An innovative new social investment fund launches today in Bristol. The £5m ‘Resonance Bristol Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) Fund’ by impact investment specialists Resonance is one of the first of its kind in the UK and enables sophisticated investors to invest in a tax efficient way in social enterprises that are helping to tackle poverty.
Like all investments there are risks, but the fund offers exciting opportunities for attractive returns and targeted social impact.
The fund, developed and run by Resonance and sponsored by UBS Wealth Management, utilises new tax relief measures to incentivise investment in charities, community interest companies and community benefit societies on terms that work for them. It has targeted a post-tax Internal Rate of Return of approximately 8% (overall rates of return may vary depending on the investor’s individual tax circumstances) and aims to invest in around a dozen social enterprises in the Bristol area, tackling issues such as access to the job market or access to affordable accommodation.
Daniel Brewer, Managing Director at Resonance said: “Today’s fund launch shows that private sector investors can empower social businesses to tackle problems of inequality in our cities. It’s good for investors, good for social enterprises and good for society at large”.
The fund is open to eligible investors from today (with a minimum investment level of £10k), and will be available shortly on the UBS Wealth Management platform, alongside other impact investments and comparable tax structures such as EIS and VCT funds.
UBS Wealth Management clients as well as clients of IFAs, who may have a relationship with UBS, will soon have access to this product. In addition, Worthstone, leading research specialist on impact investment, has conducted independent due diligence on the fund for UBS and will shortly be making available an independent product review for IFA subscribers via its web-based platform.
This is potentially just the start. Resonance plans to grow £30m+ of SITR Funds in several other cities across the UK over the next 2-3 years to achieve similar social impact through investment. However the expansion is dependent on the removal of an EU cap which effectively limits SITR investment to £275,000 for each individual organisation – this can often be well below the level of funding they actually need.
Removal of the EU cap would allow bigger deals from larger funds, enabling social enterprises to raise more investment. It is understood that if clearance is given, the cap could be raised to almost 20 times its current level.
Daniel Brewer added: “Today’s launch is exciting but we also want to go further, and the potential removal of the EU cap on investments is going to be a game changer that would allow social enterprises to access all the capital they need and, in due course, help replicate this further. Europe remains a big issue following the recent general election and an impending in-out referendum, and this is an early test for the new government to see if they can make our relationship with Europe work better for Britain.”
Jamie Broderick Head of UBS Wealth Management, UK said: “This fund is the first in the UK to truly utilise the benefits of Social Investment Tax Relief at scale, and it simultaneously drives down the cost of capital for social enterprises ready to grow. We are excited that the UBS Strategic Partner Portal for IFAs will be the ‘go-to’ place for IFAs and their clients to take advantage of this exciting opportunity, hopefully generating consistent returns while delivering a positive social impact in the UK.”
He added: “We join Resonance and others in hoping the EU lifts the cap and ensures SITR can be rolled out to others who can benefit across the country.”
Andy Street, a Bristol resident and Angel investor, who has committed to invest in the fund says: “For me, investing in the Resonance fund is a no-brainer – I respect the high level of integrity of the Resonance team, investment in the fund achieves a reasonable level of return thanks to the tax relief and, more importantly, it is helping to transform lives and communities across the city. In my view social investment can be part of any mixed portfolio and I hope more IFAs advise their clients to invest in opportunities such as this.”
Gavin Francis, Director at Worthstone commented: “This fund comes closer to meeting the needs of financial advisers whose clients want to access social impact investing than any other product has to date. It benefits from tax relief, is pseudo-pooled to help mitigate risk, and it offers an attractive target return. I believe its introduction – and the fact that a wealth manager of the scale and significance of UBS is recommending it, where suitable, to clients – will herald the arrival of social investment advice to retail investors in the UK.”
7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption
Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.
This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?
Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.
New Technologies to Watch
These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:
- Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
- Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
- New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
- Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
- Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
- The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
- Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.
Making the Investment
All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.
Two Ancient Japanese Philosophies Are the Future of Eco-Living
Our obsession with all things new has blighted the planet. We have a waste crisis, particularly when it comes to plastic. US scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made – 8.3 billion tons! Unfortunately, only 9% of this is estimated to have been recycled. And current global trends point to there being 12 billion tons of plastic waste by 2050.
However, two ancient Japanese philosophies are providing an antidote to the excesses of modern life. By emphasizing the elimination of waste and the acceptance of the old and imperfect, the concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi have positively influenced Japanese life for centuries.
They are now making their way into the consciousness of the Western mainstream, with an increasing influence in the UK and US. By encouraging us to be frugal with our possessions, (i.e. using natural materials for interior design) these concepts can be the future of eco-living.
What is Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai??
Wabi-Sabi emphasizes an acceptance of transience and imperfection. Although Wabi had the original meaning of sad and lonely, it has come to describe those that are simple, unmaterialistic and at one with nature. The term Sabi is defined as the “the bloom of time”, and has evolved into a new meaning: taking pleasure and seeing beauty in things that are old and faded.
Any flaws in objects, like cracks or marks, are cherished because they illustrate the passage of time. Wear and tear is seen as a representation of their loving use. This makes it intrinsically linked to Wabi, due to its emphasis on simplicity and rejection of materialism.
In the West, Wabi-Sabi has infiltrated many elements of daily life, from cuisine to interior design. Specialist Japanese homeware companies, like Sansho, source handmade products that embody the Wabi-Sabi philosophy. Their products, largely made from natural materials, are handcrafted by traditional Japanese artisans – meaning no two pieces are the same and no two pieces are “perfect” in size or shape.
Mottainai is a term expressing a feeling of regret concerning waste, translating roughly in English to either “what a waste!” or “Don’t waste!”. The philosophy emphasizes the intrinsic value of a resource or object, and is linked to hinto animism, the notion that all objects have a spirit, or ‘kami’. The idea that we are part of nature is a key part of Japanese psychology.
Mottainai also has origins in Buddhist philosophy. The Buddhist monastic tradition emphasizes a life of frugality, to allow us to concentrate on attaining enlightenment. It is from this move towards frugality that a link to Mottainai as a concept of waste can be made.
How have Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai promoted eco living?
Wabi-Sabi is still a prominent feature of Japanese life today, and has remained instrumental in the way people design their homes. The ideas of imperfection and frugality are hugely influential.
For example, instead of buying a brand-new kitchen table, many Japanese people instead retain a table that has been passed through the generations. Although its long use can be seen by various marks and scratches, Wabi-Sabi has taught people that they should value it because of its imperfect nature. Those scratches and marks are a story and signify the passage of time. This is a far cry from what we typically associate with the Western World.
Like Wabi Sabi, Mottainai is manifested throughout Japanese life, creating a great respect for Japanese resources. This has had a major impact on home design. For example, the Japanese prefer natural materials in their homes, such as using soil and dried grass as thermal insulation.
Their influence in the UK
The UK appears to be increasingly influenced by thes two concepts. Some new reports indicate that Wabi Sabi has been labelled as ‘the trend of 2018’. For example, Japanese ofuro baths inspired the project that won the New London Architecture’s 2017 Don’t Move, Improve award. Ofuro baths are smaller than typical baths, use less water, and are usually made out of natural materials, like hinoki wood.
Many other UK properties have also been influenced by these philosophies, such as natural Kebony wood being applied to the external cladding of a Victorian property in Hampstead; or a house in Lancaster Gate using rice paper partitions as sub-dividers. These examples embody the spirit of both philosophies. They are representative of Mottainai because of their use of natural resources to discourage waste. And they’re reflective of Wabi-Sabi because they accept imperfect materials that have not been engineered or modified.
In a world that is plagued by mass over-consumption and an incessant need for novelty, the ancient concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi provide a blueprint for living a more sustainable life. They help us to reduce consumption and put less of a strain on the planet. This refreshing mindset can help us transform the way we go about our day to day lives.