Meaningful Business (MB): Can you tell us a bit about the issues you are trying to solve and why you selected them
Francesco Piazzesi (FP): Homelessness is on the rise in Mexico and the cost of housing is increasing at an alarming rate as the availability of decent housing dwindles. Over 65% of housing projects in Mexico are carried out through social production: self-producers and self-builders seeking to address the huge housing deficit in Mexico by satisfying the housing needs of the low-income population. This is due to a lack of access to housing finance for the poor – only 20% of the population meets the requirements for a mortgage loan, while coverage of national aid is limited, totalling 3 million credits per year for the purchase of new or used housing, as well as for home improvement works. Even for those securing funds, loan interest rates remain an issue, with many barely able to afford to pay.
MB: How is your work tackling those problems, and what impact are you having?
FP: Échale delivers affordable home construction and home improvement solutions to low-income communities primarily in rural areas in Mexico. Our value proposition, “Échale a tu casa” articulates the social and environmental objectives in a balanced, interdependent and synergistic way. At the social level, we pursue social inclusion of low-income people by offering them access to finance to obtain decent housing. We then empower families through financial education workshops and technical training, allowing them to participate in the construction of housing and receive paid employment. At the environmental level, our use of compacted and stabilised earth blocks (SCEB) reduces the housing’s carbon footprint since it uses lime, cement and inert earth found on-site. We build adequate homes with and for low-income families, helping to fulfil SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities), where they desire to live. Since launching, we have built over 250,000 housing solutions in Mexico, impacting more than one million people.
MB: What support do you need in order to scale your business and increase your positive impact?
FP: We are looking for an investment of $1 million USD in equity to support our growth. With a strong financial record, our savings and credit portfolios are forecasted to grow by 50% over the next 5 years, and profit by 125% in the same timeframe. This equity is needed to help us cement our strong market position in Mexico’s housing market, valued at $118 billion USD, and where six million Mexican families do not have access to credit for housing. With our highly scalable model, we aim to cover 80% of Mexico’s territory by 2025, then progressively export our model thereafter.
MB: How do you work with partners and the wider ecosystem to achieve your mission?
FP: By 2030, UN-Habitat estimates that 3 billion people, or about 40% of the world’s population, will need access to adequate housing. This translates into a demand for 96, 000 new affordable and accessible housing units every day. Additionally, an estimated 100 million people worldwide are homeless, and one in four people live in conditions detrimental to their health, safety and prosperity. Access to housing is also a precondition for access to employment, education, health, and social services. In order to address the current housing challenge, all levels of government should put housing at the centre of their urban policies, and place people and human rights at the forefront of urban sustainable development. Within this urban development framework, we partner with other institutions and organisations in order to develop the 17 SDGs and create SDG communities around the world.
MB: What is your ambition for the future of your business?
FP: Social impact is at the core of Échale’s mission. Financial inclusion, affordable housing and environmentally friendly buildings are the triple pillars of our business model. To date, thousands of families have received credits which have enabled them to play a key role in the development of their homes. The future of Echale’s business is to create a diaspora around the world to provide adequate housing for all.
MB: How do you measure success?
FP: Our social impact extends from direct income and financial inclusion to housing, reduction of construction’s environmental footprint, and social assistance. Our financial training and products aim to improve individuals’ lives and empower their communities. As an organisation, we not only focus on improving and building housing, but also involving the communities and making them part of the solution. Our impact can be measured by each focus area and according to its beneficiaries.
MB: Tell us a mistake you’ve learned from
FP: My best lesson learnt was to align my initiative, social business and wish to money and financial goals, as nothing will materialise otherwise.
MB: How do you spend your time away from work?
FP: I am fortunate to have a wonderful family with whom I share my free time, and they often accompany me to visit our communities. I also practise yoga, swimming and I am an amateur photographer.
MB: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
FP: My favourite person in history is Winston Churchill and for me his most valuable advice is “Never, never, never give up”.
MB: What is something you wish you were better at?
FP: Finding equity investment.
MB: What is the one book everyone should read?
FP: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.
Discover the other leaders recognised on the 2022 MB100, for their work combining profit and purpose to help achieve the United Nations Global Goals, here.