Ecuador is home to the Choco Rainforest, one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, but the communities that live in the region are chronically poor and they often turn to logging and low-value farming to support themselves. These livelihoods only generate subsistence wages and destroy fragile habitats while hastening climate change. That’s why today only 5% of the Choco Rainforest remains.
For the past seventeen years Whole Forest has partnered with poor Ecuadorian forest communities engaged in illegal logging and helps them transition to a new, green economy based on sustainable forestry and wood product manufacturing. Today, the social enterprise employs 81 people at fair wages in its factory on the edge of the forest An additional 400 families in the region supply timber to Whole Forest and benefit from an improved standard of living while doing their part to preserve the Choco.
Whole Forest’s primary business is producing balsa laminate which is used to make turbine blades for the wind industry. Prized for its light weight and strength, Whole Forest also sells balsa to the marine and aerospace industries.
Balsa is endemic to the region and reaches maturity in only four years making it a highly renewable wood. Whole Forest pays a premium for their balsa and buys exclusively from families that practice sustainable agroforestry on their land.
With a loan from Beneficial Returns Whole Forest is expanding their operations into hardwoods which will be manufactured into residential and commercial flooring and furnishings. Unlike most hardwood operations which target a single variety, Whole Forest harvests a wide variety of trees based on their role in the ecosystem, not on their monetary value. In conjunction with NGOs and philanthropic foundations, the company also signs strategic long-term leases with land owners guaranteeing Whole Forest access to sustainable-harvested timber while ensuring that the forest will remain intact for an entire generation.
Beneficial Returns’ loan is expected to generate more full-time jobs at Whole Forest while also generating more income for poor families that lease land to Whole Forest or sell their timber to the business. Reflecting its commitment to rewarding impact, Beneficial Returns will waive the final loan payment if Whole Forest’s total economic benefit for the region exceeds $4M in the preceding twelve months.