What is on the horizon for 2014?

NII_icons_RGB-032013 drew to a close with more miserable evidence of the failure of the mainstream banking industry – even the self-declared ‘good guys’, an ethical bank, has lost trust and credibility in the minds of the general public.

So what is on the horizon for 2014? Well it’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to doing some good with your money.

The idea behind impact investment is using your money to achieve a positive social or environmental impact as well as a financial return. It’s not a brand new concept – arguably it began with the foundation of the building society movement in the 18th century. But it continues to be viewed as a ‘nascent’ field, an ‘embryonic’ market, an ‘alternative’ (and therefore risky) type of investing.

No more baby steps for impact investing

Despite these perceptions of immaturity, impact investment hitthe headlines in 2013 thanks to lots of government initiatives, from Big Society Capital to the G8 Social Investment Forum to the recently announced social enterprise tax reliefs. So with the backdrop of more banking let-downs on the one hand, and very strong policy support on the other, isn’t it time for impact investing to show it’s no longer taking baby steps; that it can walk the walk as well as talk the talk?

Here are three good reasons why 2014 will be the year that impact investing can do this:

  1. The sums of money now available from impact investors around the world are significant. Hundreds of billions of dollars globally; perhaps £1 billion in the UK today. Many new funds have been announced, and Big Society Capital is now a forceful stimulus in new fund creation. So in 2014 there will be lots of money available, and the funds it sits in are going to be out there hopefully making, and talking about, some really impactful investments.
  2. Impact investment will have the legitimacy of a tax relief. A lower tax bill doesn’t, at first glance, seem like the most socially impactful policy, but our research consistently points to how government endorsement via a tax break will legitimise social investments, making them a talking point which will lead to some much deserved recognition.
  3. The tech-for-good movement is encouraging our best entrepreneurs and technologists to apply their talents for social and environmental impact. Digital technology is rapidly and radically changing our lives, and disrupting long established industries – from telecommunications, to music, to publishing – but until now not addressing the big problems we face together as a society. The tech for good movement, as championed by Nominet Trust,Bethnal Green Ventures, AbilityNet and others, is helping top entrepreneurs achieve social impact and build great, really scalable businesses. 2014 will see more tech-for-good ventures seeking investment than ever before, and we need to get out there and back them to improve all our lives.

With so much opportunity on the horizon, 2014 should be the year that impact investing really grows up, achieving the scale, recognition and influence we all want to see.

By Joe Ludlow – Director, Nesta Impact Investments

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