Follow my blog by email!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Social Impact Bond Model: 7 Easy Steps

A Triple Win.

As I’ve mentioned before, social finance can be a confusing topic to explain. I am often asked, “What do you mean by new modes of finance?” or, “what does it mean to create new financial instruments?” 

The Social Impact Bond is a perfect example of one of these new financial instruments. Within the past year, the Social Impact Bond Model has been put into practice in the UK. The Canadian Task Force on Social Finance is now analyzing the successes from the UK pilot project and is working to build a strategy that enables the necessary policy changes to spread Social Impact Bond investments throughout Canada. 

In its simplest form, here is how the model works: 

1. An idea arises for a new social purpose organization or innovative project that could help solve a specific problem that the government is currently spending our tax dollars on fixing. 

2. Problem: People may think the social innovation sounds like a good idea, but the government is not willing to invest in the project because it is much too risky (or, dare I say, too innovative for them). The idea is to find a way to incentivize the government to take risks on social and environmental innovations without the fear of losing tons of cash.  

Solution: 

3. Find an investor who is willing to take a risk on a social/environmental innovation. 

4. With the three parties (The investor, the government, and the mission-based organization/project),build an agreement on the terms of the investment including specific, quantifiable metrics.

5. The Investor loans $xxxxx.xx to the NPO, social enterprise, or other mission-based organization or project. 

6. After x number of years, the success of the social/environmental venture is measured against the initial set of benchmarks.

7. If the project is deemed successful, the government pays the investor the amount (or a portion of the amount) the government saves by otherwise spending that money on the status-quo ways of dealing with the given social problem. If the project is deemed unsuccessful, the investor receives nothing in return. (Deeming an innovation successful would mean that its outcomes meet the initial benchmarks set out in the terms of the investment).

SO, the government feels no financial risk, the social innovation finally has the financial freedom to experiment with potential solutions to serious social/environmental issues, and the investor receives a return if the outcome successfully saves the government money. WIN, WIN, and, you guessed it: WIN. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Warren Buffett: Leading by Example

Buffett's definition of "Success"

There are many ways to be a successful leader.  There are those who are outspoken and powerful, those who derive influence as the quiet leader, and those who lead by example.  In my experience, the latter has the greatest impact on his or her followers.  When an individual acts in way that is contrary to what is expected of him/her, or contrary to societal norms, they trigger a subconscious desire in others to follow this action.  Warren Buffett is living proof of the power of leading by example.  Started by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, The Giving Pledge is inspiring wealthy individuals around the globe to donate half their wealth to philanthropic causes. 

The following is a public letter written by Buffett in which he explains his views on philanthropy, his commitment to giving, and his definition of success:

In 2006, I made a commitment to gradually give all of my Berkshire Hathaway stock to philanthropic foundations. I couldn’t be happier with that decision. Now, Bill and Melinda Gates and I are asking hundreds of rich Americans to pledge at least 50% of their wealth to charity. So I think it is fitting that I reiterate my intentions and explain the thinking that lies behind them. 

First, my pledge: More than 99% of my wealth will go to philanthropy during my lifetime or at death. Measured by dollars, this commitment is large. In a comparative sense, though, many individuals give more to others every day. Millions of people who regularly contribute to churches, schools, and other organizations thereby relinquish the use of funds that would otherwise benefit their own families. The dollars these people drop into a collection plate or give to United Way mean forgone movies, dinners out, or other personal pleasures. In contrast, my family and I will give up nothing we need or want by fulfilling this 99% pledge. 

Moreover, this pledge does not leave me contributing the most precious asset, which is time. Many people, including — I’m proud to say — my three children, give extensively of their own time and talents to help others. Gifts of this kind often prove far more valuable than money. A struggling child, befriended and nurtured by a caring mentor, receives a gift whose value far exceeds what can be bestowed by a check. My sister, Doris, extends significant person-to-person help daily. I’ve done little of this. What I can do, however, is to take a pile of Berkshire Hathaway stock certificates — "claim checks" that when converted to cash can command far-ranging resources — and commit them to benefit others who, through the luck of the draw, have received the short straws in life. 

To date about 20% of my shares have been distributed (including shares given by my late wife, Susan Buffett). I will continue to annually distribute about 4% of the shares I retain. At the latest, the proceeds from all of my Berkshire shares will be expended for philanthropic purposes by 10 years after my estate is settled. Nothing will go to endowments; I want the money spent on current needs. This pledge will leave my lifestyle untouched and that of my children as well. They have already received significant sums for their personal use and will receive more in the future. They live comfortable and productive lives. And I will continue to live in a manner that gives me everything that I could possibly want in life. 

Some material things make my life more enjoyable; many, however, would not. I like having an expensive private plane, but owning a half-dozen homes would be a burden. Too often, a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner. The asset I most value, aside from health, is interesting, diverse, and long-standing friends. 

My wealth has come from a combination of living in America, some lucky genes, and compound interest. Both my children and I won what I call the ovarian lottery. (For starters, the odds against my 1930 birth taking place in the U.S. were at least 30 to 1. My being male and white also removed huge obstacles that a majority of Americans then faced.) My luck was accentuated by my living in a market system that sometimes produces distorted results, though overall it serves our country well. 

I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate’s distribution of long straws is wildly capricious. 

The reaction of my family and me to our extraordinary good fortune is not guilt, but rather gratitude. Were we to use more than 1% of my claim checks on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced. In contrast, that remaining 99% can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others. That reality sets an obvious course for me and my family: Keep all we can conceivably need and distribute the rest to society, for its needs. My pledge starts us down that course.
  Each day, more wealthy individuals are joining Buffett's and Gates's "The Giving Pledge", the latest being  Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.  Click here to see The Giving Pledge's latest press release from December 8th.  It takes one person with a vision for action to make the seemingly impossible possible. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tackling Overconsumption vs. Sustainable Products

What is our answer? 

I think we can all agree that our environment is in some serious danger. I think where we tend to disagree is how to mitigate this danger, which is precisely the argument going on now in Cancun. The problem with Cancun is that loads of politicians are stuck dabbling back and forth and I’m genuinely concerned that no serious strategy will even come out of it all. What if our leaders don’t devise a solution at the next Environmental Summit? What about the one after that? 

It seems us citizens don’t have much control over the decisions made at these conferences, and if that’s the case, allow me to bring to your attention an environmental strategy argument that we consumers can absolutely take ownership of: 

I’ve been contemplating this for a while. Do we focus our attention on battling overconsumption, or do we channel our support towards sustainable product manufacturing? In an ideal world, we would have both strategies working simultaneously. But I’m trying to really delve deep here and think realistically, since our personal time and resources typically limit our arena of focus.

I am a huge supporter of the manufacturing of sustainable products. I truly see them as an investment (with my rate of return being as invaluable as the air we breathe). I believe there is absolutely room for growth in this market, but my concern is that this sustainable-product boom continues to contribute to our terrible overconsumption habits. The more I read about these habits, the more frightened I become about our world 20 years from now. 

Check this out: 

Global oil production is currently about 81 million barrels a day and is predicted to fall to 39 million barrels a day by 2030 due to diminishing resources. 

Click here for image source
• The world's annual consumption of plastic materials has increased from around 5 million tonnes in the 1950s to nearly 100 million tonnes today

• The food we eat now typically travels between 1,500 and 3,000 miles from farm to our dinner plate. The distance had increased by up to 25 percent between 1980 and 2001.

• The average American buys 53 times as many products as someone in China and one American's consumption of resources is equivalent to that of 35 Indians. Over a lifetime, the typical American will create 13 times as much environmental damage as the average Brazilian. 

These are just a few examples of the thousands of ways our overconsumption habits are causing some serious damage. SO, as consumers, should we be investing more of our time, energy, and money feeding our consumption norms with sustainable products, or should we work on flat-out buying less? 

I don’t have a set opinion on this yet; this issue is vital for our environment’s survival and deserves more of my learning attention. I am unsure about whether we can even tackle this deeply engrained habit, and if it’s not possible, then maybe we should turn to green products for the answer. What I do know, however, is that our habits determine our destiny; I know that I am thinking more carefully each time I make a purchase. 

As one of my incredible past professors would say: 

“Almost everything you do is determined by your habits. We are all creatures of habits. Fortunately, all your habits are learned, learnable, and “droppable”. A habit is an automatic response to a stimulus and is (good or bad) something you do without much thought or effort. Once formed, your habits do not go away. They can only be replaced by new habits. You form your habits then your habits form you."

Overconsumption is one of the most difficult problems our global community must overcome to build a sustainable planet. If we listen to my professor, and we really do have the ability to replace our current habits...all we need to do is to start.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Canada’s Task Force on Social Finance: The Report Launch

Canada's Catching Up (Take Two) 

When I try to explain what I am passionate about to individuals who are unaware of the social innovation movement, I am usually met with utter confusion. Those puzzled faces really come alive when I begin my rant about social finance. 

Before I begin discussing last Tuesday’s groundbreaking event at MaRs Discovery District, I thought a good way to begin this post would be to explain what social finance actually means. Socialfinance.ca created an extremely comprehensive explanation of social finance. I suggest you take a few minutes to watch this video so that the next time you hear about new modes of finance for Canada’s social sector, you'll be ahead of the game! 




 Several weeks ago, I expressed my excitement about the creation of the Task Force on Social Finance in Canada.  If you recall, I titled the post "Canada's Catching up", since until then, we had not made strides in leveling ourselves with other countries' progress on social finance.  The creation of the task force was the first step, and I believe the event last Tuesday signified reaching the second milestone toward an active social finance market in Canada.

Last Tuesday, November 30th, I found myself surrounded by people who are not only interested in the ideals of social finance, but also genuinely believe in its importance and impact potential.  The Task Force on Social Finance launched its first report, entitled "Mobilizing Private Capital for Public Good".  The report outlines the need, challenges, and opportunities for a social finance marketplace in Canada and provides 7 recommendations on how to overcome them.  While each of these recommendations go into some depth, I thought a one-liner on each of the seven goals would provide a sufficient summary (though I do recommend you download the report!).

7 steps to building a Social Finance Marketplace in Canada:

1. All Canadian foundations should invest at least 10% of their capital in mission-related investments by 2020. (Right now they are only required to invest 3.5%!!)

2. The federal government should partner with private, institutional, and philanthropic investors to establish the Canada Impact Investment Fund.

3. Investors, intermediaries, social enterprises, and policy makers should collaborate to build new bond and bond-like instruments.   

4. Canadian governments should mandate pension funds to disclose their responsible investing practices and provide incentives to mitigate perceived investment risk.

5. Policy makers should explore the need for new hybrid corporate forms for social enterprises (example from the UK: Community Interest Company).

6. A Tax Working Group should be established to develop and adapt proven tax-incentive models to encourage lower-cost investments for social enterprises to maximize impact.

 7. The eligibility criteria for government sponsored business development programs should be expanded to include the range of social enterprises  (see page 4 of the report for a great diagram of this range.)

While I will definitely be summarizing more important pieces of this report in the future, I thought this would be a good way to introduce its purpose.  As cheesy as it sounds, I sat at the event and truly felt part of something niche that I know is going to be a huge part of Canada's economy in the future. It will not be an easy or short process, but the plan is there.  If we can make each of these recommendations a reality, Canada will  be the country chased by others.

I'm excited to see where this goes, and will most definitely continue sharing as it evolves.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Goodwashing" and the Power of a Sustainable Supply Chain

Why companies should think inside the box.

I want to mention a suspicion I’m having about the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) wave we’ve been experiencing throughout the last decade. I’ve officially coined the un-witty term “goodwashing” as a parallel to the concept of “greenwashing”. For those of you who are new to the idea, our good friends at Wikipedia describe greenwashing as  the “deceptive use of green PR or green marketing in order to promote a misleading perception that a company's policies or products are environmentally friendly”. 

Goodwashing, then, is the same idea but goes beyond environmental sustainability to imply deceptive use of marketing to create a misleading consumer perception of a company’s socially responsible practices. Despite the huge annual increase in published CSR reports, I cannot help but suspect there remain consumer deception techniques that stay behind the boardroom doors. 

Where does this accusatory opinion come from might you ask?
Answer: Pure Speculation. 

HOWEVER, there is reason behind my speculation. I see tons of large companies making donations or supporting wonderful causes. I will go ahead and coin this term as “external CSR”, that is, chopping off a piece of the bottom line and sending it off to do some good. My concern is that companies are using these socially responsible activities to mask some serious ethical gaps in their own internal operations.

An example of how to build a sustainable supply chain
By simply analyzing a supply chain, I have no doubt large corporations will find opportunities to take out some of that external donation funding and put it towards free-trade products, manufacturing facilities in developing countries, more nutritious (and less processed) meats and packaged foods, safety enhancement….the examples are endless and vary widely across industries. 

If every company embedded socially responsible practices into their supply chains (“internal CSR”) instead of directing the funds to often unrelated causes (external CSR), I believe the overall social and environmental impact would be significantly higher. 

As for the not-for-profits that so badly rely on donations, I think companies should support these causes— as long as they are simultaneously working to perfect their own. Sustainable supply chains will decrease the number of charities aching for our donation dollars because they will inevitably eliminate many of the issues charities are trying to solve.

I should end by clarifying that I recognize that many companies are on the path of internal CSR, and they are an example to the remaining corporate giants. Further, I am a huge advocate of non-profits, and I happen to work for a great one; I simply feel that many companies aren’t investing their CSR dollars in an optimally impactful way. 


SO, I conclude that a coffee company which donates millions of dollars to youth-related causes should stop the goodwashing and start feeding some of those funds up their supply chain to support their coffee-bean farmers. Simply put: sustainable supply chains lead to sustainable economies.  


                                                                   Click here to see image source

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Does “social” scare investors?

A discussion of Impact Investing and why it 
deserves more attention.

As opposed to the accepted, often confusing financial jargon we are most privy to in the financial world, impact investing is exactly what its name implies. While a standard investment calls for optimized return, impact investments are driven by the triple bottom line.

A presentation made about a month ago at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto provides a comprehensive definition of impact investing:
“Impact investments aim to solve social or environmental challenges while generating financial return. Impact investing includes investments that range from producing a return of principal capital to offering market-rate or even market-beating financial returns” (see full presentation below)
It seems the concept of impact investing has enormous potential; but if this is the case, why haven’t Canadian investors adopted these practices yet? What is the difference between the risk taken on by venture capitalists and that of impact investors? 

In theory, both parties are betting their bucks on a new, innovative idea whose future success is unknown. And if the risk is the same, is it the social purpose attribute of the investee that is intimidating investors? My instinct responds with a reluctant “YES”.

Venture capitalist Tim Jackson, Founder and Partner of Tech Capital Partners, was my source of inspiration for writing this post. He supports my questioning with the following powerful words:
“When it comes to funding innovation, however, it is frustrating to see the different, almost opposite, approaches we take in supporting traditional businesses compared to social enterprises... This process of trying new ideas, failing, and learning from them, is an accepted practice in the for-profit sector. Why, then, do we put up so many additional hurdles for social enterprises? We expect the non-profit sector to be innovative and creative, while at the same time, we make adequate funding extremely hard to attain. Then we force them to operate within a complex regulatory regime that makes entrepreneurial activities difficult.

My experience is that non-profit leaders are extremely entrepreneurial and resilient. They have to be when confronted by all of the roadblocks we put up. Funders require detailed business plans and proposals while providing little to no contingency funding, which means that non-profit leaders have no latitude to experiment. Funders ask for detailed reports on successes but don’t encourage stories to be shared about failures. http://socialfinance.ca/blog/post/social-innovation-experimentation-and-yes-sometimes-even-failure
We need a way for social enterprises and non-profits to enjoy paralleled freedom to  innovate. Bill Young, Director of Social Capital Partners, suggests the three steps Canada must take before we see significant growth in impact investing activity:

1. Foundations have to bridge the divide between the grant-making side of their organization and the investment side
2. The federal and provincial bodies that regulate foundations need to make it clear that they encourage this practice.
3. Canada needs to develop financial intermediaries that can provide attractive impact investment opportunities to foundations.

Bill’s solution is both insightful and plausible. I’d like to add a fourth step to his list, with my optimistic belief that more information brings us closer to social and environmental change:

4. Canada’s social finance leaders must build an awareness strategy for institutional, foundation, and corporate investors to understand the benefit of impact investing. With solid outreach, the ‘impact’ of impact investing will self-exemplify throughout Canada, attracting all types of investors to this ground-breaking movement.





Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sustainable Plastic Water Bottles: The Ultimate Oxymoron

“In the sustainability community, there appears to be general consensus that a reusable water bottle is preferable to one time use recyclable bottle. But isn’t a recyclable bottle consistent with the mantra in, “reduce, reuse, recycle?” Sure, it would be best to first reduce consumption, and reuse materials as much as possible. Recycling, even the tiniest thing as water bottles, also plays a vital role towards a sustainable future.” http://www.triplepundit.com/2010/11/showdown-recyclable-versus-reusable-water-bottles/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TriplePundit+(Triple+Pundit)&utm_content=Google+Reader
This is an excerpt from a post on triplepundit.com entitled, “Showdown: Recyclable versus Reusable Water Bottles”. When I initially saw this title I was very excited to read the post, as plastic water bottle use has become an unnerving pet-peeve of mine over the past couple of years. I expected the writer, who happens to be a sustainability guru, to rant about the wastefulness of plastic water bottle use. I know I would rant if I happened to meet the CEO of Nestle Waters, Kim Jeffery. 

I am sure Jeffery is a nice man, no doubt he is very bright, but for this post’s author to say that recycling plastic water bottles will help build a sustainable future is an oxymoron in my opinion. If you take a look at the ted.com video I’ve posted below, I think you might see where my frustration is coming from.

There are two arguments on the side of the “sustainable" plastic water bottle:

1. A proportion of the plastic is recyclable
 
In the United States, 65 million water bottles are used per day. That means almost 24 billion water bottles are wasted per year. This number is unfathomable. Can we really excuse this number by arguing that a portion of the plastic is recyclable, when we could decrease the level to zero if everyone purchased a stainless steel bottle?

There is no justification for piling up 24 billion water bottles per year in one country alone. 

2. Tap water is a different business than packaged water. 
Packaged water competes with other packaged beverages, and the water and its bottle have a much better environmental impact than those other beverages, like pop and juice, for example. So, because plastic water bottles are less harmful to the environment than the competitor products in its market, we can justify that waste?

I think this is a poor argument. We are talking about one earth, with one climate, that is directly affected by human behaviour. I don’t care about different businesses and which has a smaller carbon footprint – the bottom line is the water bottles are tossed as waste by the millions each day, and by using stainless steel bottles, we can easily change that. 

I know it will take a mindset shift to begin using a re-usable bottle, but I believe this is a small habit change that can have a huge impact.

Dianna Cohen: Tough Truths About Plastic Pollution

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Personal Reflection: Is Doing Good Really Bad?

I recently read an article exploring the negative effects of "Voluntourism";  that is, traveling to a developing country to volunteer for a short time period. This article struck a personal chord, as I returned home after volunteering in Tanzania with similar feelings to Anders Kelto, the author of the article.  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130998857&sc=17&f=1001

I felt selfish.  There I was, an idealistic and passionate girl, thinking I could make a difference in the kindergarten class I taught with Miss Betty.  I spent my nights making lesson plans for the next day, creating visuals for the kids to learn from...there is no question I tried very hard.  

But I didn't make the difference I had envisioned.

I had fun with the kids, I attempted to teach them discipline, and I bonded with them on a deeply emotional level.  I realized closer to the end of my time in Bagamoyo that while I can use creative ways to teach them English, these methods were not sustainable because I was leaving.  And this happens with every volunteer who enters that classroom.  I began to question whether my attempts to help were actually having an impact, or if the inconsistency in teaching styles and dependency on the volunteers was instead harmful.  I vividly remember sitting in a jeep one weekend on a safari, not having seeing any animals for a while, and thinking guiltily about this very issue.

By the end of my trip, I arrived at a two-pillared conclusion:

1. While I am unsure if my work in the classroom with these vibrant and intelligent children made a direct and immediate impact, my hands-on experience helped me understand the norms, challenges, and successes in the community I was trying to help.  I realized that you actually need to understand these pieces of a society before returning home and attempting to make a systematic change overseas.  It would be ignorant not to.

Before I left Tanzania, I set up a meeting with the District Education Officer.  I wanted to make sure I went home with a solid understanding of the education system in the country before working to make positive change.  I asked about mandatory attendance, funding, the porridge system, discipline, curriculum, and about children with disabilities.  I asked about everything  I saw as a gap that needed to be filled in the education system.  I know I would not have been able to ask those questions without my hands-on experience, and I know those questions are necessary to drive solutions.

2.  Yes, this was a selfish trip.  I changed and grew dramatically from the environment, from the wonderful people with whom I built relationships, from the not-so-wonderful people, and from the relaxed and colourful culture I am not exposed to in Western society.  And I think it's okay that I grew from this trip.  I think in the end, by continuing my path in the field of social innovation, my personal gains from my volunteer work in Bagamoyo will ultimately recycle back to benefit this community.  
This, at the very least, is my personal vision.

Friday, November 5, 2010

MFI's: Where do we draw the bottom line?

Recently, I have been reading a lot about the issues that for-profit MFI’s have caused in the developing world, mainly in India. I am left with so many questions that involve both moral and commercial intuition:

If an MFI is built on a for-profit structure, how much is too much profit? Does the government have the right to draw the line on interest rates, or are free markets a better solution to allow for massive scaling of micro-credit? How can we find that balance between reasonable profit for the MFI’s and reasonable interest rates for the individuals they are trying to help? Can that balance even exist for for-profit MFI’s?

 My last question is the real lingering one for me. It pushes me to think really hard about the good versus the greed of humankind. SKS Microfinance is an Indian MFI that made the switch from a non-profit to a for-profit business model in 2005. They have achieved a scale that took Dr. Muhammad Yunus’s Grameen Bank over thirty years to build. How?

Put simply, a for-profit model requires that investors in the company receive, well of course, profit. This means that there is pressure on the MFI to maintain high interest rates at a level that keeps investors happy. Happy investors lead to the attraction of more investors, which in turn allows the company to give out more loans at a faster rate. Whereas the non-profit MFI model seeks internal growth by investing the borrowers’ payments back into the organization, the for-profit model must fulfill its obligation to its shareholders.

Now here’s the kicker. There have been a growing number of suicides amongst the borrowers of micro-loans from companies like SKS. There is so much pressure on these people that the company has made a reverse impact on so many lives. So while the loans are reaching more than 6 million people living under $1.00 per day, and while SKS’s loan disbursements have grown by 170% in the last year, I cannot help but think about the greed that Muhammad Yunus dreamed of diminishing when he built the Grameen model.

Today, after a meeting with financial services secretary in New Delhi, micro-finance companies agreed to decrease interest from as high as 34% down to 24%. While I hope and believe this change will reduce some of the negative impact already caused to borrowers, I can’t help but feel sad that social businesses require government intervention to improve the social outcome of their stakeholders.

Returning to my lingering question, I do think it’s possible to find that balance between satisfying profit and reasonable interest rate levels. It’s not the business model I am concerned with, but the people who are managing it. A social business has every right to be for-profit on the condition that the triple bottom -line is met in a balanced way. These for-profit MFI’s have a great opportunity to spur growth in the impact investment field. If investors are looking for high returns, the MFI’s have the responsibility to set the appropriate rates that tell these investors to look to the googles and the oil companies of the world. Profit is the driver behind making these MFI’s strategies work, but standards need to be set that identify the difference between reasonable and excessive returns.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Canada's Catching Up!


 “Canada, like many other jurisdictions, is at an innovation crossroads.”
-Ilse Treurnicht


We may have been lagging behind countries like the UK in the development of social finance markets in Canada, but after reading this recent post by Ilse Treurnicht, the CEO of MaRS Discovery District, I feel confident in Canada’s ability to catch-up with the global movement in social finance and social innovation as a whole.

In the article, Treurnicht announces that Social Innovation Generation (SiG), a national project partnered with MaRS (check out this project if you haven’t yet! http://sigeneration.ca/), has launched an independent Task Force on Social Finance. The Canadian Task Force will help boost the social investment sector in Canada, creating potential for more businesses aimed at driving social and environmental change. Hopefully, the Task Force will work to build a structure that enables social entrepreneurs to obtain the capital they often have trouble accessing.

I’m very excited to see the growing interest in social finance being put into tangible practice! I’ll be sure to keep you posted on any developments this new Task Force accomplishes.

Some great quotes from this post:

“Governments need to open more public services to charities and social enterprises – the organizations that bring in revenues, even running profitable enterprises, and then channel the surplus back to the community. They need every opportunity to expand their work.” –The Globe and Mail (editorial)

“We have had tremendous success in Canada in unleashing business to create wealth. We have learned that entrepreneurship is an unbeatable force. Government unleashed the power of business entrepreneurs when it provided them with needed public goods and functioning capital markets. Government needs to do the same for social entrepreneurs by providing them with the wherewithal to succeed.” – Canada’s former Prime Minister Paul Martin and Task Force Member.

Melinda French Gates on TED.com

In one of my favourite TED.com videos, Melinda Gates does a fantastic job of articulating how learning from powerhouses such as Coca-Cola can drive change in developing countries:




 So, if we're going to take one thing from this video and put it into practice, it's going to be the three lessons Melinda has learned from Coke's success:
 
1. We must use the real time data and drive it back into our work in developing countries;
2. We need to leverage local entrepreneurial talent to gain optimal understanding of the people we are working with.
3. We must create marketing techniques that are localized and appealing to the individuals in the communities we are working with.

Why are Canadians caring NOW?

Why do people care more about international social and environmental issues than ever before? I’ve thought about this question a lot in the past year.

I posed this question to one of my brilliant professors who lives and breathes sustainability. I shared her answer in a paper I composed in my last year at Ivey, and now I would like to share it with you.

There are 3 reasons why global concern over finding sustainable solutions to global crises has exploded in the past decade:

1. Limits to growth
We have reached the world’s limits to growth. For the first time in our lives, we can visibly see the effects of climate change. And climate change is not an isolated issue— it is a confluence of issues; carbon emission is related to ocean acidification which is related the quality of air we breathe, and so forth. People can see these issues and business professionals are beginning to understand how their operations push these limits to growth. The business model is broken and companies must find ways to replace it.
2. The Internet
With the endless pool of information and real-time advantage the internet provides, people can actually see world issues as they occur and instantly connect with one another. This real-time connection affects people emotionally. When huge global issues affect people emotionally, they want to see solutions. Thus, the internet has sparked a desire amongst individuals to instigate change on a scale that did not exist fifteen years ago.
3. Wealth
The future generation of business leaders generally grew up without knowing scarcity. The oil boom is the primary reason for this wealth and has provided energy products that no generation had before. Therefore, because individuals of the new generation have not experienced poverty, they are looking for another kind of experience elsewhere; they care because they have the liberty to care about serious issues currently affecting others.

I think my professor’s opinion is very compelling; she illustrates a realistic picture of how socio-economic and technological trends are affecting people’s mindsets toward sustainability. I remember sitting in her office listening to her answer and being extremely affected by reason #1. For the first time, I was genuinely scared about climate change and the human impact on the environment.

My professor is right. We really can see and feel the effects of climate change now… in weather trends, the frightening increase in natural disasters, the ever-growing deforestation that exists on every continent. I personally see it in the little things, like when I cough from a running car’s exhaust emissions or watch people deliberately throw their garbage on the street. We’ve done a real number on our earth, and I am so grateful for the recent surge to reverse the damage done.