The “Future of Impact Ecosystem in Bangladesh” moderator and panelists spoke on their experience with impact investing in today’s age. From left to right: Bijon Islam (CEO and Co-Founder at LightCastle Partners), Savinda Ranathunga (Regional Youth Project Manager at UNDP Asia-Pacific), Farhana Rashid (Founder of Bhumijo), Corinne Henchoz Pignani (Deputy Head of Cooperation at the Embassy of Switzerland in Bangladesh) and Dr. Sebastian Groh (Founder and CEO at SOLshare).
The first-of-its-kind Bangladesh Startup Summit 2023, the largest congregation of the startup ecosystem in the country, took place on Saturday, 29 July, and Sunday, 30 July 2023. LightCastle Partners served as the sole knowledge partner for the event. It featured over 34 presentations, workshops, and panel discussions covering various sectors. The “Future of Impact Ecosystem in Bangladesh” panel discussion brought together experts to shed light on the vital role of impact investing in tackling social and environmental challenges in the country.
Moderated by Bijon Islam, the CEO and Co-Founder of LightCastle Partners, the panel included prominent figures such as Corinne Henchoz Pignani, Deputy Head of Cooperation at the Embassy of Switzerland in Bangladesh; Dr. Sebastian Groh, Founder and CEO of SOLshare; Farhana Rashid, Founder of Bhumijo; and Savinda Ranathunga, Regional Youth Project Manager at UNDP Asia-Pacific.
The primary objectives of the panel were twofold. First, it aimed to emphasize the importance of impact investing as a market-driven solution with a focus on sustainability. Second, it sought to explore the challenges faced by impact enterprises in Bangladesh and the potential for growth and scalability within the impact investing sector. During the discussion, the panelists delved into key sectors with the potential to create a positive impact, particularly gender equality, climate change, and renewable energy.
Among the key takeaways from the discussion was the need for a clear definition of impact investing. Corinne Henchoz Pignani stressed the importance of this to ensure genuine social and environmental impact alongside financial returns, while avoiding impact mainstreaming. The panel advocated for an integrated bottom line approach that considers the synergy between financial, social, and environmental goals, rather than viewing them as trade-offs.
Furthermore, the panel identified various sectors with significant potential for impact enterprises in Bangladesh, highlighting gender equality, climate change adaptation, renewable energy, and financial inclusion. They emphasized the importance of leveraging digital solutions to address social issues, including providing access to financial services and healthcare, as a critical factor in creating a more inclusive impact investing ecosystem.
Collaboration among various stakeholders, including governments, impact investors, entrepreneurs, and support organizations is key. Savinda Ranathunga the Regional Youth Project Manager at UNDP Asia-Pacific stressed this as an essential to fostering a conducive environment for impact enterprises. Policy changes and incentives were seen as crucial to encouraging more impact investment in the country.
Dr. Sebastian Groh, Founder and CEO of SOLshare, spoke about impact investing addressing not only social and environmental issues sustainably but also integrating the bottom line. SOLshare is a climate-tech company that launched SOLbazaar which has developed into an energy marketplace to fight access deficits to sustainable energy services. They are a prime example of a Bangladeshi company that offers a sustainable and profitable solution.
Farhana Rashid, offered her perspective on the struggles in this industry as a founder. Although now Bhumijo is a successful social start-up working to ensure hygienic, inclusive and affordable public sanitation, at the beginning she struggled looking for funding. It is important to focus on projects and start-ups that have the potential to scale up and create a difference to the largely underserved communities in Bangladesh.
Overall, the panel discussion provided valuable insights into the future of impact investing in Bangladesh, highlighting the significance of aligning financial interests with social and environmental benefits and underlining the importance of collaboration and supportive policies to drive positive change in the nation.
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