City plays crucial role in stronger civil society

Michael Bear
ONE of my priorities as Lord Mayor is to strengthen the centuries-old tradition of working to improve the lives of others. The City has a crucial role to play in building a stronger civil society, especially as the Square Mile neighbours some of the poorest areas in Europe.

Contrary to reports of bankers and their ivory towers, City workers are neither insulated from – nor indifferent to – the effects of poverty.

I’m delighted that in recent years the City has also played its part in developing the social investment market. Recent events have demonstrated markets are a product of society and must reflect society’s concerns. There is a growing realisation that alongside profit, financial services should consider how to maximise benefits to society long term.

The City of London Corporation has long understood that financial services have an important role to play in securing sustainable development. Indeed, the City of London Corporation itself was a founder of the London Accord; a co-operative research project intended to share thinking around sustainable investment opportunities. Further, in association with the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF), who are celebrating the 20th anniversary on Wednesday, the City of London Corporation is proud to reward innovation in sustainable finance through its annual Sustainable City Awards.

To encourage this nascent market further, we will be unveiling a new research report – authored by ClearlySo – this Wednesday commissioned by the City of London, City Bridge Trust and Big Lottery Fund, three organisations with a deep interest in social investment. The report explores what more could be done to attract the talent and resources of investors who wish to generate both social and financial returns.

This is very timely given the establishment of the Big Society Bank.

The City has a skilled, productive workforce capable of tremendous innovation. This creativity has produced new forms of finance, allowing social enterprises to seek the right type of funding at the right time. But there is still much more to be done and the City of London Corporation will continue to play its part.

The report indicates we need to be patient and pro-active. It will take time to establish the financial and social track records of these forms of investment. Given the challenges it is heartening the report shows how much interest a wide range of investors take in social finance.

Michael Bear is Lord Mayor of the City of London