Skip to main content  


Social enterprise and social investment

    smiling woman in creative environment
    ​Social enterprise beneficiary
    Social Enterprise Awards 2014 Finalist Logo
    ​Social Enterprise Awards 2014 logo

The City of London Corporation is playing a pivotal role in raising the profile of the social enterprise and social investment sector. Social enterprises – businesses which reinvest profit for social and environmental benefit – offer a diverse range of products and services to both businesses and communities including event management, catering and social care.

Investment in social enterprises in turn has the power to contribute to economic growth and to drive a more responsible society, producing both social benefits and financial return for the investor.

UK Social Enterprise Awards 2014

The City of London Corporation has won a UK Social Enterprise Award under the 'Buy Social – Market Builder' category in the UK Social Enterprise Awards 2014.

The City of London has been awarded for influencing the City’s business community to buy from social enterprises and adapting our own procurement policies so that we can spend more with social enterprises ourselves. We have been particularly recognised for our role in developing the Buy Social Directory, a free online database that connects buyers with social enterprise suppliers.

Now in their 16th year, the awards celebrate the pioneering work taking place within, and in support of, Britain's social enterprise movement.

See further details below of how the City of London supports social enterprises.


Developing the social investment market

London: a centre for social investment

For social enterprises to grow and thrive, they need access to appropriate financing options, and London is quickly becoming a world leading centre of social investment expertise and product development. The City of London Corporation works closely with UK and EU policy makers and the financial services and social enterprise industries to enhance London’s strengths in this emerging field.

Our vision is for London to become the global hub of social investment, as a key driver of economic growth.

Work focuses on:

  • growing the supply of suitable finance available for social organisations.1
  • improving the policy, regulatory and fiscal framework needed to support the social investment marketplace.
  • building the capacity of social organisations to enable their involvement in the social investment marketplace.

1Social organisations can be defined as organisations which pursue charitable, community or social objectives


A brief handbook on social investment (1.75MB) is aimed at financiers or financial advisors who may be new to social investment. It explains key features and provides information and opportunities on how to engage in building this marketplace.

The ambitious social entrepreneur guide is a comprehensive source of the information, resources and organisations that exist to support social entrepreneurs.


The City of London has commissioned and published a number of research reports to add to the evidence base underpinning social investment policy and practice:

  • Commissioned by the Social Investment Research Council New specialist sources of capital for the social investment market identifies two sets of opportunities for previously under-researched institutional investor groups who may provide pools of untapped capital for the UK's growing social investment market.
  • Commissioned by the City of London, Growing the social investment market: the landscape and economic impact examines the size and features of the social investment market in the UK. In 2011/12 the market grew to over £200m.
  • Commissioned by the City of London and Big Society Capital, The role of tax incentives in encouraging social investment investigates the basis for and implications of introducing a tax relief for social investment. The report looks at the rationale for such a relief, and draws on the evidence of an unmet appetite amongst wealthy individuals to include social enterprise investment in their portfolio.
  • Commissioned by the City of London and Big Lottery Fund, Investor perspectives on social enterprise financing examines the factors influencing the attractiveness of social finance investment products to potential investors, as well as providing recommendations into how investment vehicles can be structured to meet investor needs.

Providing social enterprise financing through the Social Investment Fund

The City of London has established a new fund for investment in activities that produce both social and financial returns. The City of London Social Investment Fund is overseen by a Social Investment Board and administered by City Bridge Trust. The Fund aims to achieve a positive financial return and demonstrable social benefit. It has two objectives:

  • To provide loan finance, quasi-equity and equity that provides development and risk capital to organisations working towards charitable ends or with social purpose.
  • To help develop the social investment market.

For further details of the fund, its criteria and investments made, please visit the social investment fund page.​

Buying from social enterprises


The City of London Corporation sponsored and was the first organisation to sign up to Social Enterprise Mark’s ’50in250’ campaign, which encourages 50 large businesses to each procure from 5 social enterprises in 250 days. Procuring from social enterprises offers businesses a myriad of benefits including a diverse and ethical supply chain, the opportunity to meet corporate responsibility objectives and to invest in a sector of economic growth.

Details of the 50in250 campaign (494KB)  can be found on the Social Enterprise Mark website.

Buy Social Directory

The City of London Corporation, in partnership with the Cabinet Office, Social Enterprise UK and Aspire Group, has developed the​ Buy Social Directory. The directory is the largest online database of social enterprise suppliers, with over 8,000 UK social enterprises promoting their products and services. Social enterprises are businesses that reinvest their profits in social or environmental causes. The directory aims to increase their access to commercial markets by making it easier for private and public sector organisations to identify and buy from social enterprises. This can help organisations to diversify their supply chain, engage communities and demonstrate their responsible business credentials.​

To find out how your organisation can have a social impact through its purchasing, take a look at the 'Buy Social' Supply Chain Guide (942KB). You will find a case study of how the City of London Corporation buys social on page 13.


Volunteering with social enterprises

City Action, the City Corporation's free employee volunteering consultancy, links social enterprises to skilled support from City employees to help grow the social market place.

In 2014-15, City Action placed 136 volunteers in social enterprises in the City and its neighbouring boroughs. Volunteers have helped in a number of ways, including senior business leaders giving peer-to-peer coaching to senior social enterprise leaders. Helping grow the social enterprise sector is an exciting avenue for City businesses to use their professional skills to make a positive impact in the local community.

City Action also provides opportunities to work with schools, charities and community groups in a variety of ways. To find out how you can work with City Action, please visit their website.




At the first ever conference held in partnership by the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and the City of London Corporation, more than 400 investment professionals from around the world came together in October to discuss and learn about the practice of social and environmental impact investment.

Asset owners, asset managers, and other industry experts shared diverse perspectives on impact investing in developed and emerging markets, industry trends and opportunities, and how to best address common challenges.

Watch the video of the GIIN Forum

Starting a social enterprise