IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, and Aureos Capital, a private equity fund management company based in Mauritius, have launched an initiative to help small and medium enterprises in emerging markets improve their environmental and social performance.

The SME Sustainable Opportunities Initiative will channel funding from IFC and other donors to support various environmental, social, and health and safety upgrades in small and medium enterprises in which Aureos-managed private equity funds have invested.

The initiative will allow a number of SMEs to reduce carbon emissions, improve energy and water efficiency, reduce effluents, and develop HIV/Aids awareness programmes.

The first project expected to benefit from this initiative is a steel manufacturer in Kenya, which needs help to further reduce its smoke emissions. Other projects being considered include a pharmaceuticals company planning to expand production capacity of anti-retrovirals in Tanzania, a paint manufacturing company in Ghana, and an aluminium manufacturer in Panama.

At least half of the projects will be in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The total cost of this initiative is US$3mn, which will be funded by IFC and donor contributions.