By Bas van Abel, ceo of Fairphone
Back in April this year, I shared our ambitions for growing our company and improving our business operations, specifically by raising more capital and strengthening our organization. After spending our summer working towards these goals, I’m happy to share some big news: we’ve secured investments totaling € 6,5 million from pioneering impact investors who share and strongly believe in our values.
Scaling up for greater impact
These new investments will help us kick off Fairphone’s latest growth phase. To start, part of the investment will be used to keep reaching new audiences to increase the awareness of and demand for fairer electronics. Specifically, we’re working to expand our distribution network in Europe to respond to a growing interest from mainstream commercial channels like operators, resellers and business-to-business procurement.
Following this strategic move, scaling up our production volumes will allow us to have more leverage with suppliers and therefore more opportunities to negotiate a healthier, more future-proof supply chain. It means we will be in a better position to put our principles into practice, including improving the availability and lifespan of spare parts, sourcing fairer materials and improving working conditions.
From the operational side of things, we will use these investments to keep expanding our team and further professionalize our operations. We’ve already made an important move in that direction by hiring Eva Gouwens, the former head and “First Lady of Chocolate” at fellow B-Corp Tony’s Chocolonely. So she not only has great taste, but she also comes with a deep understanding of how to successfully lead a growing social enterprise. Eva will join me in the executive board as our Managing Director.
Generous support from impact investing pioneers
A big share of the investments follows from the generous commitment of two impact investing pioneers, Pymwymic and DOEN Foundation. Impact investing is a fairly recent concept in the financial world, and occupies the space between venture capital and donations. It basically means investing with the intention of generating benefits for society and the environment, in addition to profits. It is great that we’ve been able to set up a partnership with investors who share our values.
Pymwymic (the Put Your Money Where Your Meaning Is Community) is Europe’s oldest impact investing group. In 2016 the group created the Impact Investing Cooperative to bring together wealthy individuals and families who want to make a positive impact. Its first thematic sub-fund, ‘Pymwymic Healthy Ecosystems Impact Fund’, focuses on disruptive and innovative business models that restore and conserve our ecosystems. And they’ve selected Fairphone to be the recipient of their very first investment!!
We’ve also received funding from DOEN Participaties, the investment fund of the DOEN Foundation. Established in 1991, the organization is focused on supporting initiatives that are working towards a green, socially inclusive and creative society. The DOEN Foundation also played a role in Fairphone’s initiation, providing capital to help us transition from an awareness campaign to a company in 2013.
Expanding governance structure
Besides adding these two new impact investors, we’ve also expanded Fairphone’s governance structure to ensure we have the right checks and balances in place to enter the next phase.
With the addition of Eva, we now have a two-person executive board. This is supported by a second level of governance in the form of a recently created supervisory board, which currently includes five members. While the supervisory board members do not represent the company externally and are not involved in the day-to-day business of running Fairphone, they provide additional accountability for key decisions and play an important role in protecting the interests of the company and its social mission.