.”


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Top photo: a performance on the final day of the Latimpacto conference in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday (credit: Latimpacto)