Rio + 20

by Terence Jeyaretnam, Director of Net Balance (, one of the world’s leading sustainability advisory firms. Terence is based in Melbourne.

A businessman would not consider a firm to have solved its problems of production and to have achieved viability if he saw that it was rapidly consuming its capital. How, then, could we overlook this vital fact when it comes to that very big firm, the economy of Spaceship Earth and, in particular, the economies of its rich passengers? E F Schumacher, Small is Beautiful, 1973

Erosion of natural capital has continued over the past 50 years, despite the heightened awareness of environmental impact of industrialization and population growth. Over the fifty years, there’s been a multitude of international conventions, giving birth to a large number of new institutions and protocols on sustainable development. They have proved just one thing – that there’s no silver bullet for the environmental predicament. [Read more…]

social investment implications of 7 billion people

social investment implications of 7 billion people

Dusseldorf Mediahafen

At the end of  October 2011 it is estimated that the world population will have reached 7 billion people – an achievement and challenge at the same time.

This article focusses on just three challenges and corresponding opportunities that might stretch the traditional mindset for social investments by corporates, trusts and foundation and governments. All three are interdependent and addressing one can have postive impacts on the other.

1: Addressing [Read more…]

Investing as if the Future Matters

Investing as if the Future Matters

harmonizing giving and investing as a necessary step for Foundations to meeting the ‘public benefit’ test

by Stephen Viederman

I listened and lectured in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in October 2005 and I admit I became an Australiaphile. While there I was struck by many similarities and differences between our philanthropies. One similarity of special interest to me was the limited interest in and even lesser practice of using assets as a way of adding value to giving as an instrument of change.

Each year the effort to “invest as if the future mattered” becomes easier as new and more sophisticated investment vehicles in all asset classes enter the market. In addition, the concept of ownership and stewardship has grown urging shareowners to engage with the companies they own by voting proxies and in other ways.

The public benefit is how the Charity’s Commission of England and Wales describes the charitable purpose of foundations. This is as clear and concise a definition as I have seen.

Unfortunately, however, this only seems to apply to giving, not to the use of the assets that make the giving possible. In Australia, I suspect, as is the case here in the US, the chasm between mission and giving, on the one hand, and investment, on the other, is still more the rule than the exception. I firmly believe that harmonizing giving and investing is a necessary step toward meeting the ‘public benefit’ purpose. [Read more…]

“More than you’ll ever need … inside!”

“More than you’ll ever need … inside!”

In keeping with our recent focus on consumption I was struck by the call of a Sri Lankan scientist to assist “rich countries to curb their climate-damaging consumption habits through a set of consumption goals  – in the same way the poor have ‘Millennium Development Goals’   (MDG’s) to get them out of poverty”.

What a brilliant idea!  His reasoning is obvious: 20% of the worlds richest people are responsible for 80% of consumption.

And of course, the always impressive team at the Worldwatch Institute in Washington responded to the call with a first draft: [Read more…]

from social investment to social return on investment

a social enterprise????

I recently attended the inaugural ”Social Return Forum” put together by a colleague of mine, Oliver Wagg  of New Climate for the 3 Pillars Network.

Concepts like social investment, social return on investment and a social investment market are much talked about lately by social investors, social entrepreneurs, those generating social profits and intermediaries alike and seem to have gone mainstream – and for good reasons:

  • We all want and need to know if our efforts are making a difference to the issues we are trying to address.
  • This evidence base to inform further investment has been missing in large parts of the social sector.
  • Evidence of social returns is instrumental for those investing funds in social issues and who are convincing others of the merit of these investment.

To state the obvious and track back a little – we are hungry for alternative approaches to welfare funding and need evidence about whether approaches work or not. [Read more…]

medium sized enterprises united through First 5000

medium sized enterprises united through First 5000

First 5000 launch 20 Oct at NSW Parliament House

According to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) SMEs account for about 90 per cent of business worldwide, employing 50 to 60 per cent of the world’s workforce. In Australia, Australian Bureau of Statistics data indicate small businesses in Australia comprise up to 89 per cent of all employing enterprises, with medium businesses making up another 10 per cent.

The SME sector is not only huge but also extremely diverse – with  60% of all of these businesses not having any employees – this diversity creates challenges on many levels and  areas including responsible business practices,  corporate sustainability and philanthropy.

[Read more…]