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‘If not now, when?’ – Calls for Australian impact investing wholesaler grow louder

5 August 2020 at 8:38 am
Maggie Coggan
It follows the release of UK impact investing wholesaler Big Society Capital’s inaugural review  

Maggie Coggan | 5 August 2020 at 8:38 am


‘If not now, when?’ – Calls for Australian impact investing wholesaler grow louder
5 August 2020 at 8:38 am

It follows the release of UK impact investing wholesaler Big Society Capital’s inaugural review  

Positive social outcomes achieved by wholesale impact investing funds in the UK underscore the immediate need for the same to happen in Australia, impact investing leaders say. 

An independent review of Big Society Capital (BSC) and its effectiveness, released by its parent organisation Big Society Trust (BST) at the end of July, found the wholesaler had made “substantial progress towards its challenging and ambitious objectives”. 

BSC, which acts as an investment wholesaler to promote and develop the social investment marketplace in the UK, was found to have helped grow the market substantially.    

As a wholesaler, BSC does not invest directly in charities and social enterprises; rather it invests dormant account money in intermediaries, such as fund managers and social banks, who in turn provide finance to social sector organisations.

Achievements were measured from 2012 (the year the organisation was founded) to 2018, the review found the number of venture impact funds had increased from three in 2012 to 28 in 2018, setting up over 70 outcomes contracts in the UK (compared to 13 in 2012), and building the social property fund market from nothing in 2012 to over £2 billion in 2018. 

The review found that social investment in the UK would not have grown to the same extent without the focus, funding and resources provided by BSC. 

“Many comment that having an entity entirely dedicated to developing social investment has been ‘truly game-changing’,” the review said. 

“Intermediaries have said that they would not exist at the same scale – ‘or even at all’ – without BSC’s influence, support and capital.” 

Rosemary Addis AM, executive director of Impact Strategist and a trustee of the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment, told Pro Bono News that the positive outcomes outlined in the review only reinforced the “game changing” potential wholesale funds could bring about in Australia. 

“Reviews such as these continue to prove the case that we’ve been working on to create a wholesaler in Australia,” Addis said. 

For over five years now, impact investing leaders and peak bodies such as Impact Investing Australia have pushed for the creation of Impact Capital Australia, which they said would accelerate development and achieve scale for impact investing in the country.

Addis said that as Australia looked to rebuild its economy in a post-coronavirus world, setting up an organisation that would better align social and economic outcomes was critical.    

“My question is, if not now, when is going to be the time,” she said.  

“Now is absolutely the time to be encouraging and putting resources into things that can drive the innovation we need to solve social issues and to be leveraging private capital into things that are good for the country socially, environmentally and economically.” 

Sally McCutchan OAM, the CEO of Impact Investing Australia, added that she hoped she would see funding provided in this year’s federal budget. 

“It’s critical that the federal government take action on this,” McCutchan told Pro Bono News. 

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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