The Meloy Fund: Finding the Profit in Sustainable Practices

“Our Managing Director came up with this idea but people said ‘You work for a non-profit, not a private equity firm in Wall Street!’ Everybody thought we were crazy.” Mauricio Child, Impact Finance Analyst at Rare, is remembering the scepticism that greeted the launch of the Meloy Fund three years ago. The scepticism soon vanished, though: “We overshot our fundraising goals; we actually raised 10% more than our target…”

At Our Ocean 2016, The Global Environment Facility, Conservation International , and Rare announced the Meloy Fund, an impact fund that invests in support of small-scale fisheries in Indonesia and the Philippines.

The thinking behind the Meloy Fund, Child explains, is that investments into companies that impact the coastal environment, if structured effectively and paired with the provision of value-added services, leads to the opportunity to influence responsible behaviours in the supply chain. The adoption of sustainable behaviours throughout the supply chain not only leads to more and higher valued catch, but also help support marine conservation goals.

“The Fund targets the triple bottom line, or financial returns alongside environmental, and social benefits. The idea is that we can generate financial value and also improve 1.2m hectares of coastal seascapes through better management practices.”

One of the businesses that the Meloy Fund has supported is a local octopus processing company, which has transformed the way it identifies, obtains and accounts for its raw materials. The company is undertaking one of the first ever coastal stock assessments on octopuses in Indonesia, while the Meloy Fund is developing a fisher trainer programme to focus effort on adult octopus and protect younger specimens, to ensure they reproduce.

Investors in the Meloy Fund have been pleased with the results, says Child, and are getting first-hand experience of the difference they’re making. “We held a workshop and the owner of the octopus company arrived and showed a box of octopuses to a table full of stakeholders and investors. ‘This is what we catch under new responsible sourcing guidelines,’ she told them. She’s becoming a strong advocate in the sustainable seafood movement in Indonesia and we’ve received such positive feedback from her.”

It’s this kind of grassroots contact twinned with a partnership ethos that makes Rare’s work so effective. In Director of Global Development Lisa Pharaoh’s words, “One of the things that Rare really prides itself on is our relationships with the communities. It’s built in to the way we work, which really is bottom-up, working with and through the community as true partners. We also work with local governments and national governments, as well as local NGOs and INGOs – partnership is foundational to everything that we do.”

Of course, this depends on finding more partners who share Rare’s appetite for thinking creatively and taking risks. As Pharoah says, “If everyone keeps doing what they were doing then this is not going to work.”

But it seems the time is right for innovation: “One thing that has helped the success of the Meloy Fund is that we were able to identify a few key partners who were willing to step forward and take a chance to push the envelope. Can we have more partners like that please?” laughs Pharaoh.

Our Ocean, she says, is not only a great place to find these partners but also to strongly commit to working together to save the ocean.

“Our Ocean is well placed to elevate the ocean space which for so long was forgotten. It was also a great platform to hold ourselves accountable by making this commitment to mobilise this funding. Putting it out there holds our feet to the fire a bit – and only by working together can we truly deliver impact.”

Photo Credit: Rare