Sustainatopia opens with focus on social entrepreneurship growth

With impact investing expected to grow into a $1 trillion segment of the financial market by 2020, the social entrepreneur is no mere fluke, Calvert Foundation CEO Jenn Pryce said Wednesday at the opening of the 5th annual Sustainatopia conference in Miami Beach.

"If you look at search engine volume around this issue," she said, "it’s really getting sticky."

Hoping to raise awareness, Sustainatopia founder John Rosser created the annual gathering to connect the investment world and businesses that do social good. This year’s line-up for the three-day conference at the Miami Beach Convention Center features a smattering of both. On Wednesday, for example, the owner of the Olomomo Nut Company in Colorado shared a panel with the principal of Crowdfund Capital Advisors.

"If you can align dollars with values, that’s the most efficient use of capital and that’s what we want to do," Rosser said.

Since it was founded 20 years ago, the Calvert Foundation has raised over $1 billion from 13,000 investors, Pryce said. Contributions have been as small as $20 and as large as $20 million. The foundation then invests in organizations that support socially conscious businesses, including a day-care center in Illinois and a coffee farm in Peru. Forty percent of its loans go abroad, while 60 percent stay in the U.S.

"We cater to the wealthy," Pryce said. "But the real heart and essence is the idea of democratizing impact investment and enabling people to jump on the train and be part of it."

Wednesday’s opening also included remarks from Bina Venkataraman, a senior advisor on climate change to the White House.

Sustainatopia, which is actually three conferences, continues Thursday with speakers and panel discussions on impact investing, sustainable strategies and ethical fashion and sustainable design at the convention center and Miami Beach Botanical Gardens. There are also a number of free Sustainatopia events over the weekend and early next week at various locations. For more information:

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