splash of water close up

Annual Letter 2023

Dear Client,

6years ago in March, SAIL was founded in Amsterdam. Opportunistically, in many ways, but it didn’t necessarily feel like that for me as I’d been thinking about how to come to this point for some time. In 2017, the opportunity arose thanks to discussions with an unexpected investor (Norwegian Ministry of Environment), a leading Dutch NGO (IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative) and a retired development banker (ex-CEO of FMO) who formed the genesis of what became the &Green Fund. We might have had the investment solution to the problem the Ministry posed, but the others brought the credibility, the vision and the bravery to try something untested.

Since then, SAIL has been bootstrapping its way towards a track record of managing money and delivering deep transformative value for our clients. We’ve brought onboard a small, but highly credible, group of partner investors, not many of them traditional institutional types, but highly valuable during this initial period of us building a fund management capability and importantly, taking our investing ideas and turning them into an actual process. We have also been able to attract talent so we can implement and ultimately perform on our promise to investors. All these initial partners, team members, and supporters have provided SAIL with their trust and our aim is to treat that with the utmost respect and care. Every dollar is someone’s bet on us to deploy it in a way that the owner of said dollar would be proud to put on the front of their internal, and external, personal scorecard. The same goes for an hour worked at SAIL.

When SAIL started our mission was to go deep into industries, often unloved ones – but for sure ones which the world needs, and insert capital smartly to shift the outcome trajectory of these supply chains and industries towards sustainable organic sector growth. Therein lies a big opportunity to unlock climate and financial alpha. As an example, deforestation is terrible for the planet, so is the degradation of land, but palm oil (the most efficient oilseed on the planet) doesn’t require either to thrive. Removing downside impacts in land-use and converting them into actual upside growth value is an investment thesis that we like and think the world will only increasingly value going forward.

We started with land-use, because the opportunity to move the same asset from a vicious to a virtuous cycle is appealing, but also because it is hard and thus we could carve a niche out for ourselves. We could learn how to do hard things because it will only make it easier for us to look at other opportunities. At SAIL we prefer pioneering a new space within an existing one, rather than competing with everyone else to eke out basis points differences. That is often just a cost play…and one ultimately trending to zero anyway. Ending that play.

Our focus is forcing us to think deeply about our investment process by which we assess potential investees whom we ultimately choose to support and, together, create pathways to success. Running probabilities on those pathways becomes part-science part-art and not only is it fascinating, it is also where we can create alpha over the long-term. Our view is that a minimal amount of ‘transition capital’ can have a disproportionate impact if properly injected into an existing system. Critically, that capital needs to ‘back the right horse’ – not a ‘unicorn’, but rather a strong market participant that others want to imitate and feel that they can realistically emulate. The result is that we provide capital in a way that the ‘herd’ following our ‘stallion’ does not erode our advantage but amplifies it.

Ultimately SAIL’ sees itself as a change agent. Helping industry pioneers to make that change, keeping it grounded but still ambitious, and rooting it in sound growth fundamentals.

In the past 12 months, SAIL has closed four transactions, structured in different domiciles (Luxembourg, Netherlands, Colombia and Indonesia) but all moving our thesis forward. Our pipeline is strong, and I am happy that we are finding the right investee base with which we can scale.

Capital raising feels harder. Much harder. But we will keep bootstrapping our way to a track record and that is OK. SAIL’s focus is first and foremost on the asset side. We are asset managers, not fundraising machines. That said, we are learning how to simplify our explanations of what we do and we realise the importance of educating investors and taking time to bring them along on our journey. There is so so much noise in this broader space. Some shout loudest to get ahead, we prefer to perform, then educate, and only then can we hope to manage (someone’s money). We will earn that relationship. Those are the best ones. Built on trust, integrity, and humility. Thus we should end up with clients who are aligned with us on values.

The past years have taught me a few important lessons. Some I have read many times before but clearly didn’t actualize. For example, Warren Buffet’s quote that “the difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything,”. I nodded along and accepted this in the past when reading, but certainly did not implement it. However, I have subsequently realised the power of staying focused and shifting the noise off your desk. Especially when developing a new idea in a noisy space. ESG, impact, climate investing, and blended finance are noisy spaces at the moment. All chasing a few investors and thus shouting and contorting in all ways to be the chosen ones. The last of those three – blended finance – has maybe the highest amount of ‘transaction costs’ associated with it, with a multitude of ‘actors’ in the space, running studies, wanting to provide technical assistance, requesting interviews, workshops and round tables, asking questions… but very few (if any) are willing or able to take decision risk. So they deliberate, ponder, ask more questions, require more checkboxes. Bureaucracy has ultimately killed blended finance. I am writing another letter on how we think it should be deployed but in general, the way it is working now is not viable and is just a distraction. The most logical conclusion today, seems to be that if you want to scale, within a relevant time period, you shouldn’t consider blended finance a viable option.

So 6yrs in, we are ready: to begin; to scale. Without progressing to scale we are like that ubiquitous children’s character Peppa Pig – jumping up and down in muddy puddles. That may be a lot of fun, but it is ultimately pointless. Although it is perfectly appropriate for my young family to engage in such activity (of course, who doesn’t like jumping in puddles) – SAIL’s investors deserve more from us: drive, initiative, and direction. There can be no replication, no repetition, no real impact creation without true scale. We intend to deliver that scale, while all the time delivering deep transformative value to each dollar that our clients have entrusted with us.

An exciting year ahead.

Yours sincerely,
Johnny Brom
Founder and Chief Investment Officer

Sara Senouci

Sara Senouci recently joined SAIL Investments as a Sustainability Analyst, boasting a background in financial services and ESG risk assessment. Prior to joining SAIL, she served as a research analyst at Sustainalytics-Morningstar, focusing on companies within the packaged foods, agriculture, and retail apparel sectors. Sara’s academic credentials include an MA in African Studies from Leiden University and a bachelor’s degree in international studies from Al Akhawayn University in Morocco. Additionally, she possesses a certificate in ESG investing from the CFA Institute.

When she is not working, Sara enjoys traveling, literature and good food.

Lucian Peppelenbos

Lucian Peppelenbos is an external and independent member of SAIL’s Investment Committee, bringing in over 25 years of experience as a sustainability professional. He works for Robeco as Climate and Biodiversity Strategist. Robeco is an international asset manager with over EUR 180 billion in assets under management; and Lucian overseeing the integration of Climate and Biodiversity in the company’s investment processes. Lucian previously worked as responsible investment specialist at APG Asset Management. Before that he helped to set up IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative, a public-private partnership that co-invests with corporates in sustainable commodity supply chains. He earned a PhD in social-economic sciences at Wageningen University.


In his free time, Lucian loves cooking and spending time in nature.

David Smart

David Smart serves as a Senior Adviser to SAIL and is a member of the SAIL investment Committee. He has 42 years experience as an investor with a particular focus on fixed income and emerging markets. He has however covered a wide array of asset classes including private equity, debt and venture capital and, in the last 8 years, impact. David spent most of his career at Fiduciary Trust and Franklin Templeton where he enjoyed a 28 year year global advisory relationship with the United Nations Pension Fund and worked with many of the top Sovereign Funds and Central Banks. He now has multiple non executive and advisory roles and chairs the Investment Committee for the Health Foundation endowment fund, having spent 9 years in a similar role for the National Trust, Europe’s largest conservation charity, where he oversaw the introduction of an allocation to an impact portfolio aligned with the Trust’s main environmental objectives. He received an MA in Classics from Cambridge University. 

David greatly enjoys playing the piano, antiquarian books, tennis, cricket and rugby.

Istvan Fritsche

Istvan Fritsche is the Head of Business Development at SAIL Investments. He brings 24 years of expertise in asset management and banking across public and private markets that covered various asset classes. Istvan`s career includes roles at Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan AM, BlueBay AM, ING IM, IKB (AM), and RiverRock ECP. Transitioning from investment banking to the buy-side in 2004, and later to private markets in 2013 where Istvan found his enduring passion. Istvan’s academic background is diverse, with studies in Politics (International Relations), Economics, Philosophy, and Art History at Frankfurt University. Istvan is a CAIA Charterholder.

Outside the office, Istvan leads an active lifestyle as a runner, swimmer, squash and tennis player, and sailor.

O'Neil Thiart

O’Neil Thiart is an Investment Analyst with the Investment team at SAIL Investments. His background includes a role as a listed equity analyst for a buy-side investment manager in South Africa, where he analyzed a wide array of equities on the JSE. O’Neil holds a BCom Hons in Financial Analysis from the University of Stellenbosch, graduating Cum Laude in 2021. He has also completed all three levels of the CFA program, positioning him to become a CFA charterholder once he meets the experience requirements.

O’Neil loves to swap his desk chair for a bike saddle, though his physique hints he’s more of an enthusiast than Tour de France contender.

Martyna Walkiewicz-Killard

Martyna Walkiewicz-Killard is a Senior Associate in the SAIL Investments Operations Team. She contributes through a decade of specialized legal and compliance expertise, particularly in investments, corporate law, criminal law, and M&A. Her career includes key roles at TMF, overseeing legal and compliance, and as a Legal Manager at Finch Capital in Amsterdam where she managed all legal affairs. She started her career at Beauchamps LLP in Ireland, managing the investment portfolio for Enterprise Ireland. Martyna earned a MSc in Criminology and Forensic Psychology and a BA with Honours in Criminology from Middlesex University in London.

Away from work, Martyna pursues painting, poetry, and philosophy. She enjoys working out and cooking.

Marthe Tollenaar

Marthe Tollenaar is the Associate Director in the Sustainability team at SAIL Investments, with more than 14 years of experience in managing sustainable forestry and agriculture investments in emerging markets. She led the sustainable strategy for Southeast Asia at New Forests in Singapore, and later managed international projects in The Netherlands for a carbon finance organization and began her career managing sustainable forestry in Africa. She holds an MSc in Ecology and Natural Resource Management and a BSc in Biology.

Marthe is an avid runner and yoga enthusiast, and the team’s dedicated supplier of home-baked banana bread.

Michael Schlup

Michael Schlup is the Chief Sustainability Officer of SAIL Investments, and a member of SAIL’s investment committee. He is a sustainability professional with over 25 years of experience, having previously worked for Barry Callebaut, the world’s leading manufacturer of chocolate and cocoa products including managing the Cocoa Horizons Foundation. As global agribusiness and food company Bunge, he oversaw Africa for their asset management and environmental markets team. He was the founding CEO of the Gold Standard Foundation, an NGO that established quantification and impact maximisation standards. Michael’s career began by advancing sustainable energy financing at the United Nations and working as a management consultant. Michael is a trained scientist and holds a M.Sc. in Geography from the University of Basel, Switzerland, and a M.Sc. in Industrial Environmental Economics from Lund University, Sweden.

A keen sailor and cyclist, Michael balances these exhausting activities by making his own beer, bread, and sausages.

Andrea Salmon

Andrea Salmon is the Business Manager at SAIL Investments. She oversees office management, HR, and projects that draw on over 11 years of operational and administrative experience in small to corporate-sized businesses. Andrea’s career began in Dubai, and she has since gained international experience in Hamburg, Cape Town, and currently in The Hague. She graduated from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, with a BA in Social Dynamics and a Postgraduate degree in Marketing.

Outside of work, Andrea enjoys hiking and cycling in the great outdoors, as well as traveling and practicing yoga.

Laura Rodriguez

Laura Rodriguez is an Associate in Business Development at SAIL. Specializing in Investor Relations, she has a focus on corporate sustainability and sustainable finance. Bringing over four years of experience to her role, Laura transitioned to SAIL from Sustainalytics, where she played a key role in aiding corporates and investors integrate strategic ESG considerations into their operations. Her background also includes involvement in sustainable initiatives at Ahold Delhaize and BAM International. Laura’s career started in architecture, where she spent over three years designing residential projects in Colombia. She holds a Master’s in Sustainable Business and Innovation from the University of Utrecht and a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Los Andes in Colombia.

In her leisure time, Laura bakes delicious cakes and keeps active playing tennis.

Erik Peek

Erik Peek is an Investment Director directing origination, deal structuring, and management. Erik’s 30 years of deep experience in financial markets, particularly in Latin America where he is also certified by Brazil’s CVM, has helped him play a pivotal role since Sail’s inception. As the former CEO of Rabobank Brazil, Erik bolstered the agricultural sector by managing assets of $10 billion and his leadership extended to serving on boards like Banco Regional and the Forest Stewardship Council, and credit committees. Erik holds an MSc from Karlsruhe University and an MBA from IMD.

Off the clock, Erik is married and takes pride that his independent children are now making their own societal contributions.

Natalia Pasishnyk

Natalia Pasishnyk is the Sustainability Director at SAIL Investments with 18 years of sustainability experience. She has worked in Brazil as a consultant, supporting major corporations across a wide range of sectors including agriculture, forestry, mining, renewable energy, finance, and governmental bodies build responsible low carbon strategies and supply chains. Her sustainability focus began with climate mitigation projects in the Brazilian Amazon. Natalia, a trained scientist, earned her M.Sc. in Sustainable Forestry from the University of Freiburg, Germany.

Beyond work, Natalia enjoys travelling off-the-beaten-path, discovering cultures through cuisine and customs, and has a keen interest in artificial intelligence.

Elea Papaemmanuel

Elea Papaemmanuel is an Associate Director on the SAIL Investments Sustainability Team. Her specialization in sustainability is supported by a decade of supply chain management and sustainability risk expertise across agri-commodity and extractive sectors. Elea has also collaborated with diverse stakeholders, including NGOs and corporates, to foster the adoption of sustainability standards. In her previous role at IDH, she focused on sustainable practices in the cotton, cocoa, and tin mining industries. Elea earned an M.Sc in Public Policy and Management from the London School of Economics and a B.Sc in Economics from the University of Essex.

Elea loves to bring people together through her culinary talents, hosting meals seasoned by her French and Greek roots.

Gustavo Oubinha

Gustavo Oubinha is the Brazil Investment Director at SAIL Investments. Gustavo leads origination, deal structuring, and portfolio management, leveraging 25 years of financial market expertise. Certified by Brazil’s CVM, he previously enhanced Rabobank Brazil’s strategic initiatives as Managing Director, focusing on credit structuring and M&A, and has experience in complex investment transactions through his work at Banco InterAtlântico and Machado Meyer Advogados. Gustavo holds an LL.M. from the University of East Anglia as a Chevening Scholar. His further education in economics law from Fundação Getúlio Vargas is complemented by programs at Harvard, INSEAD, and Chicago Booth.

Off duty, Gustavo values family time, enjoying moments with his wife and two children.

Brett Mallen

Brett Mallen is the Chief Operating Officer at SAIL Investments and spearheads its financial, legal, and compliance capabilities. With over 20 years in investment management, he notably led as COO, and acting CEO, at Sanlam Africa Investments, focusing on private market funds and board leadership. Previously, he worked in Sanlam’s Private Equity team. Brett is admitted as an attorney in South Africa, holding an LL.M (Cum Laude) from Leiden University and a CFA Charter.

Brett prioritises family and fitness outside of the office. He spends his spare time on active holidays with his wife and two children (skiing being a firm favourite). Brett has recently discovered the 70.3 Ironman events and has competed in one event per year.

Adrian Lain

Adrian Lain is a Senior Sustainability Associate at SAIL Investments specialising in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). He brings with him 11 years of international experience in research, certifications, and geospatial analysis in public and private environments, which builds on his career start as a research technician in the Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute.

During off-hours, Adrian explores the world through music and aviation.

Joachim Kotze

Joachim Kotze is an Associate Director and a member of the Investment Team at SAIL Investments. His role is backed by 12 years of experience in the investment field with career positions at Denker Capital and Rootstock Investments, and respected asset managers in South Africa. At these firms, Joachim spurred research on internationally publicly listed companies, focusing on diverse industries such as agriculture and food value chains. His tenure at Rootstock was marked by his contribution to formalizing the investment process and his active role on the investment committee.

Before SAIL Investments, Joachim was engaged in equity research at Morningstar covering the global Aerospace and Defense sectors. Joachim earned a B.Comm in Financial Management and is a CFA charterholder.

Beyond professional pursuits, Joachim can be found outdoors mountain biking and taking bracing cold water swims. He also loves to cook.

Vidya Iyer

Vidya Iyer is an Associate Director in the Investment team. She is responsible for investment research and analysis, transaction structuring and execution, leveraging her 11 years of experience in venture capital investments, corporate finance and equities investment valuation. Vidya started her career with Goldman Sachs as an analyst and spent time with J.P.Morgan. She has a Bachelor’s of Commerce from the University of Madras, is a Chartered Accountant from India and holds a M.Sc. in International Finance from the University of Amsterdam.

In her leisure time, Vidya enjoys exploring the Dutch landscape on her bike or in running shoes.

Johnny Brom

Johnny Brom is founder and Chief Investment Officer of SAIL Investments, where he also leads the Investment Committee. Johnny has a diverse background in business development and investment strategy for companies across South Africa, North America, and Europe. He started his career at JP Morgan Securities and held a role at a Cape Town-based boutique asset manager, accumulating over 17 years of investment experience in developed, emerging, and frontier markets. Prior to SAIL, Johnny initiated an innovative financing unit at the Dutch agency, IDH, pioneering early blended finance transactions in global supply chains. Johnny holds a Master’s in Finance from SOAS University of London, a PE specialisation from London Business School, and a Business Science degree from the University of Cape Town.

Johnny is known for his love of whiteboards, and sketching in his journal.