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Momentum for social investment is building, says Big Society Capital chair



Harvey McGrath, chairman of the Big Society Capital, has described social investment as a genuine “alternative and sustainable” way to fund work that benefits communities and wider society. He added that social investment is gathering momentum and could soon make a discernable impact.

Over the course of 2013, Big Society Capital, the world’s first social bank, made £93 million of new investment commitments. The bank launched in 2011 with the aim of growing the social investment market by acting as a “market champion”, promoting social investment and creating the right conditions for the market to thrive.

In the years since interest in the market has been growing, with research published by ethical bank Triodos suggesting that 3 million will consider social investment in 2014.

During this year’s budget chancellor George Osborne announced a tax relief for social enterprises, boosting the sector further. Big Society Capital estimated this development could unlock nearly half a billion pounds in finance over the next five years.

Writing in the Telegraph, McGrath explains that he first came across the idea of social investment ten years ago and as a businessman and philanthropist it appealed to him.

“If I give money to a charity as a gift or a grant, it is gone, of course, in supporting the good work of the organisation. If however I can help a charity to grow by providing working capital funding, or funding for premises, or for the development of a trading arm to help them become self-sustaining, so they are able to repay my loan, we have a double win,” he said.

“I have both helped the charity deliver on their missions, and I can recycle my money to assist other causes.”

McGrath pointed to social impact bonds (SIBs) as a good example of how investment can have a positive impact. SIBs are a contract with the public sector in which a commitment is made to pay for improved social outcomes. They are awarded on a payment-by-result basis so investors only see a return if social targets are met.

There are now 15 SIBs operating in the UK, with the government announcing a new £30 million SIB last week, and McGrath describes them as “potentially a very powerful way to tackling some of our most difficult social issues”.

Other countries have also recognised the benefits of this method. The United States, Australia and the Netherlands have all taken up SIBs whilst Canada, Israel, India, Pakistan, Colombia, Uganda, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland are working on proposals.

Speaking about the social investment sector as a whole, McGrath commented, “This is only the beginning. Our aim is to develop the market to a level where it is making a describable difference and to achieve this we have set out a four pillar strategy.”

Big Society Capital’s strategy includes improving access to finance for small and medium sized charities and acting as an ideas hub for innovative approaches to tackling social problems. It also has a goal of building “mass participation” in social investment and bringing “greater scale to bear in financing social issues”.

McGrath concludes, “Social investment is a largely unfamiliar concept for both the social sector and the investment community. However, Big Society Capital has started the ball rolling and the momentum is building. I am confident we will succeed in our objectives.”

Photo: Eastop via Freeimages

Further reading:

Bringing social investment into the mainstream

Fiona Woolf: London must lead in social impact investment

Sir Ronald Cohen: measuring of social investment outcomes a ‘breakthrough’

Cameron: ‘social investment can be a great force for social change on the planet’

Big Society Capital: social investment benefitted from £93m in 2013


These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money




eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete |

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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Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis




Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey 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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