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The Third Sector, Social Return and Achieving Common Goals

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What society does, and what it seeks to achieve with its money ultimately determines the type of society we live in.  All of us who work or volunteer in the sector do so because we want to see social or environmental change for the better.  We work hard on a daily basis to bring those to realise that ambition.   My final blog on charities and social investment considers the enormous positive impact that the third sector would have if we collectively used all our financial resources and purchasing power to secure social returns when we consider where and how we spend our money. 

According to the most recent statistics from the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO),  there are 45,000 voluntary organisations in Scotland of which 50% are registered charities.   The sector has an annual turnover of £4.9bn of which over £4bn is spent on charitable activities.  It employs approximately 138,000 people, has an estimated 1.3m volunteers and is governed by about 250,000 trustees.  

The collective financial clout of the whole sector (organisations; staff; trustees; volunteers) is therefore significant, and our social and environment influence could be huge if, when buying everyday items, we used companies that deliver a cleaner environment or pay employees the living wage or employ disabled people. The step change in society that we all work to deliver would be realised sooner rather than later. 

In Scotland there are now a wide range of options that permit us to do that. There are everyday products and services that are stocked in high street stores, as well as online that when we purchase them we also purchase social outcomes. There are social banks established specifically to behave in an ethical and equitable manner and who only lend to businesses and organisations with positive impact.  There are investment funds that are run for the benefit of their members as they have no shareholders and can also offer a financial return as good as any mainstream investment.  

The SCRT will shortly add to this list of options by offering the whole sector the option to financially invest into our sector so that community businesses and third sector organisations have suitable and appropriate lending options.  The social and the financial working in harmony to ensure that the Third Sector and the communities it supports all across Scotland are more robust, sustainable and vibrant.   

Pauline Hinchion is the Director of the Scottish Community Re: Investment Trust (SCRT) (