Mapping the Upstream

The upstream part of the investment chain is where most of the money originates that makes the project possible. Each investment chain will vary in size and complexity. There may be just a few actors that invest large amounts, or there be many smaller investors. Some actors will be found far upstream.

The amount of publically available data on these actors will also vary. In general, there will be less publicly available information on private entities such as commercial banks or private equity funds, while there tends to be more information available on public entities such as mutual funds or development finance institutions. These online resources can help you identify actors.


You should try to map the following, noting the results in Investment Chain Worksheet 1:


1) The parent company – if there is one – and the name of the CEO, or any other important people involved in the management of the parent company, such as members of the board of directors.

2) Investors that own shares or equity of either the parent company or the company managing the project. You should note the name of the investor, what type of investor it is, and the names of any key individuals working there. You should also find out how much money was invested and the date of the investment, as this will be important for advocacy purposes. In addition, you should try to determine the vehicle used to make the investment, such as a mutual fund or a private equity fund.

3) Lenders that loan money directly to the business managing the project, the parent company, or a financial institution that is supporting the project. Include the name of the lender, what type of lender it is, and the names of any key people working there. Try to also find out how much money was loaned and the date of the loan.


It can be important for advocacy purposes to know the type of loan given. For instance, certain loans can only be used for specific projects, while others can be used for general business purposes, meaning the recipient can decide how to use the money. Investopedia is a good source for understanding these and other financial instruments.

4) Arrangers manage complex financial transactions, such as the issuing of bonds or overseeing a merger, on behalf of companies. These arrangers are sometimes referred to as bookrunners, advisors, underwriters or managers. Banks often play this role, although sometimes accounting firms do, too. Arrangers often receive a fee or profits for performing these services, and sometimes they also take part in the actual transaction, such as buying a portion of shares or bonds. For instance, when a bank underwrites a company’s bonds, it buys those bonds from the company and sells them on to third parties, often at a profit. In addition, the bank receives a fee for performing this service.

5) Indirect investors or lenders are located further upstream in an investment chain, sometimes several levels. For example, a multilateral development bank, such as the International Finance Corporation, might have invested in a private equity fund that in turn invests in the parent company of the business managing the project. In this scenario, the IFC is an indirect investor in the business, and the private equity fund is a financial intermediary between the IFC and the parent company and business managing the project. Although these actors are indirectly linked to the project, they are still enabling and profiting from it. Thus, they can be very important for advocacy.


Start researching the actors in the upstream end of the investment chain using the sources outlined below. Use WORKSHEET 1 to document what you find. Once the table in WORKSHEET 1 is filled in you will be able to use the information to add to the investment chain map you’ve already started with WORKSHEET 2.

Where to Look: Upstream Information Resources

In general, a project’s upstream actors will be less visible than those in the midstream. Details on loans, equity investments and other financial transactions found upstream are often undisclosed. However, with persistence and the right tools, this information can be found.

As you research upstream actors, keep a detailed record of all sources, either by listing them in your Investment Chain Worksheet 1 or on an Excel spreadsheet. Be sure to note the source, date accessed, author and date of publication, as you might want to return to these at a later stage in the research.

If you find a useful document online, remember save it. Sometimes web pages can be deleted or changed. You can either take a screenshot of the page or save the page to your computer’s hard drive. This guide explains how to do both.

These online sources can help you find information on upstream actors:

Company website: If the business managing the project has a website, it might name its parent company and investors. Look through press releases and the most recent available annual report to find names of shareholders and other information about investors.

Sometimes, only the parent company will have a website and annual report. Look carefully through all your previous sources of information for a name of a company that could be the parent company. For example, you may be able to find the name of the parent company on investment contracts.

Internet searches: Use Google or a search engine in your home country to see what articles or information exist to identify the parent company, investors or lenders. Keywords such as investments, investors, money, finance, shares, shareholders or equity can be used as search terms alongside the name of the business, parent company and other relevant project keywords.

Once you have identified the names of particular actors involved as investors or lenders, you should visit the websites of these entities. These websites – and the annual reports found on them – may provide information on the names of key people and other important information. They may also mention other actors that have invested in these upstream actors, so that you can map even further up the investment chain.

Bloomberg Businessweek: This website from the U.S. financial data provider Bloomberg has information on public and private companies and their shareholders. It’s worth searching under both the public and private categories if you are not sure about your company. In the case of a bioenergy project in Sierra Leone, for example, it is possible to access key information about the company via Bloomberg Businessweek.

OpenCorporates: This open-data website is the largest publicly accessible database of companies in the world. Though information varies from company to company, the site generally gives details on the company’s directors, its sector, previous names and the registered address and jurisdiction. Some company profiles may even list company accounts.

Stock exchanges: Many countries have one or more stock exchanges, where the public can buy and sell portions of ownership – known as shares – in a company. These exchanges often have websites with up-to-date information on companies being traded. For example, on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange’s website, users can find information on a traded company’s share price, shareholders and board of directors, among other information.

In addition, some stock exchanges require companies to disclose information related to transactions that affect their shareholders. For instance, when the Malaysian corporation Mega First issued and sold a large number of shares in order to raise capital for a dam project, it released a prospectus describing its reasons for undertaking the transaction. The Malaysian stock exchange then posted the document on its website. This disclosure revealed important information about Mega First’s shareholders that was previously unknown.

Financial regulators: Bodies that regulate publicly listed companies and financial markets are also a source of information about parent companies and investors. Once you know which stock exchanges the company, parent company or investors are listed on, try to find out the relevant regulatory body and whether it provides a publicly available database.

For example, in the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission has a database of companies registered in the U.S. and overseas. When a company lists on a stock exchange, the company gets a unique code, called a ticker. If you can find this code (for example, through searches for the company name on Google) you can perform a search on that code and it may turn up important documents.

BankTrack: This NGO keeps a public database of banks involved in “dodgy deals.” Once you have found the name of one investor or lender, you can search this database to try to find more information about them and other problematic projects they are involved in. The Business and Human Rights Resource Center may also have helpful information.

Development finance institutions: These public institutions get their funding from one or more governments. Often – but not always – their goal is to alleviate poverty or spur economic growth in developing countries. If these institutions are involved as investors or lenders in a project – even indirectly – they open up important advocacy opportunities. These institutions can be multilateral, meaning they are funded and owned by many governments, or bilateral, meaning they are funded and owned by one government.

Most development finance institutions have websites. Some of these websites disclose information about projects that the institution is funding, including the date and value of an investment, its purpose, and relevant social and environmental risks. You can search for information on a project using its name, business or parent company. You can also search by country and sector, e.g. mining.


It’s important to remember that development finance institutions might not invest directly in a project, the business managing the project, or even the parent company. Such an investment might appear further upstream.

For instance, the Asian Development Bank might invest in a private equity fund, which in turn might buy shares in a parent company of a business running a project. Although the Asian Development Bank’s investment is several layers removed from the ground level, it is still contributing to – and benefitting from – the project, presenting an important advocacy opportunity.

When searching for information on a development finance institution’s website, it’s important to search for the names of investors or lenders – not just the name of a project or company. With the Asian Development Bank example described above, you would want to search for the name of the private equity fund on the bank’s website. Without taking this step, you might miss the involvement of international financial institutions, thereby depriving yourself of a strong advocacy opportunity.

In addition, it is worth looking at all of an institution’s projects in a particular country to see if there is a connection to your project, either by directly providing finance or through supporting an entire sector. For example, if your project is a plantation, look for a World Bank agriculture-sector reform project in your country or region. Or, if your project is a hydropower dam, an Asian Development Bank project to improve the efficiency of electrical transmission lines might be relevant.

The following development finance institutions disclose information about projects on their websites:

Multilateral lending institutions:

  • The African Development Bank (AfDB) provides financing to the public and private sectors in Africa. The AfDB maintains a searchable database of projects on its website.
  • The Asian Development Bank (ADB) provides financing to the public and private sectors in Asia. The ADB maintains an online database of projects, organized by country and sector, on its website.
  • The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is a new multilateral institution launched by China in 2016. The bank supports infrastructure projects in Asia but has yet to make any investments. (For more information on Chinese actors, please see here.)
  • The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) provides financing to the private sector in developing countries. EBRD maintains an online database of projects on its website.
  • The European Investment Bank (EIB) provides financing to the public and private sectors. EIB maintains a database of projects on its website.
  • The Green Climate Fund (GCF) invests in and accredits projects in developing countries that help counter the effects of climate change. It falls within the purview of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The fund does not yet have a database of projects.
  • The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) provides financing to the public and private sectors in Latin America and the Caribbean. IDB maintains a database of projects on its website.
  • The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private-sector lending arm of the World Bank Group, discloses some information about all of its investments on an online database. You can also submit requests for information to IFC management, though you will need to provide some basic information about yourself.
  • The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is a development arm of the UN. The organization maintains a searchable database of its active projects.
  • The World Bank typically provides loans to governments, mainly for public-sector projects and policy reform. However, it also provides funding to the private sector, including through public–private partnerships. Information about World Bank projects and loans can be found in an online database.

Bilateral finance institutions:

  • The German Investment Corporation (DEG), which is owned by the German government, invests in the private sector in developing countries. DEG does not maintain a searchable database of projects, but it is possible to view recent projects by region on its website.
  • The Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation (Finnfund) is the Finnish government’s development finance institution. Finnfund maintains a list of active projects on its website.
  • FMO is the Dutch government’s development bank. It provides financing to the private sector in developing countries. FMO maintains a searchable database of projects on its website.
  • The Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) is a Japanese government policy bank and export credit agency designed to promote economic cooperation between Japan and other countries. Although the site does not have a devoted projects database, it is possible to find information about the bank’s investment by using the website’s search tool.
  • The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. government’s development finance institution, invests in the private sector in developing countries. The bank maintains a searchable database of projects on its website.