Taking Impact Investing to the Mainstream in Canada

Mar 25, 2014

Impact investing continues to be a hot topic, but how many opportunities are open to mainstream investors? 

SolarShare participated as one of 25 social ventures and over 120 impact investors in last week’s Impact Ontario event, hosted by the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing in partnership with the Government of Ontario and Social Capital Markets. Out of those 25 ventures, SolarShare was the only organization that had already raised significant capital from ordinary citizens. Most alternative investment opportunities are limited to accredited investors, and sourcing capital for social ventures can be a challenge, especially with limited existing regulatory framework and the perceptions associated with a nascent industry. 

To examine some of the challenges and next steps to further develop impact investing in Canada, MaRS and Purpose Capital released the report “State of the Nation: Impact Investing in Canada.” (See SolarShare as a successful case study on page 1 and 57). 

The report encourages financial advisors to introduce clients to investment opportunities that produce a social or environmental return in addition to a financial one. In SolarShare’s experience, reaching mainstream investors requires a balanced approach. Half of our bondholders have invested the minimum amount, just $1,000. To reach the average investor without an intermediary, we need a grassroots strategy, but must also attain a level of legitimacy that most mainstream investors rely on from an advisor or banking institution.  Legitimacy from a third party institution, like a bank allowing bonds in registered accounts, would vastly increase the rate at which we could raise capital. SolarShare has successfully raised $3.7 Million in bonds from retail investors, an unprecedented achievement for a venture like ours, but if ultimately we want to scale up to engage more of the mainstream, we’ll be looking to the advisor community to learn the ropes of impact investing. 

 To read the full report and recommendations, click here>> 

mage: SolarShare's Julie Leach speaks on the opening panel about bringing impact investing to the mainstream, with Helen Burstyn (Social Enterprise Ontario), Kevin Jones (SOCAP), Dessy Daskalov (Greengage Mobile), Joel Bryce (Deloitte)