What next for social impact investing

To be held on Monday, May 16, 2016


  • Madeleine Thornton (social impact analyst, Big Issue Invest)

  • Daniel Godfrey (non-executive director, Big Issue Invest)

  • Tomas Carruthers (CEO, Social Stock Exchange)

  • Rodney Schwartz (CEO, ClearlySo)




Social impact investing turns the cliché about covering a multitude of sins on its head – this field aims to cover a multitude of virtues. Originally seen as the – perhaps conscience-ridden – preserve of wealthy philanthropists, it now extends to “smart beta” investment approaches. These aim to screen for factors that will deliver a basket of stocks that not only do no harm to people or the planet, but also make money in a “sustainable” way. And, of course, we have social stock exchanges that allow investors to pick their own hoped-for winners.

In between donating money and return-seeking investment that screens out anti-social activity comes the full gamut of social investing. An important issue is how much less of a return an investor is prepared to accept if he or she believes the business is doing good, eg providing local wind power or transport, or social housing. Much attention is now focused on measuring the degree of good being done. But this raises questions at both ends of the spectrum. First, isn’t doing good inherently worth it? And second, aren’t some projects that do good capable of making market-beating returns?

The sector has reached the point where it no longer relies on fuzzy sentiment to grow. To lead our discussion of the emerging trends, we are delighted to welcome:

  • Madeleine Thornton, social impact analyst at Big Issue Invest (BII), where she leads on the measurement, analysis and reporting of BII’s social impact. She will be joined by Daniel Godfrey, who, as I am sure you are all aware, is the former CEO of the Investment Association (and now, among other things, a non-executive director at BII).
  • Tomás Carruthers, CEO of the Social Stock Exchange, a public equity and fixed income market for companies making a positive social and environmental impact. Among the innovative businesses he has set up and run are Electronic Share Information, which became E*Trade UK, and Interactive Investor International.
  • Rodney Schwartz, CEO of ClearlySo, which connects social ventures and social investment funds with institutional and HNW investors. A former head of the financial institutions group at Paribas, he has served in a number of Third Sector roles, including stints as chairman of JustGiving and Shelter.