Guiding corporates through the social investment maze | Big Society Capital

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Guiding corporates through the social investment maze

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Companies are increasingly coming to realise that it is possible to design innovative and commercially viable business models that also have a positive social impact.

From our discussions with corporates as part of our Business Impact Challenge, we have found that many are open to the idea of social investment. However, again and again the same questions are being asked: What does it look like in reality? How do I do it? And who can I partner with? To answer these questions we co-commissioned The Practitioner’s Guide: A Practical Guide to Creating Positive Outcomes for companies wanting to develop and implement their own social investment ideas.

Drawing upon the experience of 30 leading social investment practitioners - interviewed by co-authors Charmian Love, Julia Rebholz and Amanda Feldman - the guide provides a clear step by step process for companies to follow when looking to establish their own social investment strategy. It highlights the key questions that need to be answered at each stage, along with practical suggestions of how to do it. It also contains a number of examples, both in the UK and globally, of companies who have already established successful social investment programmes, so others can see what social investment looks like in action.

One common theme emerged from the interviews: strong partnerships are a key success factor. The guide illustrates a range of collaborative models to show how companies, investors, government and charities and social enterprises can form effective partnerships. A company/company collaboration, for example, combines resources and splits risk between companies addressing a common interest. Mars and Danone established the Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming in their shared interest of creating greater supply chain resilience while helping alleviate rural poverty and restore degraded ecosystems.

In a company/social investor collaboration, companies benefit from a social investor’s expertise in sourcing and managing investments into social enterprises. Asda and Social Investment Scotland, who were applicants to BSC’s 2015 Business Impact Challenge, have partnered to build social enterprises’ capacity to deliver products onto the supermarket’s shelves. The aptly named Social Enterprise Supplier Development Academy provides tailored mentoring, advice and support to enterprises as they prepare to pitch their product to Asda. Successful enterprises are then able to access appropriate social investment.

There are many existing models of social investment and new ones being developed. While we recognise it can be challenging to develop, secure buy in and implement a social investment strategy within a corporate, we hope that the guide offers practical and tangible advice on how to best plan and overcome the most common hurdles.

Last updated | 
27 June 2016