Tech for Good, the Impact Economy and B Corps – supporting social tech start-ups

Investing in Tech for Good

At the Westminster eForum’s policy conference Tech for Good in the UK – investment, potential and policy priorities, Paul Miller of Bethnal Green Ventures made some important comments regarding the need to connect social tech and Tech for Good start-ups with investors looking for more than just traditional returns on investments.

We are increasingly seeing businesses adopting the “triple bottom line”, by aiming to achieve societal and environmental benefits alongside financial returns. This Impact Economy creates opportunities for investments where capital can translate into tangible results, with the investee company becoming a vehicle for change.
The UK offers an excellent ecosystem for investments in Tech for Good, with one of the most sophisticated investment infrastructures, vibrant tech development hubs and a mature social and environmental responsibility movement. Investment is crucial to the growth of the Tech for Good space in the UK, and will drive the development of innovative solutions to modern day problems. Tech for Good has great potential and can bring enormous benefits to us all, by helping to address some of the most important challenges that our society and environment face today, whilst for purpose-oriented investors, it brings returns beyond traditional financial rewards. It is exciting to see the increased interest in investing with purpose, where the value of investment is derived from a combination of profit and the wider societal or environmental impact of the investment.

Why Tech for Good?

There is increasing evidence that businesses with clearly-defined missions have higher employee satisfaction rates, better customer loyalty and they are financially more sustainable than their counterparts which are purely profit focused. The B Corporation movement is an excellent example and a great source of data on this matter. “B Corp” certification requires a business to consider and measure the impact of business decisions on their staff, customers, wider society and the environment. This results in the constant balancing of purpose, impact and profit. As such, it gives businesses a clear framework to work towards, and a “badge of accreditation” to help stand out in increasingly crowded markets. For investors it provides an assurance that the business meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability.

Some of the most striking impacts are achieved by FinTechs. Having a bank account and access to online banking seems like a fact of life for most. However, access to traditional financial products is still unavailable to those who struggle with proof of address, proof of identity or poor financial history. This financial exclusion goes hand-in-hand with, and exacerbates, poverty and social exclusion (see for example the recent research done by FinTech, Pockit, on “The Banking Poverty Premium”). FinTechs can provide a solution, making online banking affordable and accessible, and allowing users to make savings by paying for bills by direct debit.

Platforms that allow investments in solar or conservation projects give environmentally-minded investors an opportunity to know exactly where the investment is going and to see the impact it is making.

MedTechs are also at the heart of Tech for Good, often in a multitude of ways, such as by developing innovative feminine hygiene products which are made from ethically sourced materials.

True to our firm’s character as a B Corp and social enterprise pioneer, we work with a range of businesses that make “investing with purpose” or “investing for impact” possible and safe, and that are passionate about harnessing the power of tech for generating social and/or environmental good. We’re currently the only law firm in the UK certified as a B Corp – click here to learn more about what that means to us. 

This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of June 3, 2019.