Report identifies pioneers of positive investment in ten UK hotspots

Lewes has been named alongside Brighton as one of the UK hotspots for a new type of ‘positive investor’ helping to revolutionise funding of social and environmental businesses. Positive Investing in the United Kingdom released today (15th October 2013) by Ethex, the first online exchange for positive investments, shows Lewesians are at the forefront of a move towards investments which offer a financial return while also doing good.

The report, which has been launched to coincide with the start of National Ethical Investment Week from October 13-19th 2013, examined nearly 50,000 positive investments by postcode to reveal where investors live, what they invest in and why.  

It shows 127 investments helping social and environmental businesses have been made from Lewes postcode BN7, incorporating the Lewes Priory and Lewes Castle areas. In Brighton 265 positive investments were made across BN1 and BN2.

The findings of the report have been welcomed by Jamie Hartzell, the founder and managing director of Ethex (motto: Make Money Do Good), who previously co-founded the Ethical Property Company in 1999 with Andy King, the owner a number of properties across East Sussex providing office space for co-operatives and campaign groups at reasonable rents.

“Lewes has a thriving green scene and a strong sense of community; it’s residents care about safeguarding the environment as well as the town’s history. Additionally the majority of the Lewes population fits the profile of the typical positive investor, so we’d naturally expect to see it in the top ten,” said Mr Hartzell, 55.

Lewes’s history of positive investment is reflected in initiatives like OVESCO, which has raised over £385,000 for five community owned energy projects, including Harvey’s Brewery, Barcombe Nurseries, Lewes Priory, Brickyard Farm and most recently Chailey School.

Among the other named national hot spots for pioneering positive investors are parts of Yorkshire and the East Midlands, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds, Oxford, Devon and Cambridge. Hartzell said all ten areas had a strong sense of community, a thriving cultural life and large numbers of independent shops – with Lewes notable for being a transition town and adopting it’s own currency.

Jamie Hartzell stepped down from The Ethical Property Company last year to set up Ethex as a not-for-profit online web portal that would provide a platform for positive investing that would create an ethical stockmarket.

Ethex was launched in January 2013 and already has 30 investment products. In the first eight months, £760,000 was invested and 1250 investors have signed up. The site alerts people to new share and bond issues, and also serves as a marketplace where people can buy and sell positive investments.

 “People now expect more from their money,” said Jamie Hartzell, who lives in Oxford, where the Ethical Property Company has its head office.

“They have lost trust in the banks and money managers. They are looking for ways to invest directly, as evidenced by the rapid growth of crowd-funding and positive investment allow people to invest direct into businesses they trust.

“For many people, this means being confident that their direct investment is making the world a better place, at the same time as generating a financial returns.”

According to the report Positive Investing in the United Kingdom, a growing public interest in investments that ‘do good’ and offer a financial return has resulted in over one million investments, mainly between £100 to £500, have helped raise £1.6 billion.

Most of the investments and savings have been made in businesses, social enterprises, credit unions and community share offers that give people the chance to invest directly in issues that they care about. Positive investments tend to be in areas such fair trade, renewable energy, poverty alleviation, organic farming, community shops and pubs, sustainable forestry, green transport, organic food and farming and social property.

Just under 700 businesses currently form the UK market for positive investments, ranging from well-known brands such as Cafédirect, Good Energy and the Phone Co-op, to specific environmental and social projects.

At £1.6 billion, positive investment is one seventh the size of the £11 billion UK ethical investment market. But it differs from the majority of conventional ethical investments, which exclude a limited number of unacceptable activities, such as arms and tobacco, and instead select investments from other sectors. The range of exclusions is often narrow and results in investments in standard FTSE stocks and shares that can be unexpected, such as oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, high street banks and large food companies.

“Simple negative screening of investments is no longer enough, investors want it to be beyond question that their investment is having a positive impact,” said Jamie Hartzell.

“There are many exciting businesses with a positive social or environmental mission, but until now it has been very hard to find out what to buy, how to buy it and understand the risks you are taking.”

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