Troy Wiseman’s heart for people has been a critical factor in his outstanding success as an entrepreneur, businessman, investor and leader. Changing lives in communities devoid of hope has become more than just a passion. It is a personal mission that has been written into everything Troy does and indeed has been the backbone of each of his line of successful companies

Back then in the 1980’s, Troy was in his early 20s, building his first company B.U.M. Clothing into a $120 million entity. Troy’s ambition was not driven by fashion, but a simple love of people; an inherent attachment to those he saw and met worldwide - from the rural US where he grew up to across the developing world. These were people without much hope, money or education, people who reminded him of where he had come from and whose shoes he had walked in. The situation he could easily still be in today, had he made different choices.

This impact, however, previously focused heavily on job creation, doing what Troy calls ‘giving a hand up, not a hand out’ by providing people who are willing to work hard an opportunity to better their future and that of their families. This heart for people is what Troy believes makes or breaks a business. His own development of businesses that give people a voice, starting at the grass roots level, was in action long before a whole science, now termed ‘impact investing’ or ‘social entrepreneurship’ evolved.

And then things changed, taking building a business around people to a whole new level. A few years ago, Troy was suddenly challenged to question why his passion to positively change the world omitted the environment – the water, the forests, the very elements that these communities depended upon for their survival. The question originated from a friend’s belief that without attaining environmental stability, you simply can’t ensure long-term impact within many of the sorts of communities that Troy’s heart cries to help. Most significantly, without reversing the negative land use change that is at the root of much human despair. Such communities – across Latin America, Asia, Africa, and beyond – have traditionally lived in non monetary societies, depending upon and existing in harmony with the land.

But population pressure, combined with an ever approaching agricultural frontier has jeopardized the ability for a dependence on natural resources to continue to be a lifestyle choice for millions of forest dependent people. A negative feedback cycle that has become further compounded by the effects of climate change and its impacts on lives, rich and poor.

Over the next few months Troy’s answer morphed from ‘I want to change lives, not trees’ to a deep understanding that without providing sustainable alternative solutions, the downward spiral from flourishing smallholder livelihoods into poverty is ultimately inevitable.

Simply put – forests, and the ecosystem services that they provide, from water cycling, to healthy soils, to maintaining a microclimate that smallholder farmers understand – represent life for many rural communities and ultimately, our planet. And yet increasing global demand for timber and wood products continues to put pressure on such forests and the millions of people dependent upon them. Troy’s solution – sustainably grown bamboo – addresses many of these issues.

Co-founded in 2010 as a truly triple bottom line company, Troy’s latest venture, EcoPlanet Bamboo is built upon the philosophy that the upfront financial cost of developing strong social and environmental standards and policies pays itself back multiple fold over time. That what many companies see as an unnecessary cost, a marketing tool, an intangible asset, is in reality converted into a highly tangible long-term asset. Why? A work force dedicated to the Company, providing significantly less turn-over, local community support, which in turn provides stronger central government support, cost and time savings related to having fewer social and environmentally related legal issues and ultimately a clear conscious, confident that you are making a real difference in the lives of people and the planet. The result is that EcoPlanet Bamboo’s model proves that you don’t have to give up the ability to earn a strong and commercially competitive financial return to do good – a theory commonly believed amongst a growing field of social entrepreneurship and impact investing. On the contrary, you can do and achieve both.

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