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Resonance: matching social enterprise with investment



As interest in social enterprises continues to grow, social impact investment firm Resonance represents an innovative way to connect social organisations with responsible investors.

It aims to match social enterprises with investors who share their values and want to invest in sustainable, well-planned projects. The organisation is currently working with over 10 social enterprises as clients and has three operational impact funds with just under £30m under management. It also works with an extensive network of individual ‘angel’ investors who wish to back social enterprises.

Dan Brewer, managing director of Resonance, explains, “We exist to connect sources of capital with transformational social enterprises, to act as a bridge between them.

We do this in two complementary ways. Firstly, we have a corporate finance team that can work with individual social impact organisations to help them raise investment. Secondly, we have a fund management team that can create and manage impact investment funds, where these are the right tool to get capital into that situation.”

The Real Lettings Property Fund, which Resonance developed with homelessness charity Broadway, is a food example of this. The fund launched in 2013 with over £16m investment from five founder investors, and recently secured an additional £10m investment from Croydon council. It aims to ease homelessness and provide vulnerable individuals and families with opportunities to rent affordable accommodation and a route back to an independent life.

Brewer adds that the organisation’s work with Broadway began with Resonance helping the charity scope different ways to raise investment. This then developed into a property fund, which has to date secured over 80 one and two-bed flats across London suitable for this purpose, towards its target of 220. It combines the features of a residential property fund with a targeted social impact in homelessness, and is looking to grow to £45m or more this year.

Social impact investment is an area that has seen encouraging signs of growth in the last few years. Research published last year by Triodos Bank found that three million investors could consider social investment this year, and with more than £2 trillion currently invested in standard savings accounts, investments and pensions, even a minor shift could deliver a significant impact.

The government has also shown support for social enterprises and laid out plans to extend tax relief benefits to the sector in a bid to increase investment, which will come into effect from April 1 2014. This growth and interest is something Resonance has been part of since its foundation in 2002 and continues to build on.

Simon Chisholm, investment director at Resonance, says, “We are actively engaged with social organisations and we can stay very close to the emerging demands for capital, which we believe allows us to be more responsive and impactful in the funds we launch.”

In addition to the Real Letting Property Fund, Resonance currently manages two other social impact funds. The first, the Community Share Underwriting Fund, launched in May 2012 with £500,000 in initial investment. It provides asset-backed finance to community groups to support innovative and ambitious community projects in diverse areas, including sustainable energy, community business hubs and community farms. The fund provides ‘underwriting’ to community share offers in the form of interest-only loans.

The second fund, the Affordable Homes Rental Fund, is a community lending vehicle with initial investment from Big Society Capital of £2.5m. Established in August 2012, the fund invests in community-led organisations providing long-term affordable rental housing for local people.

Both these funds grew out of Resonance’s experience working directly with community led initiatives, and are now seeking a second round of investment.

It is hoped that Resonance’s work will encourage pension funds and other institutional investors to consider impact investment, a sector that is currently more often associated with private investors and trusts who wish to invest their capital for impact. It also has an ambition to open this area of investment to allow smaller retail investors to access it more easily. If the market continues to grow successfully, more money could flow into the area, leading to social and environmental benefits for the wider community and returns for investors.

Whilst every fund and individual financing is different, Brewer says, “The common themes are that we always need to see a good combination of transformational social impact, viable business plan and strong management.

“We involve the social enterprises themselves in helping to set the measures for impact, so that these are consistent and reinforce their ‘theory of change’ rather than distorting their incentives. We look wherever possible for commercial risk-adjusted returns, often by seeking innovative ways to reduce risk.”

Further reading:

Croydon council commits £10m to social investment fund that helps the homeless

Report ‘de-risks’ impact investment to open sector up to mainstream

Fiona Woolf: London must lead in social impact investment

Triodos survey says 3m may consider social investment in next year

Government sets out social enterprise in Social Investment Roadmap


How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable




sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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