Bertrand Badré or the new life of a cantor of sustainable finance

Bertrand Badré with Christine Lagarde, at a G20 meeting in Sydney, in February 2014.
Bertrand Badré with Christine Lagarde, at a G20 meeting in Sydney, in February 2014. SAEED KHAN / AFP

Some people believe that moral capitalism is an oxymoron. This is not the opinion of Bertrand Badré. In 2016, the former World Bank financial director, a committed Catholic, had published a remarkable book Money hated (Public debates), with this subtitle as a promise “What if finance saved the world?” “. The finance inspector could have stopped there, but he chose to put his beliefs into practice.

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In May 2017, he created the investment company Blue Like an Orange to finance projects likely to generate a positive impact in emerging countries, without sacrificing his return as an investment. On June 2, the company announced that it had completed its first fundraiser after raising some $ 200 million (180 million euros).

Spectacular address book

Three years to raise capital when it is abundant thanks to the ultra-accommodating policy of central banks, it may seem long. “I had underestimated the difficulty of raising capital for a first fund”, recognizes the former head of Société Générale and Crédit Agricole, whose address book is nevertheless spectacular, in France and abroad. In his first circle of investors, Emmanuel Faber, the CEO of Danone rubs shoulders with Paul Polman, the former number one of Unilever, the most prominent business heralds of this capitalism that wants to be responsible, or the billionaire and philanthropist Colombian Alejandro Santo-Domingo, shareholder of Château Petrus.

The pandemic has not helped. “Logistics, if only to provide original documents, has been complicated. Furthermore, we had to convince and reassure many stakeholders in the current economic environment ”, testifies Mr. Badré. If Axa, HSBC, CNP, or even BNP Paribas Cardif, the asset managers who have invested in the first fund of Blue Like an Orange come mostly from Europe, the money collected will be deployed in Latin America in the form of subordinated loans. “We see a lot of investors looking to green their portfolios. All of this lacks authenticity. There is zero bullshit and a lot of originality ”, comments Antoine Flamarion, co-founder of the asset management company Tikehau Capital, one of the capital providers of Blue Like an Orange.

“Finance infrastructure”

Already $ 83 million has been allocated through four operations. “Conversely, I overestimated the difficulty of finding good investments”, rejoices Mr. Badré who has established a partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank. The two partners thus support the development in Latin America of Cabify, Uber’s Spanish competitor.

“It was not obvious for us a priori to help a VTC platform but the founder of Cabify Juan d’Antonio included in his objectives access to mobility in areas poorly served by public transport or even the reduction in the number of accidents, a major cause of death in Latin America “, says the investor. At this stage, a bank in Ecuador, an IT company in Brazil, a Colombian Fintech complete the portfolio.

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“I had a vision of sustainable development that was very much linked to my experience at the World Bank and I thought that we were going to finance mainly infrastructure. But with the low rates, many investors are looking for these types of projects whose prices are skyrocketing. This is not the case with financial services, for example, where the positive impact can also be very significant in countries where access to finance is complicated, whether for households or SMEs “, adds Mr. Badré.

“The creation of jobs, gender equality, taking into account the natural environment and innovation, are the criteria that weigh for more than 50% in our analyzes” Bertrand Badré

It’s always the difficulty: how to check the improvement brought by these investments which promise meaning? “We have spent a lot of time developing both scoring and impact measurement tools”, explains Mr. Badré, “When we invest in a company, we ask managers to commit to two or three sustainable development goals. The creation of jobs, gender equality, consideration of the natural environment and innovation, are the criteria that weigh more than 50% in our analyzes “.

And to insist: “We do not come with good feelings to lecture emerging countries. We must be careful that sustainable development does not become a new Washington consensus ”, this tacit agreement dating from the 1990s conditioning the aid granted by international institutions to the countries of Latin America to the deregulation of their economy.

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