US Vice President Kamala Harris in meeting. – September 2021 (Shutterstock)
By White House
As part of her role addressing the root causes of migration from Central America, Vice President Kamala Harris announced seven new commitments as part of the Call to Action she launched on May 27 for businesses and social enterprises to make new, significant commitments to sustainably address the root causes of migration by promoting economic opportunity. Commitments announced today include those from: CARE International, Cargill, Grupo Mariposa, Parkdale Mills, PepsiCo, JDE Peet’s, and PriceSmart.
In addition, Mastercard, Microsoft, and Nespresso—who announced initial commitments in May—announced further action in the region. As a result, businesses and social enterprises have invested more than $1.2 billion in response to the Vice President’s launch of the Call to Action.
The Vice President announced these new commitments during her closing remarks at a virtual event co-hosted by the State Department and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the Partnership for Central America, drawing over 1,300 business, government and civil society leaders from across the region and the United States, to encourage more companies to respond to the Call. Initial commitments made during the launch of the Call to Action are already bearing fruit. Some highlights include:
- Microsoft catalyzed the development of digital access training centers, clean off-grid energy, and broadband access covering a population of 1.1 million people. The company engaged more than one hundred thousand individuals in soft technical and digital skills training.
- Nespresso works with over 1,200 farms in Guatemala to improve livelihoods in the region. The company announced its first-ever coffee sourcing from Honduras and El Salvador, with plans to increase activities in the region for the next harvest season. This is part of the company’s commitment to support the region’s economy with a minimum of $150 million to be spent across coffee purchases, price premiums, and technical assistance by 2025.
- Mastercard negotiated and signed a memorandum of understanding for a Digital Country Partnership with the Ministry of the Economy of Guatemala, accelerating their work to bring five million people in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras into the formal financial economy and to enable one million micro and small businesses to access online payment and management systems.
New Commitments as part of the Call to Action
The following seven companies and organizations announced major new commitments today, alongside three companies and organizations who joined the Vice President in May who announced further action in the region.
PepsiCo is a global food and beverage company with a long-standing presence in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. PepsiCo directly operates its food business with a regional manufacturing hub in Guatemala, employing over 4,000 people directly, and generating at least an additional 6,800 indirect jobs through its supply chain. PepsiCo expects to invest at least $190 million in northern Central America through 2025, including with improvements to its infrastructure and manufacturing plants; expansion of new distribution routes; IT projects; and investments aligned with its “pep+” (PepsiCo Positive) agenda. This includes spreading regenerative farming practices across seven million acres (which is approximately the size of the company’s entire agricultural footprint), becoming Net Water Positive by 2030 by reducing absolute water use and replenishing watersheds, and achieving net-zero emissions by 2040 by increasing the use of renewable energy, among other efforts.
Cargill has operated in Central America for more than 50 years, with 10,000 employees working in the region. As part of the Call to Action, Cargill will invest an additional $150 million over the next five years with the intention of improving farmer livelihoods and building economic resilience in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The company’s investments will aim to create jobs and support producers as well as micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the protein and animal nutrition supply chains. Cargill will also contribute at least $10 million over three years to partnerships that directly support farmers and farm communities, and improve food security through community nutrition and school meal programs. Cargill’s new commercial and philanthropic efforts will expand support for more than 19,000 farmers, 52,000 MSMEs, and more than 25,000 children and community members in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. This includes support for USAID’s Guatemala Entrepreneurship and Development Innovation (GEDI) Initiative for small businesses owners, which the Vice President announced in June.
With a new investment of $150 million, Parkdale Mills, one of the largest providers of spun yarns and cotton consumer products in the world, will build a new yarn spinning facility in Honduras and support an existing facility in Virginia, with the hope of providing customers with sources for purchasing 1 million pounds of yarn per week within the region and increasing U.S. supply chain resilience. The investment is intended to support roughly 500 employees at each location and increase indirect job growth in Honduras and in the United States, particularly in the U.S. cotton industry across 18 states. The investment also includes $24 million in new investments in solar energy, water recapture, and energy efficient HVAC systems.
In May, Mastercard committed to bring 5 million people in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras into the formal financial economy and to digitize 1 million micro and small businesses. To achieve that goal, today, Mastercard is announcing a commitment of $100 million in investment in the region, and that they have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Economy of Guatemala to establish a Digital Country Partnership to facilitate digital acceleration in areas such as commerce, social benefit payments, transportation, tourism, and economic development for small and medium-sized companies. In addition, Mastercard has partnered with Walmart to enable access to credit for underserved citizens, and with Accion to digitize agricultural value chains and drive stronger financial inclusion for small shareholder farmers in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
CARE is a humanitarian international organization that has worked with State, USAID, and DOL. CARE is announcing a $50 million Center for Gender Equity in Central America focused on women and young people and designed to reach 500,000 individual women and their families, impacting two million people in total. The Center will support public and private programs in the region—scaling up those that work—to support financial inclusion, women’s economic empowerment (including in the protection of labor rights and in supporting entrepreneurship), improved agricultural outcomes, and reductions in gender-based violence. In particular, CARE will support companies joining the Call to Action with technical assistance to ensure that a gender-based lens is applied to new programs and investment.
Grupo Mariposa is a Guatemalan food and beverage company with operations throughout Latin America. Grupo Mariposa will provide more than 70,000 neighborhood stores (‘tiendas’)—which serve as important community hubs—with access to credit and digital tools to improve administrative management. It will support 3,500 small and medium-enterprises (SMEs) with access to telemedicine, education, and internet connectivity, impacting more than 200,000 people and expanding healthcare and telemedicine solutions to 2,000 remote communities. In addition, it will invest more than $10 million to grow its coffee footprint, creating more than 500 new jobs and supporting more than 400 small and medium-sized coffee producers to increase productivity and earnings potential. Finally, with the support of SOPHIA Oxford, Inc., a non-profit partner of the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI), Grupo Mariposa adopted the United Nations Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MDI) as a biannual measure of its employees’ well-being, going beyond wages to include a household’s access to healthcare, nutrition, and education. Grupo Mariposa will expand this program to create the conditions to eradicate multi-dimensional poverty with support for employees and their families to reduce their debts, pursue entrepreneurship, and access education and healthcare.
PriceSmart operates 49 U.S.-style membership shopping warehouse clubs in 12 countries and the U.S. Virgin Islands and opened its fifth store in Guatemala in October. PriceSmart has operated in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras for 22 years. With close to 2,000 employees and 700,000 members in northern Central America, it has long been a partner of USAID—including most recently in announcing a new commitment as part of USAID’s $56 million Guatemalan Entrepreneurship and Development Innovation (GEDI) Initiative, which the Vice President announced in June. Building upon that announcement, PriceSmart is committing to additional support of GEDI, and this support, alongside other GEDI partners, will reach at least 500 entrepreneurs with business support services to help them grow and create jobs in areas of high out-migration.
JDE Peet’s, the world’s largest pure-play coffee and tea company, is a long-standing partner of USAID. JDE Peet’s plans to increase its financial support for smallholder farmers in the region by 40%. This support will be provided through the implementation of a new series of sustainability programs throughout the Central American coffee belt, in partnership with the Coffee Alliance. The new support programs will include technical expertise, intended to allow for increased productivity, adaptation to the effects of climate change, diversification of incomes, and improved access to markets and credit. As a result of this increase, JDE Peet’s will allocate a total of $2.7 million over the next four years, to expand the reach of its Common Grounds Program in the region. The Coffee Alliance is a public-private partnership among USAID, JDE Peet’s, CoHonducafe (Honduras’ largest coffee exporter), the CoHonducafe Foundation, and Grupo Cadelga (Honduras’ largest agricultural input supplier). The increased contribution from JDE Peet’s will enable the Coffee Alliance to reach 10,000 additional smallholder coffee farming households, doubling its active footprint in the region.
In May, Microsoft committed to expanding internet access to up to three million people in the region by July 2022 and to build on its global skills initiative to provide access to digital skills learning paths to connect people to skills and certifications. Microsoft’s Airband initiative is now on track to expand broadband internet access to 4 million people by 2024. In addition, Microsoft will commit to training over 100,000 individuals in the next three years, including in soft, technical, and digital skills, enabling them to access higher-paying, local jobs.
In May, Nespresso committed to expanding its existing sourcing activities in Guatemala and to start sourcing quality coffees from El Salvador and Honduras, creating new economic opportunities for smallholder farmers and replicating the social and environmental impact of Nespresso’s programs in more communities. Nespresso aims to support the local economy with a minimum of $150 million spent across coffee purchases, price premiums and technical assistance by 2025, more than doubling both the number of coffee farms it works with and total coffee volumes. Nespresso is now working with over 1,200 farmers through its AAA Sustainable Coffee Program in Guatemala and is sourcing coffees from farms in Honduras and El Salvador for the first time in the company’s 30-year history. Nespresso will also pilot an innovative crop insurance program designed to help protect farmers against the effects of climate change during next year’s harvest. To help empower women and raise the percentage of female farmers, Nespresso has provided its agronomists—41% of whom are women—with training focused on gender equity. In addition, Nespresso is providing safe and educational places for children by funding 25 daycare centers during this year’s harvest in Guatemala.
Partnership for Central America
In May, the Partnership for Central America (PCA) launched as an independent non-profit to mobilize investments and coordinate private sector projects in support of the Vice President’s Call to Action. The Partnership is working to coordinate coalitions of partners in digital, financial, health, education, and energy programs to support more than 15 million people across the region. Since May, in addition to helping to mobilize partners making commitments in response to the Call to Action, the Partnership has shaped a coalition with a number of the largest agricultural companies to improve economic resilience and improving incomes for 250,000 small and medium size farmers through a regenerative agricultural program that will support climate resilience; launched a partnership with Glasswing International to implement the Central Americorps to support at least 20,000 young adults in the region; and launched a collaboration with the World Economic Forum to bring Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) programs to Latin American business practices. Today, the Partnership announced that Ajay Banga, Executive Chairman of Mastercard, has assumed the role of Chairman of the Partnership and Blanca Treviño, President of Softtek, Latin America’s largest IT firm, has assumed the role of Co-Chair.
How to Respond to the Call
Facilitated through a public-private partnership between the State Department and the non-profit Partnership for Central America, and in close coordination with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Call to Action has also generated new collaboration across participating companies, further boosting the initiative’s impact.
The Call to Action’s six focus areas are intended to support long-term development of the region, including: promoting a reform agenda; digital and financial inclusion; food security and climate-smart agriculture; climate adaptation and clean energy; education and workforce development; and public health access. It serves as one component of our comprehensive strategy to address the root causes of migration, which will involve significant commitments of U.S. government resources to support the long-term development of the region—including efforts to foster economic opportunity, strengthen democratic governance, combat corruption, and improve security. This approach will leverage commitments and resources from the governments in the region, as well as partnerships with multilateral development banks and international financial institutions.
The State Department is the lead U.S. government agency managing follow-up to the Call to Action. In this effort, the State Department works closely with the Partnership for Central America. The State Department and the Partnership work to:
- Connect businesses with relevant U.S. interagency partners, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, Department of Commerce, Department of Labor, among others; non-governmental organizations (NGOs), multilateral development banks, UN agencies, other international organizations, and relevant government officials from the region to facilitate potential new partnerships and commitments;
- Coordinate private sector partners to ensure sustained progress through strategic and high-impact initiatives aligned to social impact goals, and facilitating joint ventures between new and existing partners across global public, private, and social sectors;
- Offer feedback on potential private sector initiatives, based on an assessment of potential migrants’ needs in the region;
- Work with partner governments and institutions to promote reforms that address impediments to investment and foster a business-enabling environment;
- Establish metrics to measure the impact of commitments made in response to the Call to Action, to track program effectiveness and identify key trends across key economic and social impact metrics; and
- Convene public forums and facilitate discussions on challenges, trends, and progress toward aspired social impact goals.