ALMOST two million people in the UK invested £3.6 billion in social enterprises in the past year. This represents an 11-per-cent increase on the previous 12 months — more than four times faster than all household savings and investments, a report published this week says.
The Ethex Positive Investing Report 2015, from Ethex, a business specialising in so-called “positive investments”, estimates that 2.9 per cent of the UK population now invests positively. The fastest-growing areas are community shares, charity bonds, and company bonds and equities, which grew by 31 per cent. That was due largely to the increasing popularity of internet-based crowdfunding.
Investment in credit unions, which surged last year after much publicity as an alternative source of finance, slowed, compared with the previous 12 months, but still grew by seven per cent.
The report applauded the arrival of positive funds, which offer investments that deliver genuine social and environmental benefits, are more transparent about what they invest in, and measure and report on the impact of the fund. But it laments the lack of more direct positive investments on the Stock Exchange, which prevents them from reaching a mass market and makes them difficult to invest in as part of a pension scheme.
The report criticised the Government for not encouraging more public involvement. It said: “Given the potential that positive investment has shown to deliver strong social and environmental benefit to society at little or no cost to the taxpayer, it is surprising that Government has shown so little inclination to support it.”
Planned changes to the rate paid for electricity generated by community renewable-energy schemes are also criticised in the report: “These moves put the United Kingdom out of step with most governments around the world, who continue to support renewable energy as a priority in addressing the urgent threat to the environment, poverty, and global security which climate change presents.”
It predicts that, in the next five years, positive saving and investing will increase to about £11 billion by 3.8 million people; but it warns: “This potential will only be realised if those working in positive investment are able to work closely together to maximise their reach . . . and if those in a position to . . . grow the market make the right strategic choices.”