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Maybe It's Time For A Social Enterprise Stock Exchange

Amanda Y. Fung

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of a stock exchange specifically for social enterprises. If your hands are still down, you’re in good company. Most people in the U.S.—even many of the movers and shakers in the social enterprise space—have never heard of a so-called social stock exchange. However, Nicole Motter suggests that a social enterprise stock exchange may be key to attracting the financial capital required to not simply address but solve the world's social problems.

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  • Amanda Y. Fung

    I've wondered the same things, Ben. And while I appreciate how this article demonstrates the social enterprise's unique value to society (vs.traditional businesses and nonprofits), I'm also not convinced of the need to create a separate market. As the writer said, given the rather loose definition of "social enterprise" employed today and the lack of standardised measures for social impact/responsibility, it may be difficult to even determine what organisations should be listed... although I suppose this is the same problem faced by governments seeking to provide tax benefits to social enterprises (e.g. Would any for-profit company with some kind of social mission be eligible?). Regardless, I'm all for whatever will enable social enterprises to raise the capital necessary to effect change and turn a profit (and pay its employees). As you said, perhaps this can be done through existing markets. And if that's the case, it may just be a matter of developing new social impact-focused funds and other financial instruments to, as the writer suggests, allow "everyone the opportunity (not just socially-conscious high rollers) to have a stake in solving social problems".

    • Jelena Woehr

      I actually have part of my 401K invested in a "socially responsible enterprises" mutual fund. I'll admit I'm not savvy enough to have looked into where the fund invests and read up on each company, but I think that's one middle ground possible here. Investors who care about social enterprise can get together and create mutual funds that only contain responsible companies. I read about another fund a few years ago that only contained companies that stood to profit from climate change--in other words, those investing in future energy technologies that will only become cost-competitive with fossil fuels after the "end of oil" has happened.

  • Ben Goldhirsh

    really interesting. I think the delineation she touches on - between for profits that include social impact, vs. social impact focused businesses that use for profit status to drive funding - is an interesting one. I wonder how real that difference is. This space is so interesting right now, with all the success stories pulling more entrepreneurs into the space, with collaborative fund proving the case on the investment side and pulling more cash into the space, and with foundations increasingly looking to align their principle assets with their missions, it feels like critical mass is afoot. My question is whether there needs to be a separate market for social enterprises, or if we want social enterprises to just kick ass right up against the non-mission oriented businesses?