Some months ago I got an email from a student asking whether I would be interested to get to know the Waterloo Banking Project. A group of Waterloo based students worked on a project to create a student bank that would help students acquire financial skills and manage their finances. In recent times, student debt and managing finances while studying has become an important issue because students are increasingly in debt.
The author just came back from the Summer School of the Institute for Social Banking in The Netherlands, where he taught some lectures. Though Social Banks create a lot of positive impact on society and the environment, it still seems hard to measure the impact.
How are social enterprises and non-profits financed? How do impact investors perceive the risks and benefits of financing social enterprises and non-profits? Funded by Export Development Canada, the EDC Chair in Environmental Finance at the University of Waterloo is conducting a survey to answer these two important questions.
On June 20, 2011, the Canadian Responsible Investment Conference kicked off in Victoria, British Columbia, with the theme Creating Value, Making a Difference. The conference highlighted the opportunities for socially responsible investors to profit from investing while contributing to positive social change and environmental sustainability. Apart from keynotes, this conference also featured a series of roll-up-your-sleeves technical sessions on socially responsible investing for financial advisors, portfolio managers and analysts, and foundations, angel investors and venture capital companies. In one of these sessions, Dr. Olaf Weber gave a presentation on the relationship between sustainable development performance and financial performance.
Social finance is often discussed on a domestic level. However, it could and should play a role in a global sustainable development context as well. It is urgently needed to tackle some of the most basic challenges for sustainable development: fighting hunger, reducing the need for fossil energy and creating a knowledge-based democracy.
Over the last two years, I was writing and editing the book, Social Banks and the Future of Sustainable Finance. The idea for the book came during my time as a member on the board of the Institute for Social Banking (ISB) in Germany, which offers a master’s degree in Social Banking. But while ISB has a master’s program, basic literature about social banks and sustainable finance was non-existent at the time and so students had no textbook to follow. Systematic analyses and research on social banking, sustainable finance and impact investment was still rare. However, with interest growing in this relatively new field, some literature on social banking is emerging and it seems that social finance is on its way to becoming a more established sector.
A sign of progress in social banking came with the founding of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values in 2008. The worldwide association of social banks includes microfinance organizations and has a Canadian member, the Vancouver-based Vancity. Having moved to Canada a year ago, it’s been exciting to watch how fast global networks are forming.