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DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Economy

Giselle Deñó

Country Manager, Insuco Dominican Republic

Bio

Giselle Deñó is the Country Manager of Insuco in the Dominican Republic, where she oversees operations and develops the company’s professional network. With degrees in political science from the University of Sciences Po, France, and in environmental management and policy from the University of Bristol, UK, she has experience in strategic communication and public health. She previously served as coordinator of the Vice Ministry of International Cooperation at the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, working on projects related to natural resources, climate change, and biodiversity. She was also appointed the gender focal point for the UNFCCC and participated in COP26 negotiations in Glasgow. She coordinates the Sustainability Committee of the French-Dominican Chamber of Commerce.

"The business landscape in the Dominican Republic is dynamic, with significant growth trends similar to those observed in Guyana, currently the top performer in Latin America."

Giselle Deñó, Country Manager of Insuco Dominican Republic, talks to TBY about entering the Dominican Republic, differentiating itself from the Big Four, and priorities for the year.

What led to Insuco establishing a presence with an office in the Dominican Republic?

Insuco is an international consulting firm, specialized in social management and sustainability, first established in 2010 to bridge the gap between international standards and project implementation across various sectors. Initially focusing on extractive industry (mining, oil and gas) due to its significant environmental and social impact, it has expanded to cover tourism, agro-industry, transport, infrastructure, and environmental resource management. Our services include providing crucial social data such as baseline, gender, and migration studies to inform investment project planning. We also conduct environmental and social impact studies, due diligences and develop social management plans and investment strategies. Utilizing GIS and database expertise, we gather qualitative and quantitative data to propose practical solutions for our clients. Our approach prioritizes translating socio-demographic insights into actionable strategies that mitigate risks and maximize positive impacts on communities. We launched the Dominican Republic office in 2020, and have worked on numerous projects, including strategic studies and planning in renewable energy, protected areas management, gender, water and sanitation, mining, transport, and micro and small enterprises. Our team comprises political scientists, anthropologists, sociologists, agronomists, gender experts, and environmental engineers, reflecting our multidisciplinary approach. We aim to shift from transactional to transformative social sustainability, attracting not only NGOs and government agencies, but also companies that seek to enhance their global sustainability.

What are the primary concerns of companies approaching you with seeking assistance?

In the Dominican Republic, Insuco plays a crucial role due to compliance with international standards, particularly in managing environmental and social impacts, required for financing from institutions such as the IFC, World Bank and IDB Invest. These standards mandate the establishment of robust environmental and social systems to identify and mitigate risks associated with projects. Key aspects include stakeholder engagement at project onset, ensuring community participation and addressing concerns, as well as adherence to resettlement standards to prevent increased vulnerability. This involves comprehensive consultation, information dissemination, and participation throughout the project lifecycle, as well as stakeholder mapping. Moreover, it is essential to consider indirect impacts on community dynamics, such as disruptions to informal support networks. Beyond mere compliance, there is a commitment to social investment that transcends checkboxes. It is about consciously allocating resources towards social development, regardless of project scale. For example, even small businesses can choose to dedicate a portion of their budget to community development, recognizing its long-term benefits. This decision hinges on viewing themselves as stakeholders in community progress, understanding that societal development ultimately enhances their own interests by improving education, employment, and community health. While national standards set a baseline and can vary, international standards  can influence companies to adopt higher social responsibility practices. In the Dominican Republic, there is a notable disparity between international and national standards, unlike countries with more advanced legal frameworks for sustainability.

How does Insuco differentiate itself from larger international consultancies like the Big Four, and what advantages does the company offer its clients?

As a medium-sized consultancy, we strive to maintain our personalized approach and close connection with the communities we serve. We prioritize local engagement, preferring to work with local consultants and establish offices near project sites for better understanding of social contexts. Our focus is on providing value-added solutions rather than simply repeating established practices. We seek to go beyond conventional socio-demographic analyses and offer innovative strategies to enhance social sustainability for our clients. We identify potential social risks early on to prevent conflicts. Our specialization lies in comprehensive social analyses, helping companies mitigate risks and contribute to community development alongside financial gains. This may take the form of environmental and social impact assessments, ensuring preservation of cultural heritage sites and traditions, analyzing how projects may impede community access to essential resources, and assessing risks of gender-based violence. Managing community expectations regarding employment opportunities, especially during construction phases, is crucial. These comprehensive evaluations are essential for fostering sustainable and harmonious relationships between companies and the communities they impact.

What is your perspective on the representation of women, minorities, and young people in management positions, specifically in the Dominican Republic?

Latin America exhibits significant social inequalities, making it challenging for young women and other vulnerable populations to assume leadership roles in social consulting firms. Breaking away from societal norms is necessary, yet there is a lack of preparation for navigating such nuances. Despite strides in nominally promoting gender diversity, substantive progress remains elusive, with many companies engaging in pinkwashing—superficially advocating for inclusion without meaningful action. In the Dominican Republic, issues persist concerning reproductive and sexual rights, minority rights, and immigrant rights, with high rates of teenage pregnancy, early marriages, feminicides, and discrimination against LGBTQ+ groups. As a social consultancy firm, we recognize the importance of inclusion and diversity, striving to address the needs of vulnerable groups amidst societal gaps and challenges. At the same time, there have been notable changes in public perception regarding gender equality, including increased representation of women in political and business leadership roles. Women in leadership roles recognize the importance of speaking up to drive change, acknowledging the need for proactive engagement to address systemic inequalities.

What are Insuco’s goals and priorities for the upcoming year, particularly concerning the business environment in the country?

The business landscape in the Dominican Republic is dynamic, with significant growth trends similar to those observed in Guyana, currently the top performer in Latin America. While overseeing operations in both the Dominican Republic and several Caribbean nations, the focus extends to addressing social disparities alongside economic expansion. Despite impressive economic growth, social indicators such as education, healthcare, and gender equality have not kept pace. The country’s infrastructure has seen substantial development, particularly in renewable energy. Recent government initiatives have facilitated increased investment in renewable sources, attracting foreign investment from Spain and France and reshaping the country’s energy matrix. In the Dominican Republic, there is a pressing need to address the mobility crisis in the transport sector by shifting focus from car-centric urban planning to more pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. Major projects, backed by international cooperation funds such as those from AFD aim to expand metro lines, implement cable cars, and improve railway connections between cities like Santiago and Santo Domingo. Additionally, there is growing emphasis on sustainable finance within the finance sector to better assess social and environmental risks. Collaboration with entities like the Ministry of Tourism around SMEs and enhancing tourist experiences in historic areas like Zona Colonial is very important. Moreover, solid waste management remains a critical issue with plans to modernize infrastructure and close open-air landfills across the country. By proactively engaging in these projects as social and environmental consultants, we strive to mitigate risks and ensure sustainable development outcomes.

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