What Does Diversity In Social Investment Look Like

Big Issue Invest Deputy Chief Executive, Daniel Wilson-Dodd weighs in on the diversity within our social investment portfolio.

There’s an elephant in the room, mainstream investors have a problem backing women.

Recognising this, HM Treasury has launched an initiative to promote gender equality through an initiative called  Investing in Women Code. Investing in Women Code is a commitment by financial services firms to improving female entrepreneurs’ access to tools, resources and finance. While familiarising ourselves with the initiative, we saw this a fitting time for Big Issue Invest to pause and reflect on our own company culture.

Kevin and I have been helping manage our Impact Loans England Fund. The fund launched in December 2016 and has made 121 loans totalling £7.1m. You can find out some of our learnings from lending to social enterprises in the article linked below:

Impact Loans England – Two Years On

When I self-audited our portfolio of investees, I found that almost 50% are investments were into female-led enterprises. This says a lot about the Big Issue culture. We haven’t set out to back female entrepreneurs as a part of our pillars of ‘social responsibility’. We simply back people doing good things and around 50% of the people with good ideas looking for investment happen to be women.

Interestingly, we did focus on investing in geographic areas ignored by mainstream finance. The vast majority of our investments are outside of the South East of England and in the most deprived areas throughout the country. Those entities are perceived to be higher risk by lenders. But by doing so, our investee portfolio better reflects our world – in terms of gender balance, ethnicity and background.

Natalia Fernandez is managing our follow up fund to Impact Loans England, the imaginatively named Impact Loans 2, which will provide loans of between £10,000 to £150,000 to social enterprises in England. In Scotland, Kieran Daly has launched the second round of Power Up Scotland, an accelerator program for social enterprises.

Both funds are open for applications now:

Impact Loans England 2 

Power Up Scotland

I’m sure as we move forward with our goal in sight, our investees will continue to reflect the UK community.