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Make a Case for Sustainable Business

Barbara Campbell, Director of Parent and Alumni Relations
On any given day, Nate Twichell ’02 could be visiting cows at a local dairy farm to discuss raw milk production or roaming alfalfa fields to promote regenerative agriculture in the hope of turning those acres into produce-growing fields. The next day he could be measuring the carbon footprint of transporting meat from Hailey, Idaho, to a production plant across the country and back again to sell at local markets.

A former science teacher and school administrator, Nate is Executive Director at Sun Valley Institute for Resilience (SVIR), which guides impact investors on how to help communities be sustainable into the future by enacting change and growing understanding in the areas of food, water, and energy. He loves his job.

Nate works with investors, local farmers, and owners who are interested in sustainably growing their businesses. SVIR gives low or no-interest loans rather than grants. “If you help the recipients build business acumen and grow in a smart, measured way, loans are the way to go. Loans actually require accountability, which makes the business more resilient and sustainable for the long run as opposed to just receiving a grant,” said Nate. “We feel impact investing is a more sustainable way to build our businesses in the long run.”

The question Nate faces every day is: What is it we need to do here in our valley and our region to make us more sustainable and resilient? “It’s a case of thinking globally but acting hyper-locally. We hope to be a long-term model that people can look at in other places.”

He said, “I love to think about the data aspects of what we’re doing and also watch businesses work through the riddle of how to use the capital to create a solution.” With the dairy farm, for example, Nate has to consider what kind of criteria they need to lower their impact. He thinks about quantifying methane output, the carbon footprint required to bring products to market, and the ultimate amount of food this farm will produce for the local food system.

An aspect of his job that Nate really likes is being able to take these “on-the-ground” stories and share them with donors and impact investors. “It’s really easy to have a conversation with a donor when you believe in what you’re doing.”

Nate’s work has terroir or a sense of place. Generally, it is a term used to describe the essence of wine or food, with notes of the climate or soil condition of a particular region. It’s also a feeling or sense of the reason you do the work. This sense of place informs his work.

Nate said he and his family love living in Hailey. “Eliza and I came for a winter when we graduated from college, and, after a brief return to New England, never left. We have been here for almost 15 years.”

SVIR serves Blaine County residents, but the area of impact is the ecosystem and businesses that support that. This gives them the flexibility to move into all of Southern Idaho. “This local model of impact investing is special. If you can focus on something that’s really local and show how you can mobilize capital locally, you can have a really profound impact on a specific region. Then if we knit that together throughout the country, throughout the world, that’s another model of thinking small to big to have an impact.”
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