How a Women-led Investment Firm is Supporting Clean Cooking
Nathalie Prado is a Managing Director of Investments at EcoEnterprises Fund, a women-led venture fund with a track record of over 20 years helping to grow businesses in Latin America that directly preserve and restore natural ecosystems, promote climate action, and create social equity concurrent with generating financial returns.
CCA interviewed Nathalie about the role of impact investment in expanding access to clean cooking.
This story is part of a series showcasing women leaders in the clean cooking sector.
Nathalie Prado always knew she wanted to build a career in non-traditional finance and work with enterprises in Latin America that generate positive impacts, including those that expand access to clean cooking solutions. She traces her motivation back to early childhood influences, including her upbringing in Costa Rica and her father’s influence.
“I feel grateful to have listened to my father’s voice and spent hours reading and years traveling because it was from these experiences that I began my own journey, an adventure filled with the same beauty, struggles, and challenges that I once read in books — with the difference that now I am not just a reader,” Prado said. “Through my work, I have the opportunity to contribute and generate positive and long-lasting impact in this region and beyond.”
Prado has built a remarkable 15-year career at the EcoEnterprises Fund, a women-led investment fund building investment portfolios focusing on critical natural ecosystems and working landscapes in Latin America. Among the Fund’s many investment recipients is Sistema.bio, a biogas company serving small to medium-scale farmers in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
“Sistema.bio is of particular relevance within the EcoEnterprise Fund portfolio as it not only represents a diversification into emerging technologies but also, its scalable biogas product line contributes to the circular economy offering a means for cooking, heating and energy generation while reducing waste, generating organic fertilizer and avoiding deforestation for firewood.”
Through tailored investments structured to the needs of each company, combined with our close engagement, EcoEnterprises Fund is able to not only better accelerate women-led businesses but also boost better outcomes for the women stakeholders across our portfolio companies. Sistema.bio is a great example of this approach: the company is changing the lives of thousands of women in the Global South by providing them with affordable clean cooking solutions that improve practices and positively impact their and their family’s health.”
While investment opportunities in clean cooking and renewable energy have been on the rise, Prado believes this trend is relatively recent.
“The impact investment space constantly evolves to include new and innovative business opportunities that solve the challenges we face as humanity,” she said. “With a more urgent need to reduce emissions, increase climate resilience, and support overall planetary health, investment opportunities for clean cooking solutions have gained significant relevance over the past years. It is worth noting that this evolution has also opened the door to more organizations seeking to invest in impact, with the ability to provide financing that adapts to a particular company’s needs and the industry’s realities.”
However, Prado is keenly aware that many clean cooking companies still face challenges accessing capital, which can be debilitating to entrepreneurs testing innovative ideas.
“For any growing company, including those in the clean cooking sector, scaling and executing the ‘go-to-market’ strategy during the investment period is typically the biggest roadblock to funding,” she said. “As a relatively new product offering, there is significant pressure to both prove the investment thesis while at the same time growing and generating cash flows — a difficult task for an emerging entity. Therefore, finding like-minded investors aligned with the company’s growth strategy and sector is critical to ensuring long-term success.”
Prado feels lucky to have had the opportunity to develop her career in a women-led fund with a particular interest in inclusive investments and women’s empowerment. “Women can use their voices, actions, and emotions as powerful tools for change,” she said. “My advice to girls and women considering careers in impact investing is: ‘do it, go for it.’ It is an enriching journey that will challenge and expand your limitations. Be passionate about this field and believe that what you are doing — or will be — matters.”