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Eight social enterprises win contracts worth £35m – thanks to social investment fund

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An investment fund that supports social enterprises with their growth ambitions has had a “significant and positive” impact on the sector and businesses involved, according to a new report.

The Investment and Contract Readiness Fund (ICRF) aims to ensure that social ventures are better equipped to secure new forms of investment and compete for public service contracts.

A three-year £10m fund, it is managed by the Social Investment Business on behalf of the Office for Civil Society. Social enterprises can apply for grants of £50,000-150,000 to purchase support if they are looking to raise at least £500,000 in investment or win a £1m contract.

The fund – the first of its kind globally – was created in response to a growing sector that the organisation said was being held back because it lacked the skills needed in this area.

Since May 2012, 94 social ventures with “high potential for growth” have received grants worth £8.9m to purchase specialist support. A report looking at the fund says the first eight ventures to receive support demonstrate the “significant and positive impact” the fund has had.

These eight enterprises collectively received grants worth £815,144, which has since helped them win deals worth £34.9m. For example, after receiving a grant of £52,250 Pure Innovations won a five-year contract worth £11.7m from the royal borough of Kingston to take over the running of its learning disability service.

Doug Cresswell, CEO of Pure Innovations, said the grant had made a “very tangible and positive difference”. He added that the process meant that his social enterprise had reviewed its business strategy to focus on winning more contracts in the future.

Jonathan Jenkins, CEO of the Social Investment Business, said, “These success stories show how modest levels of targeted business support can make ambitious charities and social enterprises much more successful at raising the investment they need to expand their activities and winning contracts to provide public services.”

The report notes that as the social enterprise sector continues to grow and adapt to meet social needs, the fund will also need to evolve with it. ‘Market shapers’ such as Big Society Capital, the Big Lottery Fund and the Cabinet Office were identified as being well placed to steer the evolution by continuing to lead the conversation about what kind of social investment market should be built.

The report concludes, “The innovate design of the fund itself will no doubt become a benchmark for similar funds elsewhere in the world.”

The Social Investment Business is also exploring alternative ways to raise money for social investment and the ICRF. In February, it announced a strategic partnership with social investment fund manager Social and Sustainable Capital.

The partnership aims to attract “substantial amounts of finance” from the private sector and is targeting investors that want both a financial and social return on their money.

Photo: Eastop via Freeimages

Further reading:

Social enterprises given investment and mentor opportunity

Healthcare social enterprises in massive 121% growth in 2013

Government sets out social enterprise support in Social Investment Roadmap

Social enterprises and cooperatives need to tell Britain’s leaders what they want

Resonance: matching social enterprise with investment

Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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Energy

Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis

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Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey Nivens | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/nivens

Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.

Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?

Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.

Tip #1: Focus & Determination

Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.

Tip #2: Minimize Spending

One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!

Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal

You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.

Investing in Clean Energy

One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.

With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.

The Future of Green Biz

As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.

Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.

In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!

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