Carbon Roots International

Year: 2016 Geographic Region: Caribbean | Haiti

Criteria Met:
  • Catalytic
  • Discrete
  • Mid-Implementation
  • Unexpected
About the Project
The Situation
The Roadblock
Open Road's Response
The Situation

Carbon Roots International (CRI) is a leading social enterprise in the renewable energy sector, producing sustainable green charcoal cooking fuel in Haiti by purchasing agricultural waste from smallholder farmers and processors in Haiti and processing it into high-quality charcoal cooking fuel. It is then sold at a discount through a network of women retailers to some of the poorest households in the Western Hemisphere.

Green charcoal is a cheaper, more efficient, replacement for traditional wood charcoal, which is the leading contributor to mass deforestation in Haiti.

Carbon Roots International is currently the largest producer of charcoal—sustainable or traditional—in Haiti and has the only branded charcoal on the market. With a team of over 40 local staff, CRI has developed a scalable commercial charcoal model that creates broad impact.

In order to continue scaling its business and impact, in 2016 CRI needed new equipment to increase production of green charcoal. The organization wanted to grow from providing less than 1% of fuel consumed in Haiti, to supplying 50% of Haiti’s charcoal and expand to six countries over the next decade. Upgraded equipment was a vital part of the organization’s growth and investment plan.

The Roadblock

In March 2016 one of CRI’s largest funders, USAID, agreed to finance the purchase and installation of upgraded production equipment and provide added working capital, lowering the risk for interested impact investors the organization was seeking in order to scale the enterprise. Originally estimated to be disbursed in April 2016, the USAID contracting process was severely delayed, with CRI caught up in an intra-agency territorial dispute. While waiting for USAID to resolve the issues and deploy the funding, CRI was drained of its financial resources.

Although the demand for CRI’s green charcoal was never higher, the organization was faced with the possibility of temporary shutdown due to lack of working capital, which would have negatively affected staff morale, project momentum, and perceptions of the local green charcoal brand.

Open Road's Response

In order to keep CRI’s production uninterrupted, Open Road Alliance provided the enterprise with a discrete, short-term loan of $250,000 in October of 2016 that allowed the organization to maintain operations, meet payroll and invest in production equipment that was vital to the organization’s growth while they awaited the USAID grant to be disbursed.

In early 2017, CRI received the promised award from USAID and has repaid the loan from Open Road in full. Today, the organization is producing green charcoal on newly purchased equipment and is back on track to significantly scale its operations and, in turn, its social and environmental impact.