Artwork for podcast Be & Think in the House of Trust
Investing in Equality & Sustainability with Maria Tinelli
Episode 22nd December 2022 • Be & Think in the House of Trust • Servane Mouazan
00:00:00 00:35:02

Share Episode


In this episode of Be & Think in the House of Trust, I speak to Maria Tinelli, a social finance specialist from Argentina. She is a Strategic Business Advisor of Pro Mujer International, and the Director and Founder of Acrux Partners, an impact investment intermediary and market developer focused on Latin America. She also founded and heads the Impact Investment National Advisory Board for Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

In this episode, Maria and I talk about how responsible investing can create meaningful change in our society, particularly around gender equality and environmental sustainability.

We discuss Maria’s own battle against systems of power, and the elephants in the room. She shares real-world examples of how investing in the right way today can have a genuine impact on the world we live in tomorrow.

Highlights from this episode: 

(03:18) Changing the status quo 

(08:36) Creating a wave effect 

(12:20) It makes no sense not to have equality 

(17:52) Creating collateral beauty in the finance sector 

(21:44) Adapting financial instruments to join the fight against climate change 

(27:19) The hot air balloon 

Useful Links

Maria Tinelli on Linkedin

Pro Mujer

Acrux Partners

Connect with Servane:



Subscribe to Conscious Innovation updates:


Welcome to Be and Think in the House of Trust. My name Iser Moison from Conscious Innovation, and in this series I create a thinking environment with people who ignite social and environmental impact through their investment or funds, resources, and commitments. For a better world, we look at the conditions that generate more trust, more effective and kind collaborations, and also we look with professionals in this ecosystem at what makes it easier for them to amplify their impact, to embrace complexity, and to do more work.

That really changes things for the better. It always seems impossible until it's done, said Nelson Mandela. My next guest, Maria Tinelli, is an Argentinian and a social finance specialist, and she loves these quotes by Mandela. She surely sees the glass hole full, but even for her, sometimes the tasker ahead seems impossible.

So Maria started her own Impact finance company to develop what she believed in. The premise was to really change the status quo through which finances and our economic system, capitalist system seems to operate, which she finds extremely unfair, not only to her other human beings, but to the planet.

Maria focuses on the SDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals as a framework, and she also worked very deeply on gender equality. And through a personal story, she explains to us how to create your catalytic circles of power and the responsibility and hope that come with these. So I hope you enjoy this episode in the House of Trust.


everyone. Every week I'm sharing a moment with an inspiring leader who loves to invest in social and environmental change and helps us tell one another and the planet you matter. Together we take the time to think beyond skills and competencies about the behaviors and conditions that help you trust and collaborate, deliver on your strategy, and fulfill your mission as an impact.

And today I have Maria Laura Tin, strategic business advisor of promo, her international promo, her means four women, and it's there to advance gender equality in Latin America. Maria, you are the director and the founder of a Partners, an impact investment intermediary and market developer focused on Latin America.

You founded an ahead day and you had the Impact Investment National Advisory Board for Argentina, UA and paua. And together with Social Finance UK and the Inter-American Development Bank, you've structured the first social impact bond for Argentina and you know, act as the social impact bond performance.

Since early:


thank you, Servan. It's a pleasure to share this time together and, and, and another very insightful conversations like the one we always have together, what seems impossible sometimes the task ahead seems impossible in terms of. What I set up to do when I decided to, um, start my own company to start doing what I believed in, was to really change the status quo, to change the parting through which finances and, and, uh, our.

Economic system, the capitalist system seems to operate, which is extremely unfair, not only to other human beings, but um, to the planet as a whole. So that sometimes, depending on, on the week you have or on the day you wake up, might seem, uh, a very daunting task. But what I've learned through many, many years of trying to change this status quo is that, It doesn't matter how impossible the task seems, if you start breaking it into little pieces and, and start pulling from one thread, uh, that is closer to you in order to affect that change, even if it means changing the way you do something on your day to day life, like instead of throwing the rubbish all in the same bin, starts separating something as simple and as, as small as that might seem, will have an eventual impact You can take.

That then to your professional life, you can start, um, trying to affect change in the circles of powers that we all operate in. Doesn't mean that you have a director title or a co title. Uh, it, it doesn't mean that those individuals are the only ones interacting with circles of powers. We all interact with circles of power all the time.

Mm-hmm. , we all. Ways of affecting change and voting, whether it is with a vote, with our wallets, with how we invest our pension, with how we invest our, our money, regardless of how much or little we have with the little circles of power that we interact with day in, day out. And try to, uh, draw attention to people when they're into patterns that reinforce the system that is not taking us, um, very far, at least not the majority of, of the human race, uh, all the planet and, and start changing from there.

So, Whenever the task seems impossible, and it does many times, you pull from the thread that you've got closest and you try to affect change in your different circles of power.

Mm. I love this little circles of powers because there seems something like, uh, it seems, it sounds like a responsibility, but it, there's a lot of hope in that as well.

What do you think?

There is a lot of hope. I think I am a hopeful person. I'm like, Plus have full kind of person and, and, and I have a personality that is wired in that way, potentially from things that happen to me at a very early age in my life. You, you have two options when, when life throws stuffs at, at you and, and throws heavy stuff at you, you have two options.

It's like you're either going to see the glass half empty and that's gonna. Create your neurological pathway for, for, for life, really. Uh, and you're gonna see the, the glass half empty all the time, regardless of how many beautiful and bountiful things life throws at you afterwards. Or you can see that as, as also an opportunity to see things in a different way.

To see, I saw a movie once that it's called Collateral Beauty and it's, it's literally that. It's to see the collateral beauty in many of, of the other things. Seem unnoticeable when something hard is happening. So that translated to what I do in life. I think there's a lot of that into, uh, how I perceive the work I do and how even if the task seems enormous, this other little circles of of power is where I see hope and is if I manage to affect change.

In a particular bank, in a particular country. Well, that's great. I don't need to change the whole system because I, I'm, I'm trustful in that that change in that particular institution will then affect change in its own right and would create this sort of catalytic effect. And it sounds like a big word, catalytic effect.

But when you start seeing that happening in practice, when you start seeing that people. Repeat some stuff you said or that, or are using things that are you believe in and that you were the one that introduced that conversation in that particular institution or in that particular little circle of power that gives me hope.

Because you're not alone. It

reminds me of the, the effect of a, a positive virus, you know, like the, the, the benevolent contamination in, in from one person to another. That brings change one conversation at a time. One, one show at a time, one investment at a. I love this. It, it reminds, it reminds me as well of the necessary effort that we need to make, to really pause and talk to people and, and, you know, listen to them and take them on the journey where they can in turn affect change.

Hmm indeed. And it, and you create this, you create this sort of like a wave effect. You have to be mindful though, that you will set, many times you will set it in motions. Many times others have set it in motion or you're jumping on that wave to take it forward, but then you don't know where it ends. So mindful of you take it up to a point and then you let go and it will go on its own and it will take a form of its own.

And that's sometimes a hard thing to do because you, you. Each of us think on a particular way and are very passionate about the things we do, and we think, okay, this is the way I imagined it. Well, it's not, it isn't gonna end up the way you imagine it, it's gonna end up a different way. But that's not bad.

That's a good thing, is that there's been an appropriation of either the idea or the proposition you were making to the market or to the system of power that you were trying to affect change in. And um, and then that, that has been taken forward, but it. It's gonna take a different dimension, it's gonna take a different, um, form than the one you maybe imagined.

So, so long as you're comfortable with that, then you're fine. So yeah, that's, that's exactly what it is. You create, you, you plant the seed. And then I always say that, especially when I speak to students at university level, students, it's, uh, I'm sewing the land here, I'm preparing the land, and I'm planting little seeds in, in, in heads.

And then it's, you gonna take it forward. I might not even. The amazing things that you're gonna do in life, because I might not be here anymore, but the fact that you take this forward. That's all we want.

Wow. Well, that's another, another string to your, to your instrument there. You got a gardening, a philosophical gardening, um, um, job here, with teaching students.

Maria, you work at the intersection of social finance and gender equality. How does that connect with what you've just said?

Well, I think that gender equality is one of the most. It was one of the biggest, most obvious elephants in the room, but it's, we still need to talk about it. My, my, my wish is that we don't have to talk about gender equality anymore in, in a few years time because it's so obvious that the world's population is half and half.

That why should it be any different? The fact that it's not, it's. It then becomes part and parcel of what I do in more overall terms, in terms of impact investment, and of changing this status quo that we all seem to be operating under. Um, so the intersection comes in many ways, but one is, It's not that.

It's, um, it's a right and it's an acquired right of, of women because we are human beings. Because we co inhabit this land together with men to have the same rights and to have the same rights, to access to essential services, but also essential opportunities, uh, that will enable half of the population to flourish.

So it's not only from a point of view of, okay. There is a hu like a, like an undeniable human right here that it's at stake, but it's also because it's so stupid not to . It's, uh, an undeniable, massive opportunity of economic growth. If you look at it from a country level perspective of from a GDP perspective.

It's a, it's an undeniable opportunity in terms of less risky or more robust growth, uh, if you own a company or if you wanna make a company grow, if you wanna invest in a fund. So it makes no sense not to have gender equality in my head and in the head of many others that are, are real experts on the, on the topic.

So the intersection comes in. If I am all. Okay. We need to change the status quo because it's taking us to places as a human race and as a planet where we're gonna literally crash into the wall. Gender is a big, big part of it because there are many. Groups that are, their rights are being denied, uh, or that were, um, the different power forces at play that will diminish their opportunities in life and their, and the ways they interact with the economic system or with society as a whole, such as the race, such as, uh, being from a, a sexual minority.

So the Lt q i, um, community. Other, other minorities within the different countries or within the different, uh, regions of the world that are in constant fight and in constant push to preserve their rights, to preserve their land, to preserve their customs, their culture, et cetera. But they're all important.

But gender is so much in your face. It's like half of the population that it becomes, okay, we're gonna start from somewhere. Let's start back here. Because it's so big. The problem is so big and it's so real. And the third thing of where it interconnects is that on my day to day, Life. I experience gender discrimination in many microwaves that are sometimes not even noticed or you're, you're, you're brought up not to notice, or you're brought up not to fight against them because it's not ladylike or because it's, oh, you don't want to be that person that is always nagging about this.

But the more you know, and the more you become aware of it, you go. Okay. This permeates everything I do in life. So it doesn't matter if I had chosen to be a dentist, it would permeate if I, if you become aware of the issue, it's impossible not to find the intersection between what you do and, and gender because it's affecting your day to day life.

So for me, it's, um, it came more as. Opportunity. But as a, as a, a boss that I had years ago said, once, once conscious is awakening you, it's very hard to quiet it. To make it quiet again. And that's what happened to me and gender. So I'm. I'm a woman, but I'm also, um, a gay woman. I'm married to a woman. Uh, and it, it took a lot of me to, to go through that journey coming from the culture I come from, how I had been brought up, the family I come from.

So I had to fight a lot of battles. I fought them in solitude and I, I never wanted to be outspoken. I never wanted to be like, uh, uh, like being the one carrying the flag or anything. I wanted to not annoy. Anyone. Uh, and in a way when working specifically on gender, though, I had studied it in university and it, it had never clicked.

Until the opportunity of working on this specifically came, and that's when I became really aware of all these micro levels of confinement that women find that really prevent them from reaching their food potential. And it doesn't matter, of course, it's a lot more, uh, acute and problematic if you. A black lesbian, uh, other minority women living in a particular country.

Of course that's a lot worse than, uh, if you are me. Who is white, who has had the privilege of being educated and loved as a child and who has had the privilege of an open-minded family that accompanied her along the way. But it's still at the, at the job level and at many other levels, it's, it's, it's so ridiculous.

And once you become aware, I mean it's, now it's, it's cutting across everything I do and whenever I have the chance to speak up and say, Hey, listen, why don't you have a woman in that panel or, Are you paying for your male speakers to fly over and speak in that conference? Are you paying also for your female speakers?

And if they say no, it's like, well, unless you pay, I'm not gonna travel. I'm not gonna participate in this. Having that validation and, and that sort of courage to speak up to me came when I started consciously working on gender. And now I cannot quiet it down. I'm not. I don't know the, the, the kind of of personality or person that will be annoying everybody along the way.

But I will say things and, and things that I would not have said before, like little jokes that are made especi in Latin, in America, such a matter culture. You go to a meeting or you go to a meeting with friends and the jokes about women are constant and they're coming as waves all the time. And so, Or I'm learning to say no, and there's a boundary here.

Don't, don't say that that's bad. And I'm learning to say that to myself as well. It's like, what you've just said is diminishing, it's limiting. It's, don't say that. So yeah, it's, it's been a journey, but one that I'm very thankful and I feel very privileged that to be working, for example now with promo.

Has opened all these other dimension of, um, yeah. Of, of what I'm fighting for, if you like, uh,

moving forward. Wonderful. So I wonder at p how can social finance create collateral beauty?

So in many ways, and I think pram is, that's where I, I talk about the opportunity because it's, although I was aware, I wasn't really aware.

It wasn't until I started really working with an organization that it's actually a leader in the field, uh, that I became much more aware. So my, my work with them is, is basically to try and find this find. Create, develop, launch, and implement this different financing vehicles through which. Other kinds of investors that are not the traditional investors in , which for 31 years has been mainly a microfinance institution, can start investing with a gender lens.

Uh, and, and, and tapping into other segments of the market that are either underserved, like the missing middle, so small companies in Latin America that are owned or led by women or that employ a lot of women in their value. or, uh, accessing the capital markets, for example, towards investing with a gender lens.

So on, on that particular front, my work at promos is really finding the inter intersection between the instruments, so the financial instruments. Mm-hmm. the capital. What kind of investors will invest in these instruments and, and through which means, and the impact. So to which segment of the market, to which kind of women are we tapping?

What is the gender lens that we are applying here? Because it doesn't necessarily always means that you're investing in women. It might be that you're investing in sectors that disproportionately affect for, uh, women in a good way or in a bad way. So you're trying to curb what's the wrong doing of investing in certain sectors that affect women in a bad.

And you're trying to prompt investing in sectors that are giving women more opportunities, whether it is in accessing services, in accessing services like education or health or preventative health, access to finance, et cetera. So that's where the intersection lies, is you wanna make women part and parcel.

The economy, the financial sector, the opportunities that we all should have. Well, then you have to invest making sure that that's not overlooked or that it's not taken for granted. Like, oh, I'm putting out an instrument or a product to the market. I'm a bank. I'm putting out a product for SMEs, but.

Whenever an SME that is led by a woman is approaching a commercial office of that bank in a particular location in that country, the officer sat behind the desk in that particular bank will say, oh, that's all very good. Your company seems fine. Now, bring your husband in order to sign the papers to open the account.

So, yes, the bank is opening up finance, but unless it looks into those little, little details. Excluding women from that. And that's a very obvious example, but sadly, I must say it's an example that it's real and it comes from Latin in America. Um, there are many other layers that you can work on so as to make finance accessible, to invest with a gender lens, which again, by no means, means only investing in women.

It means. Making sure that there are no curve balls or they're not hitting facts there that you're forgetting about, that will at the end of the day, prevent women from having a fair deal when they go to market.

Mm. And so, I wonder, there's a lot of talks at the moment to, um, to address big, big issues or it says, we look at climate change and we look at how women are disproportionately affected, uh, by climate change.

How do financial instrument need to adapt to join? Both. Or is it, is it a

limit to that? There is a clear link in areas that. I mean in in countries and in areas of the world that are a very prone to natural disasters, which you can now say. It's to natural events. They're, there's no such thing as a natural disaster.

So they're prone to natural climatic events. So for example, areas such as Bangladesh or parts of Southeast Asia that are prone to flash flooding, like what happened now in Pakistan, for example. Uh, or, uh, areas like Central America that are very prone to cyclones and hurricanes or areas that are very prone to, uh, having earthquakes where you see.

Where you see the effects of mass deforestation and how that affects rain patterns and, and famine, for example, and the effects of rain patterns over crops and, and in time over access to food for very, very, very vulnerable segments of the population. You see a very clear in intersection between. What climate change is doing and how the biggest burden of the effects of climate change into those natural climatic events becoming a disaster is burned by women.

And girls. Why? Because they're the ones carrying children when they have to escape from a flash flow because, for example, in countries such as Bangladesh, a lot of women do not know how to swim. Or even if they know how to swim, their clothing is so restrictive, Saudis that they cannot swim fast enough to get out of.

And this is real things. My first job in development. Was on disaster risk reduction. So this is real. This is real. Some women, even if they could swim, they can't because of the closing. So there you see a very clear link of what's going on with, with, with African in certain countries like, um, Because of the effects of war in Ukraine and not enough, uh, wheat or different grains being able to flow through the system, but also because of the effect of climate change and, and, and the biggest drought in 40 years and how that has affected the, the crops that they had in order to feed themselves on how famine disproportionately affects women.

So you see the clear link there when you look at other. The link is less clear, at least to me. There is an indirect link between climate change and gender. And so I think that in countries like the ones that I've described that are prone to natural hazards that become disastrous, which are always manmade, so, or human race mate, let's you said gender neutral term.

There there very clear link in other parts of the world. This is my own personal opinion. There is a lot of hype around climate and I'm investing in climate change because that is a area of the market for impact investment and sustainable fi finance. You can look at any indicator or any, like, you can look at bonds, you can look at the indicators that are being, um, pass, like, um, published by iffc, by the gin, et cetera.

That's where the largest section of the money that is floating in the market, both for sustainable finance and impact investment, has gone and is still going. That's where the triggers are. Okay. So there's a lot of hype about that. There's a lot of hype about Net Zero, about just transition, about investing in, in, in stopping the, uh, climatic disaster that we're all headings.

And there's a lot of hype right now about gender, which is a good thing. Both things are a good thing, but there's an opportunistic view in my high view of joining the two together to try and traction capital. Towards the two issues at the same time, how can you connect the dots if you are investing with gender and climate change when you are a, I don't know, a company that is located in a particular state in the us?

To me is less clear or in, let's say in Argentina where Yeah, with agribusiness it's a, it's a big business not only in Argentina, but in many other Latin American countries like Bolivia. You look at Parago, you look at any country, agribusiness is a huge industry. It's not subsistence farming. Yes, there is an effect of climate change on rain patterns and on the quality of soil and on the quality of the crop that you're producing through.

Very big business in in these countries in Latin America. Is there a clear connection between that and gender? Uh, no. Why? Because the way. Those crops are being produced. So those natural resources are being exploited. So automated by now that, is there an effect on women's employment? Not really. That were not there.

Is there an effect on access to education and quality of life? Yes, but it's separate from the fact that Agri business and climate Change have a link. You know, it's, it's a nuance. There's not, there's not such a clear link. In my personal view, it is clear in countries that are prone to natural hazards, not so clear in countries that are feeling the effects of climate change, but it's not so much intertwined with the generation, which is very real and very palpable and very much a real thing, but it seems to be going through a different route than whatever's happening with.

Sounds to me like there's a glass full of air somewhere, .

Oh, there's many. There's many, many in the impact investment field. I mean, I've done the tour this year of conferences, which is amazing because we're back to normal. But I was shocked. I mean, because with the trillion comes the huge responsibility of now ensuring that the 1.164 trillion US dollars that are floating on impact investment are not a hot air balloon.

And I think. It's a lie. It's fake to say that, oh, we don't have, it's too costly to measure this or to factor this into how you do a profit and loss for a company. How, how do you factor in the impact cost of this, or how do you factor this? Like the impact wage financial accounts are trying to do to, um, assign a financial value to the impact?

Both positive and negative that a particular investment or a particular company has on people and planet. It's a lie that we cannot do it, we can do it. The fact that we choose not to has to do with political pressures, with the little circles or big circles of power that still dominate the conversation.

It's a, it's a lie that we don't have the technology to migrate from carbon to other things. There's, there's a conscious decision not to move faster. So yeah, one point. 1.164 trillion item item. I mean, it could be 50 trillion for, for all that matters. The reality is that it's not moving to where it needs to go for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with us having the means or the technology or the knowledge to do it.

It has to do with power. It has to do. Political forces at play that prevent that from happening. And if we enable this to continue this way, yes, it's a hot air, it's, it's a balloon field of hot air impact, gender and climate, whatever. So it's time to really narrow it down to, okay, what does it really mean and how do we account for this and what's the value of this?

And once we have that, then we can move

forward. Oh, Maria, you've given us some, some real pointers here, let alone the circle of power, the collateral beauty and, and, and, and, uh, and a glass house full. You, you've given us some pointers to really rethink about, uh, what's going on at the moment in social investment and through, you know, and, and looking at how can.

Be more thoughtful in the way we invest. How could, how could we be really courageous leaders, not just powerful leaders? How can we be more confident in, in, uh, activating investment in, in places that need it the most? Maria, I wonder is there, if there's a question that you want to, uh, ask yourself as you continue on your journey, what would that question.

me for this year. I said that:

Which was, you need to get this conversation into the right circles of power. Get this conversation going, get this topic as part of the discussion. Get it, get it in the, get it in. It's done. There's a big question mark on it's been done at what cost and now for what? Because if we. And I'm not talking about myself.

I'm talking about a lot of people that pushed in the same direction. We pushed, we got it there. We got it to what we call tipping point. Okay, fantastic. So what's next? Because tipping point, as we know, because that's what's happening right now. As it happened, it's not gonna solve the issue cuz it's a, it's a balloon filled with air, a little bit of substance, but a lot of air.

So how do we narrow it down? So to me it's what's the next thing that we need to be working on and focusing on? How do we curb. This so that we channel this energy and all these supposed trillions that are flowing in this direction, in the right manner so that they achieve the objective that they should achieve, and how do we become more vocal about it?

I think that up to now, in order to gain traction of the big brand, Funds and the big funds and the big names and the big whatever. We've been very, like I was describing myself with the issue of gender, it's like very nicely, nicely. We don't wanna antagonize anyone. We we're gonna come into the room. We wanna be part of the conversation, so we wanna be friends with everyone well enough.

That's it. We've done it now, so we are part of the conversation. Okay, now we need to push forward and if we antagonize some, well, so be it. So to me, the next big step forward is, okay, how do we really make sure that this supposedly trillions are moving in the right direction? That's why the SEG impact has, is adding value.

uestion that I had throughout:

Now coming to the end of the year, my answer is okay. It's in transparency. It's in working there. It's in developing the systems that will enable others to do this. And if I create my own investment vehicle, et cetera, or whatever we're, we're working with, uh, make sure that this is 100% robust because, uh, it makes no sense to do it.


So that's a clear invitation to rigor and robustness of, of action. Thank you so much,

Maria, for Oh, thank you, Ervan, for opening up the conversation and the opportunity.

My next guest in the House of Trust is Tara Sa, who is an African American early stage investor. Tara works at the intersection of economic development, social entrepreneurship, and impact investment. She loves building ecosystems for gender equity, ethnic diversity, representation, and inclusive development.

With Tara, we'll hop on the historical train to look at the roots of finance, the issues with capital that's relentlessly circulating among the same privileged circles of people, and the challenge we face today to break these patterns, especially if we want to keep widespread financial inclusion in mind.

Tara will call out new instruments and initiatives that give us hope, actually. So I look forward to welcoming you back to the House of Trust again. If you don't want to miss it, subscribe to the show anywhere you can find your podcast. And for more insights and opportunities to think independently for yourself.

Head to my website, see phone are not coded. You get and sign up for my regular conscious innovation updates. It's especially interesting for people who love to invest in social change and ignite a positive impact. So I look forward to connecting with you again.




More from YouTube