Social Investment Platform

The Social Enterprise Programme supports organisations, known as social enterprises, which employ business strategies to meet social and environmental needs and make a positive impact in their communities.

In 2013, the British Council and its partners launched the pioneering Social Investment Platform to promote social impact investment and provide training and funding opportunities to outstanding Chinese social enterprises.

Over its first two years, the Platform worked with nine different investment partners to offer a total of RMB 19 million in equity investments, bond investments, and loans with no or low interest and incubation support to 33 outstanding social enterprises. The winners were selected following a multi-stage competition from a pool of over 700 applicants from both Mainland China and Hong Kong. In addition, Thomson Reuters Foundation joined the Platform in its second year, providing pro-bono legal services to all the winners who met its criteria.

The 2015 Social Investment Platform looks to expand on the success of the previous two years, having increased the number of investment partners to 12 with the additions of Yifang Foundation, HNA Group, Transist Impact Labs, PwC and Like Fund  as well as implementing a Social Investor Programme for the first time. 

The Social Investor Programme looks to develop social investment in China by linking Chinese investment organisations with those in the UK, promoting adoption of the “triple bottom line” (taking environmental and social, as well as financial, returns into account) and spreading the concept of social investment among traditional investment organisations in China.

The 12 social investment partners for the 2015 Social Investment Platform are:

  • More Love Foundation
  • Narada Foundation
  • Dunhe Foundation
  • Innovate99
  • Yu Venture Philanthropy
  • HNA Group
  • Yifang Foundation
  • Transist Impact Labs
  • Shenzhen Innovation Corporate Social Responsibility Development Centre
  • PwC
  • Daohe Institute for Environment and Development

For more information on the five investors accepting applications from Hong Kong, please see the Social Investors page.

Our media partner for the Social Investment Platform is the China Philanthropist magazine.

How to apply

The application period for the 2015-2016 Social Investment Platform is now open. Please see the Social Investment Platform Online Application Page (Chinese only) for more details.

You can also register for our newsletter and Sina weibo and Tencent weibo microblogs for application updates(Chinese only).

What is Social Investment?

A social investment is an investment designed to generate both a financial return and social impact.

Social investors seek to ‘do well by doing good.’ They often accept lower returns on social investments than on other investments because these produce benefits for society as well as profits. Their investments provide capital to social enterprises that develop long term and self-sustaining solutions to social problems.

There are three main types of social investment: debt, equity and quasi-equity finance. Debt finance refers to loans made by the social investor which the borrower repays with interest. Equity funding involves the issuing of shares in exchange for capital. In quasi-equity investments, the social investor receives a fixed percentage of the social enterprise’s future income in return for the investment.

Social investment innovations in the UK

The UK is considered a global leader in developing legislation, financial products and mechanisms to support social investment.

In April 2012 the UK launched Big Society Capital, the world’s first social investment bank, with GBP 600 million (RMB 6 billion) of capital from dormant bank accounts and high street banks. Big Society Capital invests in funds that themselves invest in social enterprises, allowing them to thrive and grow.

Another UK innovation is the social impact bond. These are financial instruments that raise money from the capital markets for social enterprises and charities. Government pays interest to investors on these bonds based on the results achieved by the social enterprise. They offer an efficient means of tapping private investment to fund preventative action (e.g. immunising children against disease) or expensive social problems (e.g. addressing chronic homelessness).

As UK Prime Minister David Cameron said during the G8 Social Impact Investment Forum in June 2013, “Social investment can be a great force for social change on the planet. It can help us to build bigger and stronger societies.”