CEMEX, one of the world’s largest building materials companies, is helping to
renovate Consuelo Silva’s modest home
in Jalisco, Mexico. That may not sound
like an important deal for the Monterrey-based firm, which has been behind such
mammoth projects as the 25,700 foot-long bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark. Call it a long-term investment.
Silva, her husband and their four children were squeezed into two little rooms
in an asbestos-sided house when they
discovered Patrimonio Hoy, a microcredit program developed by CEMEX in
1998. Using Patrimonio Hoy’s services,
such as lending for fixed-price materials
and technical assistance, the family finished their first project in 1999, adding an
extra room for the children.
Over the past nine years, more than
180,000 families like the Silvas—in
Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Dominican
Republic—have received similar help. For
CEMEX, it’s a way of mixing good works
with good marketing. More than 40 percent of CEMEX customers in Mexico are
low-income earners, and offering them
good credit on fair terms has paid off.
Patrimonio Hoy has provided over $67
million in credits since its inception—and
the loan repayment rate is a stunning 99
percent. The program has actually turned
a profit since 2004, thanks to its model
of direct delivery of materials to households, which not only cuts waste and
theft, but shortens construction times.
Many customers have gone on to finance
further expansions. Some have even built
their own businesses. Thanks to
Patrimonio Hoy, Silva’s house has been growing by leaps and bounds. “I’m planning
the second floor, with a terrace and a big
room for myself,” she boasts.
• CAnAl Cl@sE
Since early last year, more than 300,000 teachers and about
177,300 students in Mexico’s public schools have received round-the-clock educational broadcasting provided by Canal Cl@se.
Named after the satellite (and cable) educational channel on which
it is transmitted, Canal Cl@se was launched over 10 years ago by
the Cisneros Group to broadcast cultural, language, math, and science programs to schools and teacher-training centers around Latin
The Peruvian Educación Vía Satélite program, a partnership
between the government and the Group, is the latest example in its
efforts to make quality education available throughout the hemisphere. Canal Cl@se has turned out to be a profitable venture for
Cisneros Group, a family-owned communications company based
in Caracas, since its founding in 1996. Subscriptions to the educational channel are bundled with cable and satellite packages
in eight Latin American countries. Making Canal Cl@se subscrip-tion-based ensures not only its sustainability but also that there
is an engaged audience for the service. The agreement with Peru
will make Canal Cl@se available to 4,500 primary and secondary
schools throughout the country by June 2008. For a lot of young
Peruvians, that will represent their first introduction to the infrastructure of modern communications. —KB
Arcor Foundation of Argentina has supported more than 1,400
primary education and community-building projects throughout
the country. Its list of initiatives is impressive, but what makes it
unique is the commitment to get sustainable results.
The Arcor Group, started as a family business in 1951 in Córdoba, is one of the world’s largest candy producers. The Foundation was created in 1991 and began by making one-time donations
to schools and hospitals. In 1996 it switched its focus to providing long-term grants to organizations benefiting children, funding
teacher training, and at-risk youth programs, among others.
But pursuing social conscience did not mean ignoring business
principles. One of the benefits of Arcor’s support is the technical
guidance provided to its NGO grantees. Celia Susana Fava, of
Cári-tas in Córdoba, says Arcor’s emphasis on financial and programming reports helped to strengthen its management. “The magic
bullet is evaluation”, says Marcelo Cabrol of the Inter-American
Development Bank’s Education Division. Arcor Foundation has also
published several case studies on the initiatives it funds, so others
can replicate them. Its pioneering work has earned the first place
on Clarín newspaper’s list of Argentina’s 100 most-admired businesses for four years in a row. —Caitlin Miner-Le Grand