The financial crises of the past decades have led public opinion to look into the operation of finance and its derivatives more closely. Surely, but slowly, entrepreneurs are also wondering about the financing of their companies. Where are the funds coming from? How are they managed?
Does my financing come from fossil fuel activities, from arms sales or from speculation in food products? If there are ethical and responsible solutions available, who should I contact? Do these players have a brick-and-mortar presence? How can I meet them? Let’s take a few moments to understand all this better.
Ethical finance can take several forms. In the case of company financing (holdings, loans, convertible loans, crowdfunding) we speak of “impact finance”. In this case, the objective of financing is to support social entrepreneurship projects, i.e. projects that have a positive impact on our society, including on its social, environmental and economic aspects.
Many initiatives have blossomed in Belgium over the past few years and the impact finance sector is gradually organising itself. The sector finances the creation and development of social enterprises based on an analysis of their social impact, without neglecting profitability and the financial return they can expect.
Here are some of the main players:
- Banks: Triodos
- Credit institutions: Credal, Hefboom
- Crowdfunding platforms: Miimosa, Growfunding, etc.
- Crowdequity platforms: LITA.co, Socrowd
- Private impact investment funds: Citizenfund, Scale-Up, Change Fund, Fin’Common, Sen’se, Quadia, Trividend, SI2 Fund, Oya.
- Public funds: Brusoc (including CoopUs), Brucircle, Sowecsom (including Brasero)
The concept of impact is defined by each of these players in a fairly specific way. For example, Triodos positions itself as follows: “Triodos Bank only uses your savings to finance organisations and companies that respect human beings and the environment. The return is, therefore, both financial and societal”. Others like LITA.co, speak of a “positive impact”.
Currently, most of these players try to create a link with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals issued by the United Nations, which provide a fairly clear framework and are commonly used. Impact investment is, therefore, an investment in a project which meets one or several of these societal challenges.
However, how can entrepreneurs contact these players? How can the contact between social entrepreneurs and impact investors be facilitated? Without being a specialist in the field, it’s very difficult to know who to talk to, how things work and what the benefits of one solution are compared to another...
THE SOLUTION: A NETWORK OF IMPACT INVESTORS
To deal with the issue of impact finance opacity, several players (including Citizenfund, LITA.co, Credal, Triodos, Trivident) decided to work together to create the SoliFin network, which is currently in progress.
It has several goals:
- inform entrepreneurs about the impact financing available, their procedures and their specificities;
- simplify contact between social entrepreneurs and impact investors;
- agree on what is meant by “impact” and share social entrepreneurship assessment methodologies;
- inform people about the options available to give meaning to their savings.
The network will be launched next May and the website will bring together all of the financing opportunities available, as well as educational tools for entrepreneurs. For more information about SoliFin, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
To be kept up to date about the project and its exact launch date, sign up for the Groupe One newsletter (FR).
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