Willemijn de Lint is a Dutch impact investor, strongly focused on Africa.
With a background in pediatric physiotherapy and pedagogical sciences, she has worked in healthcare & wellness throughout her career, aiming to improve people’s well-being. For over 10 years now, she is an active impact investor, investing directly and through funds. She is also a PYM ambassador.
How did you get involved in impact?
I was raised with an impact perspective - brought up in Africa, with a father who taught me that returns are never just financial. A sociologist and economist, he worked for the UN in Africa for many years, where he helped smallholder farmers set up coffee and cacao cooperations, to improve living standards. His work taught me the importance of financial inclusion in developing countries. So later when I started investing myself, ‘impact investing’ was a very natural and nurtured road.
Did Impact Investing Networks have a role to play in your journey?
Certainly. In 2015 I met Veerle Berbers, who introduced me to Pymwymic, which was just transforming towards a co-owned impact investing cooperative. There I met Maarten van Dam and Frank van Beuningen, who both inspired me with their warm welcome, but also their opportunity focussed mindset and entrepreneurial problem-solving approach. I learned a lot by joining this network.
How important are ‘peers’? And do you also partake in PYM circles?
I actually co-chaired a PYM Circle with Frank van Beuningen. In this circle, we shared what money means to us and how we can be guided by our values in making investment decisions. Every gathering also includes an expert speaker who shares investment opportunities. This combination is ideal because it means sharing and connecting with each other, but also taking practical leaps forward together.
What do you invest in?
Most important impact investment goals are interlinked, so in my opinion it is a bit artificial to divide investments into sectors. However, if I have to categorize it, I would say my investments are mostly in financial inclusion from a gender lens, and in climate projects centred around disruptive innovations through smart tech.
Scientific research confirms that investing in girls’ education in developing countries is actually a highly effective climate solution. Improving agriculture in developing countries means higher yields and incomes, but also better climate resilience, and more kids going to school. Better education leads to more equality and better family planning. A climate goal is therefore also a social goal. And in the landscape of financial inclusion, smart tech is not only providing access to capital, but also additional services like crop insurance and personalized customer service.
How has impact investing changed your life?
I think impact investing has made me see money differently. Instead of a goal in itself, I now see money as fuel to accomplish more important goals.
What is the best advice you ever received?
The best advice I ever got was to exit a fund that I once entered too eagerly in my early days of investing. A peer from the impact investing community helped me leave the fund after difficult negotiations. It showed me how truly cooperative and supportive the impact community is. To this day, this situation reminds me that there are always options, and we do better together than alone.
How would you describe your investing style?
Patient and with additionality. Early-stage enterprises need time to develop to contribute to system change and there always needs to be a change, on top of what would have happened anyway.
Is impact investing the future?
I think people are starting to understand that impact investing does not mean a trade-off for financial returns. That true risk assessment actually involves a company’s energy consumption, employee happiness, water usage, etc. In the due diligence of impact investments, these kinds of risks are automatically taken into account.
Who inspires you?
I find inspiration very close to home. My father was an advocate for financial inclusion in developing countries and was already developing ways to measure social performance 40 years ago. And my daughter, who converted our whole household to a more plant-based diet and who also is active in setting up student associations based on the Effective Altruism movement.
More generally, I am inspired by people who have an encouraging message on climate change - possibility thinkers - such as Paul Hawken with his book ‘Regeneration’ and Ruud Koornstra who made the documentary ‘Het paradijs op aarde’.
What would you do with 1 billion Euros?
Invest and donate to climate adaptation solutions serving Africa, a continent that continues to be disproportionally affected by climate change, disadvantaging the poorest, who sadly have contributed the least to the problem in the first place.
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