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New Consultancy Kune Brings Finance and Sustainability Together


Kune Founder Jeroen Bollen. All images courtesy of Kune.

A new consultancy based in Central America called Kune (LinkedIn page) has planted itself squarely at the intersection of sustainability, coffee agribusiness and finance.

Taking its name from the universal Esperanto language word for “together,” Kune was created by longtime agricultural business and finance professional Jeroen Bollen.

While thanking mentors such as David Griswold (Sustainable Harvest founder), Willy Foote (Root Capital founder) and Liam Brody (CEO of COSA), Bollen announced the launch of Kune late last month.

Kune logo

Bollen told DCN that the “together” concept reflects his view on “how I think we can achieve equitable progress for all stakeholders, not only from an economic point of view, but also thinking about the environment and the social structures in society.”

Currently based in Alajuela, Costa Rica, Bollen has been involved in social lending, cooperative management and sustainable development for more than two decades, primarily involving the coffee sector and smallholder producers.

Bollen started his career as the general manager of Manos Campesinas coffee producers’ cooperative in Guatemala, leading it through significant growth and the conversion into a nonprofit business. He later joined Massachusetts-based Root Capital, eventually becoming the nonprofit agricultural lending firm’s general manager for Latin America.

Jeronimo Bollen.

RC Latin America Staff Retreat 2012..

After 11 years in finance, Bollen joined U.S. green coffee company Sustainable Harvest, taking on roles such as director of impact and sustainability, and director of supply and operations.

“Not many people have had the opportunity to see the coffee business from so many angles — the producer and coop perspective, the finance and business aspect of it all, the importer side of things,” Bollen told DCN. “I have had the luxury of obtaining certain experiences throughout my working life, and I feel it’s now my duty to share whatever I can to support others who might not have those experiences yet.”

With Kune, Bollen is remaining squarely focused on the Latin American agricultural sector, particularly coffee, while helping to connect different stakeholders and operations towards common goals.

Root Capital staff and board participate in a Board Retreat in Chiapas, Mexico.

Root Capital staff and board participate in a Board Retreat in Chiapas, Mexico.

“Ultimately, I think that most of the work I can do is either directly with producer coops, or through third parties like social lenders, and other organizations that offer services to producer coops, e.g. NGOs that offer environmental services or capacity building training, but also importers or roasters,” Bollen said. “Ideally, I’d like to support the development of things that will be used by several players, not just one coop, to generate more impact.”

The first major project under the Kune name has come through the Acorn initiative from lender Rabobank, which is designed to financially support smallholder farmers transitioning to agroforestry systems. Bollen is helping to establish the Acorn model in Costa Rica.

“Given the current state of the climate, this is an important initiative, as it not only generates much-needed additional income for smallholder producers, but it also recognizes and highlights the role that smallholder producers already play in increasing climate resilience and countering climate change,” Bollen said.

Moving forward, Bollen plans to involve Kune in more projects that may positively affect smallholder coffee farmers or help boost the coffee industry’s sustainability efforts.

“From day one in my career I’ve always tried to be the ‘hinge’ between different stakeholders, different cultures, different interests,” Bollen said. “The Relationship Coffee Model at Sustainable Harvest has done a lot to reduce those gaps, but I think there’s still a lot to be done, and I feel I’m in a unique position to support others with this, especially related to sustainability, business models and finance.”

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