How the new Social Stock Exchange will help social purpose organisations to raise capital in India

Date

August 20, 2019

“India’s impact investing market is largest in Asia (Financing the Future of Asia: Innovations in Sustainable Finance, AVPN).  The union budget for 2019-20 proposes setting up a stock exchange to provide a robust platform for social enterprises and voluntary organisations to raise capital”. 

5 min read

According to the Brookings Institute recent report, titled “The Promise of Impact Investing in India”, India faces a financial gap of around $564 billion for achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030. The report also mentions that in a survey of social enterprises, 57% identified access to debt or equity as a barrier to growth. 

To overcome these challenges, India needs to ensure that sufficient capital is invested in creating a positive impact on society. Encouraging social enterprises and private investment for social good, is essential in this regard. Taking a step in this direction, the Union Budget of India for 2019-20, proposes setting up a Social Stock Exchange. The Social Stock Exchange (SSE) aims to allow social enterprises and voluntary organisations with a social purpose, to raise capital as equity or debt. In her speech to the Indian Parliament, the Finance Minister of India, Ms. Nirmala Sitharamam, mentioned that the intention behind the proposal is to take capital closer to the masses and to meet the objectives of inclusive growth and financial inclusion.

The promises of SSE in India

The proposal to open a Social Stock Exchange in India sends a positive message that the government is cognizant of the need to support social enterprises and is willing to leverage private capital for development. According to the Brookings India’s research director Shamiska Sha, who is also a member of Prime Ministers Economic Advisory Council in India “The industry is at a very nascent stage and given the scale of operations, it’s unlikely to be able to create such an entity (on its own). In a sense, it’s good for the government to put in some resources in the creation of what should be viewed as a facilitating institution.” (Economics Times, 2019). The Finance Minister in her speech had mentioned that the SSE in India will be an electronic platform and will work under the regulatory ambit of Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). However, specific details about the structure and scope of the proposed Indian SSE are still unknown. 

AVPN is involved in creating social impact through investing capital, technical and human resources. As mentioned in AVPN’s Financing the Future of Asia: Innovations in Sustainable Finance 2019, the Impact investing market of India is the biggest in Asia. A Social Stock Exchange can indeed be a powerful tool to progress towards the goal of driving more capital from AVPN members towards positive societal change in India.

In 2013, Section 135 of the Indian Companies Act , made a Corporate Social Spending of 2% of the net profit, mandatory for all companies with a net worth of a billion USD or more. Encouraging corporates to direct the mandatory CSR capital to the SSE can assist in bringing the financial resources to social enterprises. 

Social stock exchanges around the world

The idea of driving capital investments towards social missions that resonate with investors, along with possible financial returns, has given rise to the need for Social Stock Exchanges (SSEs) around the world. These SSEs serve as valuable tools and platforms to identify enterprises creating positive social changes, encourage collaboration between investors and enterprises, and in some cases provide mechanism for financial resource investments. There are SSEs operating in different regions around the world. Each of these SSEs functions in a different format and some of them do not resemble the traditional version of Stock exchanges. Some of the bigger SSEs from around the world are: 

  • Social Stock Exchange – United Kingdom :  The SSE in the UK opened in June 2013. The SSE-UK does not facilitate any actual stock trading , the SSE however serves as a directory of the enterprises which are listed on the London Stock Exchange and that have passed its social impact test. This way the SSE serves as a platform and credible research service for present and future social impact investors.
  • Social Venture Connexion – Canada : Backed by the Government of Ontario, the Social Venture Connexion works as a “trusted connector”. It provides social enterprises and businesses with access to interested impact investors, service providers and have high visibility. The Venture Connexion is close to a full fledged stock exchange but it is only open to institutional investors.
  • SASIX – South Africa : The world’s second Social Stock Exchange was opened in South Africa in 2006. The aim was to provide vital finance to not widely known social investors. SASIX functions as a conventional stock exchange and allows investors to buy shares in social enterprises. The investors can browse the SASIX and select social businesses based on project type, mission, and location.
  • Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) – Singapore: Launched in 2013, the Impact Investment Exchange is a platform that provides information about select social and impact enterprises to interested investors and facilitates the investment of investment to these select enterprises. IIX also includes Non for Profit Organisations in its listings.

Path Ahead

A major challenge facing the Social Stock Exchanges is recognising and identifying the businesses creating social impact. 

The effectiveness of the proposed SSE in India, will depend on government policies to efficiently run the SSE and government’s capability to build confidence, of the private investors, in the SSE. The SSE needs to have robust systems and processes for defining what social enterprises will be listed, bringing public capital to the SSE, and incentives for social enterprises and the investors to be involved in the SSE. 

Join the AVPN India Summit in Bengaluru this November and be part of efforts to pool diverse resources across sectors for sustained impact. The summit will be preceded by the AVPN India Policy forum which will focus on education and empowering policy makers to make long lasting impact in their communities.