- Four leaders from across the sector have recognised the significant growth of UK social impact investing as Big Society Capital celebrates its tenth anniversary.
- Sir Harvey McGrath said the growth can be attributed to Big Society Capital’s partnership approach – while Sir Ronald Cohen said he is pleased that the organisation is now operating sustainably.
- Lisa Hilder commented on what the growth of the market means for social enterprises and charities – enabling many to become less reliant on grants.
5 July 2022: Sector leaders Sir Ronald Cohen, Sir Harvey McGrath, Lisa Hilder and Lyn Tomlinson have reflected on the advances made in the social impact investing market over the past decade in Big Society Capital’s Ten Years of Investing for Impact report published today. They also give their different perspectives on how the market and attitudes have changed in that time.
Sir Harvey McGrath, who served as Big Society Capital’s Chair between 2014-2022 and has held distinguished financial services roles, including CEO at Man Group plc and Chair of Prudential plc, said he believed the market’s growth has been significant –increasing eightfold from £830 million in 2012 to £6.4 billion when last estimated in 2020.
He said he believes Big Society Capital’s efforts to build a network of partners has supported this growth. “The number of fund managers in the social investment space has increased from no more than a handful to over 40 today. We have also supported growth in lending by social banks, by making capital available to them.” He added that initiatives such as Good Finance have been critical in helping raise awareness.
While Big Society Capital co-founding Chair, venture capitalist and “father of impact investment”, Sir Ronald Cohen, said that he was pleased that Big Society Capital is operating as the sustainable organisation it was set up to be – now having committed £821 million compared with the £625 million of capital it was initially established with in 2012. He said: “Having seen initiatives peter out because they ran out of money, we wanted to ensure the permanency of Big Society Capital in order that money continues to be used at scale to tackle social issues.”
He also commented on Big Society Capital’s introduction of investment in addition to grant funding to the social sector. “This was the first time an organisation of Big Society Capital’s scale would provide investment, as opposed to grants, to social enterprises and charities.” Over its first decade, Big Society Capital and its partners have channelled more than £2.6 billion of investment to over 2,000 UK social enterprises and charities.
Lisa Hilder, who sits on Big Society Capital’s Investment Committee and is Chair at the Winner Group, a Hull-based charity supporting women fleeing domestic abuse, said she was an advocate of investment as a way for social sector organisations to diversify their income streams, particularly in the wake of austerity. She said: “Organisations have faced a constant grind of trying to win grants and contracts to keep their services going.”
She added that social impact investment has enabled the Winner Group to provide housing support to many more women, children and families than they were able to previously. “We have been able to plan for the long-term. Rather than looking out three to five years, we can plan for the next 25 years. Making this change has allowed us to scale our impact.”
While Lyn Tomlinson, Head of Social Impact at Cazenove Capital, referenced her own experiences. “I have personal experience of some of the issues social impact investing is trying to tackle and understand how damaging they can be for families and particularly for children. Social enterprises and charities are often best placed to solve those issues, but to do so at scale, they, like any business need capital.”
She added that while investors have found there to be “some hurdles” to accessing these opportunities – the market has started to scale and become more attractive to investors. “I would encourage all investors to explore the options and get started on their journey of social impact investing.”
The report also features thoughts from Big Society Capital CEO, Stephen Muers. He said that the “need for social impact investment is greater now than ever” due to social inequalities being heightened by the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis. However, he added that he believes that the social impact investment movement is looking to continue its positive trajectory: “with investors, investees, national and local Government, and other partners increasingly seeing its potential.”
Looking forward, Sir Cohen concluded that Big Society Capital has an “important leadership role” to play as world economies transition to directing capital to where it is needed most. He said: “My ambition for Big Society Capital, and the organisations that are seeking to emulate it – in Japan, Portugal, South Korea, Canada, and elsewhere across the world – is that they play a leading role in driving impact investment to scale.”