Since 2010, the NatWest SE100 Index has been charting the growth and impact of the UK’s top social enterprises. Our team of number-crunchers has gathered data about social enterprises’ growth, explored how they report their impact and celebrated the very best performers. In doing so, we’ve told the story of social enterprise to new audiences, driven up standards and developed a strong community of like-minded entrepreneurs.
Now we are turning our spotlight on social investors.
The aim of this revolutionary new index is twofold: to act as a matchmaker between social enterprises seeking investment and suitable investors, and to push forward the quality of transparency and impact measurement among those who hold the social investment purse-strings.
We want to see more deals done, more openness about how investments are made and what they are achieving, and more money coming into the social investment sector from people who want to see their funds work for a social purpose, and who believe our sector can achieve it.
The Investor Index debuts with a select group of leading social investors. It will expand over the coming months and years.
SOME IMPORTANT QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I'M A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE. HOW IS THE INVESTOR INDEX USEFUL TO ME?
There is no other place online where social enterprises seeking investment can find out who the key investors are, what they offer, what they stand for and what’s behind their investment decisions – all in one place.
The SE100 Investor Index will not only give you the basic information about an investor, but it will give you a valuable insight into the culture and outlook that informs their investment decisions.
By using the drop-down menu at the top of the Index page, you can search for investors by selecting different types of investment, then click through to their detailed profile. This will help you find the best investor for you.
But remember, it’s not all about them. You can use this information to examine your own procedures and consider whether you are investment-ready for this investor. We want to enhance the quality of contacts between investors and investees, and ensure that the best matches are ultimately made.
I'M A SOCIAL INVESTOR. WHY SHOULD I BE PART OF THE INVESTOR INDEX?
The Investor Index offers investors the valuable opportunity to make connections with potential investees through a ready-made pipeline of interested parties. But it offers much more too.
By joining the Investor Index you are part of a group of pioneering investors who are brave enough to stick their heads above the parapet and say, this is what we are doing and this is how we are doing it.
Social impact reporting is a nascent field: different investors are approaching it in different ways; some are at the start of their journey, others are more advanced. By working through our impact and transparency questionnaire you will be encouraged to reflect on your practice and consider how you communicate it others. It also gives investors a forum through which to see and learn from what their peers do and share their successes (and failures).
We hope that the Investor Index will drive forward the quality and consistency of social impact reporting, showcase your successes and, as a result, attract more investment into the sector. It should also help you to make decisions when identifying investees and ultimately drive down monitoring and reporting costs.
HOW DID YOU DEVELOP THE QUESTIONS FOR SOCIAL INVESTORS?
We worked in partnership with Social Value International (previously The SROI Network and Social Impact Analyst Association) and our pilot group of investors to develop our methodology.
We want to highlight what information investors share with the outside world about their own finances and culture. We also want to explore what investors require from potential and current investees – the sorts of expectations they have of investees for monitoring and reporting upon the impact their backing makes.
DOES A LOW SCORE MEAN AN INVESTOR IS NO GOOD?
We believe we have asked the right questions, even though they may be difficult for some investors to answer.
But, as we mentioned earlier, social impact reporting is a developing field and we are all learning. A low score on the impact side could be because an investor is trialling a new method of impact reporting behind the scenes but hasn’t yet shared it publicly, it could be because they use different methodologies for different types of investee, it could be because they have a unique approach which doesn’t fit in with more widely-used principles.
A low score in the transparency section could be because the investor doesn’t share all of its financial information because some of it is commercially sensitive, it could be because the total amount of funds available and drawn down are too fluid to come up with a precise figure, it could be because they individually seek out potential investees instead of inviting cold applications.
All of our questions offer investors the opportunity to add an explanation or more information underneath. It is the investors’ prerogative to decide how they communicate their approach to the wider world.
WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR THE INVESTOR INDEX?
This is currently a pilot. We are immensely grateful for the 13 investors who have taken the time and trouble to work with us in getting this groundbreaking index off the ground. We are talking to investors, social enterprises and other experts about how we will take this forward – whether our questions need to be modified in the future, what sort of information would be most useful to discover, how people expect to use this resource. The Investor Index will develop and grow – watch this space!
WHAT SOME OF OUR PIONEERING GROUP OF INVESTORS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE INDEX
Emilie Goodall, director of projects Impact+ at Bridges Ventures, says: ‘Anyone can look at the Investor Index and understand our approach to impact. It will help social enterprises to consider whether we would be a suitable partner, and the more transparent we can be as investors, the easier it is for them to do this.’
Sarah Forster, deputy CEO at Big Issue Invest, says: ‘The pressure is on the industry to demonstrate that we are producing social and financial returns. We need good ways to measure this and we are all working in different ways to do this. We see this field developing by us all working together.’
James Perry, CEO of Panahpur, says: 'This is the future. It should be completely normal for investors with a public benefit purpose and legal structure to share this information. We are very supportive of promoting knowledge in this field.'
INTERESTED IN BECOMING PART OF THE SE100 INVESTOR INDEX?
Contact Lucy James, Project Manager for SE100