Investing for social impact: A turning tide in the solution economy is attracting new capital - Canadian Government Executive
Policy
January 5, 2015

Investing for social impact: A turning tide in the solution economy is attracting new capital

When we first set out to explore the solution economy in 2011, we were seeking to understand the growing movement of non-governmental actors into the realm of societal problem solving. Fast forward to 2014 and we are on the cusp of the formalization of global social capital markets.

A trillion dollars is how much could be released into the solution economy every year if governments, industry and civil society are able to unlock just one percent of the world’s investment market toward “impact investing” – using private capital to finance public good.

Impact investments are made into businesses and social sector organizations, directly or through funds, with the goal of generating a measurable, social or environmental benefit alongside a financial return to the investor. These investments may involve new forms of financing for government programs – very much like accomplishing for social programs what public-private partnerships (P3s) have achieved for bricks-and-mortar public projects. Or, they may be private investments in socially-minded businesses operating in competitive commercial markets.

Either way, in order to thrive, they will require the engagement of government policymakers or program designers in creating the conditions for delivering the kind of positive social impact their promoters seek.

Since 2012, the World Economic Forum has hosted impact investors at its annual Davos meetings. The focus of these – and other global as well as Canadian initiatives – has been to devise strategies and proposals that would help to catapult impact investing from the “margins to the mainstream.”

The recent Social Impact Investment Task Force, established by the U.K. presidency of the G8, lays out in its September 2014 report a compelling vision for the future: one that sees a “third dimension” of social impact added to the traditional measures of financial returns and associated risks.

Canadian leaders of business, civil society and government were active participants in this work and since the Canadian Social Finance Task Force issued its report in September, momentum has been building. A monumental task must still be undertaken if Canada is to benefit from the potential of social capital markets.

There are an estimated 5,000 social assistance programs operating across the country, with annual expenditures of more than $200 billion. In some jurisdictions, these program expenditures have been growing at two to three times the rate of the Canadian economy. Yet, despite the scale and growth of these expenditures, most are not accompanied by impact measurement or reporting of social return on investment (SROI).

There are many areas that could benefit from the active investment of new money and expertise to create and grow markets for social impact:

• Approximately 2.4 million Canadians are out of work, representing 7 percent of the population, yet there are 206,000 jobs available.
• Healthcare costs currently absorb about 11 percent of Canada’s gross domestic product and almost half of provincial budgets; however by 2056, seniors will comprise between 25% and 30% of the Canadian population, placing unsustainable burdens on existing healthcare programs.

Meanwhile, Canadian businesses continue to hold onto cash in the search for meaningful investments. In fact, Statistics Canada data shows Canadian companies held $629.7 million in cash reserves during the first quarter of 2014, an increase over the previous quarter. Yet, our recent market sounding of the Canadian investor community found that there is a growing interest in new forms of impact investment instruments such as Social Impact Bonds. While governments proceed with caution in facilitating the policy and regulatory changes that could assist in freeing up this cash, capital remains under-employed.

The impact investment movement, while fueled by non-governmental actors, is becoming a driving force in the measurement of social returns. Guidelines like those described in the Measuring Impact Subject Paper from the G8 Task Force significantly raise the bar for those private sector players pursuing social impact. These evolving standards have the potential to compel governments to improve how they report on results achieved and, ultimately, innovate to improve SROI. If these markets mature as we think they can, it will be increasingly difficult for governments or impact market participants to avoid transparency or accountability for what is being achieved.

A study by RBC last year showed that impact investing funds in the Canadian market grew by 20 percent to $5.3 billion in 2012. But, if Canada were to achieve the increasingly accepted international community aspiration of one percent of capital markets being invested for impact, the market would be $30 billion annually.

Clearly, we have a long way to go. Institutional investors remain reluctant to consider impact investing as a way to grow their portfolios. In fact, current pension assets in impact investing are practically zero.

However, there is growing evidence the tide will turn. In fact, a Harvard Business School study found that a portfolio of high-sustainability companies outperformed a low-sustainability portfolio by 4.8 percent annually.

Canada’s National Advisory Board to the G8 Social Impact Investment Task Force got it right when it recently reported that there are two things that need to happen: addressing legislative and policy barriers; and, encouraging impact investing through “catalytic capital” measures. We are on the brink of a new movement in social innovation. One that is fueled not only by innovative governments but by a new breed of social impact investors. The opportunity to improve the lives of millions of Canadians is too great to let slip away.

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A number of complex issues are emerging from the background that need the government’s attention. There are so many “wicked problems” to concentrate on, but central to any discussion about future challenges should include a comprehensive look at the long-term employment situation in Canada. Related posts: Here’s what people will be looking for in the federal budget Part-time work up, full-time jobs slide: StatsCan The Dashboard: Employment in Canada...
 
The need for local government innovation is now greater than ever. The uncontrolled urban development we have witnessed in the past 100 years cannot continue. ...
 
Anyone familiar with NORAD and ballistic missile defence issues will remember the media hype that surrounded the period leading up to then-Prime Minister Martin’s 2005 decision not to participate in the American development and fielding of a defensive system....
 
Canada has been among the more active countries in conducting trials in e-voting. To date, e-voting has been used only for municipal elections in Canada, although it has also been used to elect leaders of political parties, both provincially and federally....
 
Government plays a central role in promoting business interests. Good government service supports sustainable business and economic development. Business also has a growing stake in helping government deliver public services. Related posts: Great Expectations: Citizen-centred service delivery Mobility and government: From rhetoric to readiness Online awareness: Key to improving government services...
 
At 9:43 on the morning of May 17, 2013, a magnitude 5.2 earthquake struck the Ottawa valley. A citizen could go to the Did You Feel It? website run by Natural Resources Canada and fill out a questionnaire regarding the severity of the shaking and damage observed....
 
Social enterprises are the wave of the future. There are more than 10,000 in Ontario that present a huge opportunity for all parts of the economy on issues that matter to many Ontarians. Related posts: Is Ontario ripe for a new industrial policy? Megatrends for Ontario infrastructure Is Ontario the new Quebec? Report...
 
The recent sparring between Justin Trudeau and Jason Kenney about the plight of the middle class in Canada is a rare instance of an evidence-based conversation, albeit in the now customary highly confrontational and hyper partisan style of modern politics in Canada....
 
The federal government’s Blueprint 2020 initiative provides an opportunity to re-think how governments deliver public science in the digital age. Government science has evolved from make-or-buy to cloud-and-crowd (the “clowd”). Related posts: Blueprint 2020: Forging the future Yes we can...transform Lessons from the Field: How Changemakers Get Things Done in Government...
 
Regardless of the outcome of the Sochi Olympics for Canada, the path that we charted to prepare for the games was unprecedented and represents an evolution in the way in which Canada now competes in the Olympics and other major sporting events....
 
I was a judge last weekend at the National Public Administration Case Competition hosted by the University of Toronto School of Public Policy and Governance. Twelve schools from across the country competed, presenting to a panel of “Ministers” (of which I was one) their solutions to a complicated policy case study. Related posts: Case competition: Practicing the art of policymaking...
 
The accounts of the reckless behaviour of our senators, the allegations of corruption among the highest ranking officials in Quebec’s largest municipalities, and the behaviour of Canada’s most infamous mayor, Rob Ford, have distracted us from the important current issues confronting the nation and that demand the full attention of government and the cooperation of...
 
The spectacle of the mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, attacking his fellow city councellors provides a dramatic example of a growing and fundamental division between Canadians. Mayor Ford has spent the past dozen years or so honing a clear political rhetoric… Related posts: SAS offers analytics tool to combat tax evasion, fraud CRA automates tax returns Wealthy tax dodgers get amnesty from CRA: report...
 
The spectacle of the mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, attacking his fellow city councellors provides a dramatic example of a growing and fundamental division between Canadians. Mayor Ford has spent the past dozen years or so honing a clear political rhetoric… Related posts: The looming battle SAS offers analytics tool to combat tax evasion, fraud CRA automates tax returns...
 
One of the key responsibilities of government departments of labour is to establish laws to promote the prevention of work injury and illness and then take steps to promote compliance with these laws. Related posts: Achieving a healthy workplace Setting a standard for workplace health and safety...
 
On October 15, 2013 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, James Anaya, issued a statement at the end of his nine-day visit to Canada. Anaya’s report will be presented at a later date to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Related posts: A new course for accountable governance Good for business: Investing in Aboriginal prosperity Transparency and public opinion in First Nations communities: study...
 
The Comprehensive Community Plan…was a community-driven project, where we talked about our wishes, our dreams and our needs, and we prioritized them....
 
FOA Canada sees finance, business and management capacity as a bridge between the vision of independent, self-governing communities and its fulfillment....
 
According to the World Health Organization, up to 10 percent of all lung cancers are linked to radon. The problem has been identified, the studies have provided the evidence and the solution is clear....
 
In the spirit of nation building, Treaty 7 Management Corporation and the Institute on Governance held a symposium in Calgary in October. Panelists and participants reflected on recent developments in case law, policy and First Nations-industry partnerships… Related posts: Impact of digital culture and technology on democracy Can our system survive digital technology? One step at a time...
 
The last 10 years has seen a new course charted for government accountability in First Nations communities, where citizen-centered governance is taking centre stage. Related posts: UN Special Report: How should the federal government respond? Stepping up to the smart cities challenge Engaging for new relationships with Indigenous peoples...
 
It is no secret that many worry about the alleged lack of political support for policy advice. An Australian report tackles the issue by examining the term “expertise.” Related posts: Solution revolution in the public sector policy space Organizations must adopt policies to secure their BYOD data Canada commits troops, jets to NATO deterrence actions in Eastern Europe...
 
Frances Lankin’s and Munir Sheik’s review of social assistance programs in Ontario makes the case for a radical overhaul of a patchwork quilt of over 45 different income-based benefit programs....
 
We do not like paying taxes. This is not big news: we do not much like paying any bills, and there’s probably never been a time when we didn’t grumble in particular about taxes....
 
In November 2012, the government of Canada announced that the University of British Columbia (UBC), in collaboration with Simon Fraser University (SFU) and École Polytechnic de Montreal (EPM), was the successful applicant to host a new independent international institute for extractive industries and development. Related posts: Selling the Internet of Everything Organizations must adopt policies to secure their BYOD data Does Canada need a bigger deficit? Yes, according to economists...
 
Be happy, dear public servant reader, that you work for a Canadian government. The U.S. government shutdown has affected 800,000 public service employees and is having an impact on services to millions of Americans....
 
Mining defines civilization. Without metals and mineral resources to fuel society’s needs, man’s progress would be stuck at pre-historic levels. It provides us with energy and the materials to create technological innovation....
 
The fruits of mining are all around us. Minerals and metals are the building blocks of the vehicles and public transit that get us places, of the products and goods that we rely on, of the buildings where we live and work, and of green technologies that help make the world a more sustainable place....
 
Employees at Natural Resources Canada are strengthening their science policy knowledge and networks through the design and delivery of, and participation in, an innovative, grassroots case competition. Related posts: Managing audit fatigue Leveraging Internal Audit Information...
 
Over the past two years, Alberta’s government has put into place a new approach for internal government discourse to support policy development. Since October 2011, the government of Alberta has adopted the use of “pods” to facilitate strategic discussion early in the policy development process. Related posts: Policy development in the digital age Alberta, feds to invest $40 million in clean tech...
 
Internal policy capacity is an important topic at the present time because of the rapid speed of change in the policy environment and the expanding need to contextualize for decision-makers the massive volumes of information flowing into the government. Related posts: The boys in short pants Intrapreneurs: How System-Changers Think, Design and Act Building a Legacy...
 
Industrial policy is something that has often been criticized throughout the years – how can government effectively help businesses contribute to a growing economy? Related posts: Election 2015: Will Millennials find their voice? Capturing investment capital: A social enterprise strategy Megatrends for Ontario infrastructure...
 
As a deputy minister for the past 13 years, most recently at the Department of National Defence, Robert Fonberg has experienced firsthand the challenges of policy development and implementation in a rapidly changing socio-political context....
 
New Brunswick’s Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation has announced that it will hold public sessions to renew Overcoming Poverty Together – The New Brunswick Poverty Reduction Plan. Related posts: Striving for performance excellence Great transitions: New Brunswick's approach to change in government Engaging Citizens: May/June 2018 issue...
 
In January 2013, the government of New Brunswick announced the One-Job Pledge Initiative. The goal of the initiative was two-pronged: to help new graduates find jobs and to stimulate New Brunswick’s stagnant economy....
 
Half of a Yellow Sun is the 2006 award-winning novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It tells the story of the Biafra War through the lens of the dynamic relationships and torn lives of its star-crossed characters....
 
An analysis of the likelihood of an act of military aggression against an Arctic state is considered very low. Certainly, in 2008, the five Arctic coastal states reaffirmed their commitment to the legal framework… Related posts: Finding Franklin: National partnership leads to epic Arctic discovery WWF-Canada lawsuit challenges Shell oil permits in Arctic NATO needs more Canada: Obama...
 
Governments are looking for ways to cut costs and provide more efficient service. Increasingly, the government has looked to partnering with the not-for-profit sector to achieve these goals. Related posts: How to make partnerships work...
 
Policy, of course, is the engine by which government works. Policy helps a government meet its goals and informs decision-making. Historically, policy advice to Ministers came from experts within departments....
 
At a time when technology is advancing more rapidly than ever before, there is incredible pressure on the government to keep up. And although many breakthroughs won’t become mainstream for years to come, the issues are so complex that the government must start thinking about them now....
 
Health Canada has developed six diversity collaboration tools that are readily adaptable and can be tailored to use across a variety of subject matters to gain public servant input and feedback....
 
In Budget 2013, the federal government responded to municipal concerns over sustainable funding and infrastructure. It will need to do more if decades of senior government paternalism and municipal dependency are to be reversed....
 
The Yukon Territory labour market is changing considerably. To ensure Yukon remains strong economically, Yukon Education developed with stakeholders a comprehensive Labour Market Framework....
 
A “made in New Brunswick” solution, a first in North America, updates a pension system that was designed for 1980’s economic and demographic realities with a new one that avoids large, unfunded liabilities and better protects retirement benefits for future generations....
 
To meet the current and future needs for skilled workers, the Saskatchewan government has adopted an aggressive three-part labour force strategy,...
 
In May 2013 Canada will take on the Arctic Council chairmanship for a second time. In the last six years, the circumpolar North has emerged from the periphery of global geopolitics to become a mainstream issue for the 21st century....
 
Regardless of stage and scale of development, governments need assurance that their financial affairs – budget, revenue, accounting, audit, borrowing, investment, procurement – are managed competently....
 
The year 2012 presented a milestone in Canadian history, marking three decades since the affirmation of existing Aboriginal and treaty rights in Section 35 of the Constitution Act....
 
Canada is sleepwalking into a long-term care funding crisis and urgent policy action is required to ensure baby boomers will have access to the long-term care they need....
 
Canada’s approach to industrial benefits is focused on providing business opportunities for Canadian firms....
 
The North is, in political and administrative terms, a young land, with many innovative leaders and public services, and with a North-centred view of how the future might unfold....
 
Yukon is the only territory to have authority over its natural resources and it is clear that devolution has proven to be beneficial for the territory and its economy....
 
We are entering what Neil Bradford calls the third wave of Canadian regional development policy, which recognizes the importance of regions in national-provincial economic growth....
 
Ontario and jurisdictions across Canada are entering a new golden era of mining. Massive mineral deposit discoveries are spurring enormous economic opportunity....
 
The U.K. deliberations decided real change will come when politicians see the value of evidence and evaluation in helping them create policies that have lasting value...
 
As foreign markets create an ever-increasing demand for minerals and metals, new exploration is resulting in new mines in more remote areas throughout the North....
 
The not-for-profit sector is an important part of Canadian society. In Ontario alone, 46,000 nonprofits incorporated under Ontario’s Corporations Act employ about 16 percent of all employed Ontarians and generate nearly 50 billion dollars in annual revenues. Yet governing corporate law in Ontario and most provinces is out of date. Good corporate governance for nonprofit...
 
As the global financial crisis continues to stagger forward, one thing remains particularly astonishing…...
 
As colonies of the former British Empire, a common history forms the basis for the centuries-long friendship between Canada and the Commonwealth Caribbean....
 
As colonies of the former British Empire, a common history forms the basis for the centuries-long friendship between Canada and the Commonwealth Caribbean....
 
Diplomacy is back. The short era of a single superpower is passing into history, replaced by a multi-power world in which the Americans will be more pre-eminent than predominant....
 
Mining and exploration companies are struggling to revise their business plans to weather the storm. Regrettably, some of these companies will not fare so well, and we have already witnessed delays and cancellations of resource-based projects across the country....
 
Kevin Costante is Deputy Minister, Ministry of Northern Development and Mines for Ontario. He spoke with guest editor Vic Pakalnis....
 
When I began to lead implementation of a new full-day kindergarten program for four and five year olds in Ontario, the first thing I did was to take to the road....
 
As spring blooms across the country, a group of public servants is trying to initiate a new conversation about the growth that follows pruning....
 
Talent, technology and tolerance represent what I call the 3Ts of economic development. The 3Ts approach represents a comprehensive strategy for organizations, cities, regions and countries to compete and prosper in the creative age....
 
Science and technology have been major contributors to the economic prosperity and social well-being of our nation....
 
In a technologically enabled, globalized world where the bad lending practices of banks in California can wreak havoc on the entire world economy, the way that governments undertake policy analysis to address the greatest challenges of our times should be of great concern....
 
Ontario’s Business Sector Strategy is a groundbreaking initiative that has challenged the government to re-think current approaches, re-evaluate regulations and build a new collaborative relationship with Ontario business sectors....
 
One of the unfortunate developments in the last few years has been the labelling of business associations as “lobbyists” – a shorthand term used by both the media and politicians, which leads to misunderstanding about the role of associations in the policy process....
 
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the creation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. No matter where you sit, there is agreement that the Charter has had a huge impact of the country....
 
The federal Red Tape Reduction Commission, which tabled its report in January 2012, considered 2,300 red tape irritants....
 
CGE Vol.13 No.2 February 2007 High-profile financial mismanagement scandals have occurred in both the private and public sectors...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.4 April 2007 For the past 17 years Jean-Pierre Kingsley has been Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer – he did not s...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.3 March 2007 In December 2006, the Ontario government passed the Consumer Protection and Service Modernization Act,...
 
Two decades after the Thatcher government revolutionized the provision of government services, it is clear that alternative service delivery is well entrenched in the U.K. and many other countries....
 
CGE Vol.13 No.1 January 2007 IT projects Ms. Fraser, your recent report notes that, "Large IT projects...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.1 January 2007 Nicholas I, Czar of all the Russians, realized, after 30 years in the job, "I do not rule Russi...
 
For much of the past decade, the government of British Columbia has concentrated on forging stronger ties with Asia, the fastest growing region in the world....
 
In recent years, the Ontario government and the Metis people have signed several significant agreements under a new partnership....
 
Natural resources have and will continue to play a significant role in the development of many poorer nations....
 
Confidence is an essential element of economic recovery. Many Canadians remain stuck between wary uncertainty and hesitant optimism even though the recent economic recession is over....
 
À l’image de ses diamants sans défaut, le Lesotho est un joyau serti dans un panorama à couper le souffle, tout en formidables parois rocheuses, en cascades et en plaines ondoyantes débordant de lyrisme....
 
Like its flawless diamonds, the precious jewel that is Lesotho is set within a breathtaking landscape of panoramic vistas, dramatic rock faces, waterfalls and lyrical, undulating plains....
 
Les administrations fédérale, provinciales et municipales versent des milliards de dollars en subventions et contributions à des milliers de bénéficiaires, dont des pa...
 
Parallèlement à l’importance accrue accordée à la gestion du rendement, la Cour suprême du Canada (C.S.C.) a clarifié et assoupli les règle...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.10 December 2007 A politician’s view of what a public accounts committee should do Justice John Gomery spent a surprising amount of...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.9 November 2007 Independent audit committees are an integral part of the Government of Canada’s efforts to impro...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.7 September 2007 "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government....
 
Policymakers agree that municipalities are critical to Canada’s future prosperity and sustainability....
 
Parliament is back in session and despite the “sound and fury” emanating from Parliament Hill, in a very short period of time Canada needs to address a number of issues that are percolating on the public policy back burner...
 
In the wake of the G8 and G20 meetings it was expected that the government would build on the success of those summits by elaborating on its economic mandate during the remainder of the summer....
 
"Canada as a nation just doesn’t work well enough and we seem to have trouble ‘getting our act together’ when it comes to competing with other nations because of under investing in...
 
During the last few months, many public servants in Canada have been dusting off their policy texts as they search for answers to some of the most complex issues that they will face in their careers as a result of the economic turmoil gripping the country...
 
Maintenant que l’excitation provoquée par les élections canadiennes et américaines est retombée, l’attention de la nation se tourne vers des mesures à prendre...
 
We’ve seen that real progress is achieved through First Nations building our governance systems, law-making, administrative capacities and re-building and re-claiming our jurisdiction and our responsibilities....
 
The Science & Policy Team Challenge was modeled after business school case competitions but with a public policy twist: the problem was embedded in a case study created just for NRCan....
 
The historical legacy of the residential school era within the broader context of colonization has had profoundly negative consequences for Aboriginal peoples in Canada....
 
British Columbia’s Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation leads efforts towards reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples....
 
In August, the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs held its annual conference, “Watershed Moment or Wasted Opportunity.”...
 
When the global economic crisis hit, the federal government called on municipalities to turn its stimulus plan into action, creating thousands of jobs and repairing the country’s aging roads, bridges, water systems and community centres....
 
Navigating today’s complex social, economic and political issues is taxing our once relatively effective processes and policies....
 
Charles Abrams, legendary urbanist and creator of the New York City Housing Authority, once noted, “a city is the pulsating product of the human hand and mind, reflecting man’s history, his struggle for freedom, creativity, genius and his selfishness a and errors.”...
 
The public sector faces many challenges this year. At a high level, governments will need to maintain Canada’s prosperity and manage public risk in post-economic crisis conditions....
 
Driven by a growing population and an export-based economy, transportation networks across Ontario are evolving to move people and goods more safely, efficiently and sustainably....
 
The West has spent so much money and treasure on military interventions over the past decade that diplomacy is sure to come back into favour....
 
For Canada, unlike non-Arctic nations, the Arctic is a matter of both domestic and international relations....
 
The Canadian North is hot. Sovereignty, climate change, social conditions, spectacular scenary – the media is brimming with Arctic coverage....
 
The Arctic has gone from being totally ignored to being the flashpoint for a new form of geopolitics. International interest is heating up because, to put it simply, the Arctic is heating up....
 
L’Arctique, qui naguère laissait l’opinion publique de glace, est devenu récemment un dossier brûlant en géopolitique....
 
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Some excerpt
Almost one in two preschool children in Canada live in a “childcare desert,” where they have to compete with at least two others for childcare, a new report has said. This amounts to 776,000 kids without sufficient support. The findings come from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), a think tank, which mapped out every licensed childcare centre in Canada for the...