Launch of new challenge to get businesses to become social investors


Alliance magazine


Business leaders across the UK are being challenged to think outside the box and come up with innovative ways of using social investment to tackle some of the most pressing social issues. Big Society Capital is launching its second Business Impact Challenge to look for the best ideas for high-impact investments that generate both strong business and social value in the UK.

The Challenge includes support for companies as they develop their ideas and encourages innovative partnerships between corporates and charities or social enterprises.

Entries will be judged by an expert panel chaired by Lord Davies of Abersoch (former Chairman of Standard Chartered and Minister of State for Trade and investment) and includes Harvey McGrath (former Chairman of Prudential plc and Man Group plc), Ian Davis (former Managing Director of McKinsey & Co), and Karen Lynch (social entrepreneur CEO of Belu Water).

Lord Davies said:

‘From CEOs to managers, companies need to be thinking about innovative ways of building social value into their business. Those that have done so successfully have not only had a positive social impact but have made commercial gains as well. We now need to see more businesses taking this approach. Charities and social enterprises have expertise in responding to social issues and by working with them companies can determine which social needs best align with their strategy.

This is a fantastic opportunity for businesses to not only benefit from their investment, but also from the expertise and support of Big Society Capital.’

A new report by Oliver Wyman for Big Society Capital revealed that over half of corporate social impact programmes were investments that aimed to generate a financial as well as social return. The research included analysis of over 550 corporate programmes at 127 companies globally. The report highlighted the need to overcome common barriers such as a lack of understanding of social investment opportunities, and the importance of getting buy-in from senior executives and managers.

Claire Kearney, from Big Society Capital said:

‘Building on the high level of interest in our inaugural Challenge, we believe this year’s programme has the potential to generate many new cross sector partnerships and accelerate innovative ideas from corporates. We look forward to supporting the next wave of businesses interested in engaging with social investment as they take their first steps into the market.’

In 2015 an innovative partnership between Interserve, Catch 22 and ClubFinance was the first winner of the Business Impact Challenge. Their idea for a Public Services Lab to support community organisations, charities and social enterprises to deliver on public service contracts at scale proved popular with the judges.

The research by Oliver Wyman also highlights that social impact investment can provide companies with access to new markets, products, services or technologies, and help develop, attract and retain talent. However, a key hurdle can be a lack of in-house expertise. The winning ideas will receive expert support in structuring and launching their idea from Big Society Capital, and the opportunity to access matched investment.

Businesses can enter their high-impact investment ideas from today at

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