Natalia REALPE opened the session by welcoming all panellists and introducing the objective of this session: discussing approaches and strategies of various institutions from the microfinance sector around the world to the development of products and services for energy, WASH and environmental protection. She continued by describing how Hedera contributes to data collection for boosting microfinance as a vehicle to access to basic services and environmental protection.
Jordan PACE from Finance in Motion started by presenting the Green for Growth Fund (GGF), advised by Finance in Motion. The GGF’s mission is to contribute to enhancing energy efficiency and fostering renewable energies through green financing in partnership with financial institutions, including MFIs, as well as direct financing. He described GGF’s Technical Assistance Facility activities for MFIs in the field of product development, marketing, and capacity strengthening. He illustrated this by explaining the implementation of a marketing project in Montenegro with the objective of promoting small-scale green investments. Pace provided an outlook of GGF’s future Technical Assistance initiatives focused on accelerating and scaling the uptake of emerging next generation green technologies while addressing underlying market barriers. GGF’s partners are specifically interested in digital solutions for new product development to enhance market competitiveness and engagement with end-clients.
Realpe asked Pace how the GGF decides on its green financing strategy and what trends he observed in terms of demand from partner MFIs for technical assistance to boost environmental protection activities. Pace answered that GGF’s modalities for MFIs currently focus on small-scale energy efficiency investments. This model is commercially viable for the Fund, MFIs and end-clients, while delivering highly impactful green financing. GGF partners have to adhere to the Fund’s high environmental standards, and technical assistance is frequently used to strengthen and build capacity, such as developing environmental and social management systems. He recognized the need of partner MFIs to receive support to integrate informational marketing and digital product development into their portfolios to respond to the needs of rural end-clients.
Alexandre BORME works at Entrepreneurs du Monde, which supports local social businesses across Asia and Africa through social micro-finance and access to energy. He described the launch of the organization’s programmes against energy scarcity, setting up effective energy distribution channels contributing to positive environmental, health and socio-economic impacts for MFI beneficiaries. Entrepreneurs du Monde takes a client-centred approach to the design of energy distribution channels and payment models working closely together with MFIs.
Borme then highlighted the big challenges ahead, explaining that minimal direct contact with the end-users makes it difficult to understand their needs and assess client satisfaction. The implementation of digital feedback and monitoring systems to complement hand-to-hand collection could solve this issue. Further challenges are still foreseen in serving rural households with energy loans in countries where Microfinance in Motion is not active. He expressed the organization’s intention to work together with locally present MFIs to add clean energy products to their services, instead of building new distribution channels.
Realpe gave the floor to Allan PEREZ from REDCAMIF. He brought the network perspective presenting the REDCAMIF members in Central America and the Caribbean. According to Perez, climate change is the main burden for rural families, especially poor households, who are clients of REDCAMIF’s MFIs. Promotion of the green finance and WASH approach is key to increasing the resilience of MSME families and thus of the MFIs themselves. REDCAMIF’s approach is to support MFIs with financial resources, training and knowledge focused on green finance, renewable energy, water, and sanitation. Perez stressed the importance for MFIs to work with Technical Assistance providers and local Service Suppliers offering non-financial activities to strengthen the rural infrastructure to implement renewable and eco-friendly technologies.
Perez agreed with Borme’s point of view on the lack of evaluation measures integrated in its external processes to improve the impact on the end-users and their productive activities. He reiterated the use of new technologies to monitor the results at end-user level alongside direct contact. Securing adequate funding to support the green initiatives of MFIs posed to be another challenge. He concluded by recognizing Pace’s notion of MFIs interest in digitizing financial and non-financial services to expand their reach to end-users.
Realpe then invited comments and questions from the audience. One of the participants asked if Entrepreneurs du Monde will expand its portfolio to other environmental protection activities, such as water and sanitation. Borme stated that the organization’s research showed that accessing clean drinking water was a relevant issue for its programme beneficiaries, but that WASH is considered as a sensitive topic subject to corruption. In the future, Entrepreneurs du Monde might use its existing distribution channels to improve access to water.
Realpe concluded the session by inviting participants to the upcoming session on the Green Index 3.0.