Whole Planet Foundation, the nonprofit organization founded by Whole Foods Market, seeks to alleviate poverty in communities around the world that supply Whole Foods stores. All of the Foundation’s overhead costs are covered by Whole Foods Market, meaning 100 percent of donations go straight to community micro-lending programs.
According to the Kiva organization, “microfinance is a general term to describe financial services to low-income individuals or to those who do not have access to typical banking services.”
Microfinance encompasses a wide array of services, such as credit, savings and small loans services. Whole Planet Foundation focuses on the credit component of microfinance by supporting microfinance institutions that provide small business loans.
To ensure the efficacy and intentions of Microfinance Institutions (MFIs), Whole Planet Foundation conducts careful research. Field teams in each country first identify potential partners. After reviewing relevant information, the list of potential partners is shortened.
Each institution is visited in person by Regional Directors. The field visit allows the Foundation “to see first-hand the approach and practices of an MFI”. Once approved, MFIs are eligible to receive grants from the Whole Planet Foundation to service their clients.
The field visit allows the Foundation “to see first-hand the approach and practices of an MFI”. Once approved, MFIs are eligible to receive grants from the Whole Planet Foundation to service their clients.
The Whole Planet Foundation does not work with government-run MFIs which they have found to be “poorly run and corrupt”. The Foundation states that it has found “great success by working with MFIs with no government affiliation”.
At the same time, the Foundation acknowledges that microcredit is not a “silver bullet” that can address all the factors that contribute to global poverty. As the website notes, one loan doesn’t immediately lift a family out of poverty.
However, MFIs, when run correctly, can help people without jobs start and maintain their own businesses. MFIs give people the opportunity to invest in their own potential and create opportunities for themselves and their families.
Whole Planet Foundation currently supports over 1.3 million micro-entrepreneurs in 70 countries around the world. Of note, 87 percent of those reached globally are women. This investment has been met with success, boasting a repayment rate of 97 percent.
One entrepreneur who is benefitting from the program is a woman named Yajaris from Nicaragua. According to the Foundation, she heard about her local MFI, Pro Mujer Nicaragua, from a neighbor several years ago. She used micro credit loans as a way to expand her kiosk business. Yajaris added a variety of vegetables, drinks and cleaning supplies to her inventory.
Microloans also helped Yajaris to purchase a refrigerator and shelves on which to display the new items. Within just three years, according to Whole Planet Foundation, her kiosk doubled in size. Yajaris used her savings and an additional housing loan from Pro Mujer to build a two-room home. She rents out that property and is currently using the rental income to save up for another floor.
According to Kiva, the benefits of MFIs have been proven to go far beyond supporting small businesses. By providing people with opportunities to become self-sufficient, household economic welfare stabilizes, allowing families to better cope with the challenges they face. The success of female-run businesses, in particular, contributes to the increase in gender equality. As households succeed, communities can grow to become more empowered and educated.
– Taylor Resteghini