The conference, which was held at Meeting Room Stockholm, attracted nearly 200 representatives from the public sector, universities, special-interest groups and social entrepreneurs. The idea is for the forum to provide an annual meeting place for those who want to invest to reduce exclusion, ill-health and environmental impact.
Mats Torstendahl, Head of Corporate & Private Customers, gave the keynote speech. He meant that the public sector is good at taking reactive measures, taking care of things that have happened, but strengthening preventive work requires innovation and social entrepreneurship, he stated.
“It’s about investing in soft values, in people. By accepting higher costs today we can reduce costs in the future,” he said.
The main theme of the conference was the need for cooperation between the private and public sectors. Interest is considerable and the trend is increasing. The market for social investment has started gaining momentum in Europe and several speakers suggested that the time is now right for a similar development in the Nordic area.
“Now is the time to start,” said Anna Ernestam, CFO of the Swedish Red Cross, who participated in a panel debate about social bonds.
There is no shortage of investment capital, but so far development has been hampered by the lack of clear and consistent targets and key indicators for measuring the effect of investments.
Broad spectrum of speakers
The conference, which ran over three days, brought together a number of speakers from different sectors of society. From the world of politics there was, among others, Stina Billinger, State Secretary to the Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation Ibrahim Baylan. She described the government’s strategy to strengthen the development of social companies so that they can better participate in solving social challenges.
Participants from the corporate sphere included Johan H Andresen, owner and Chairman of the Board of the Norwegian investment managers Ferd and a member of the Board of SEB. He described how Ferd works with steering investments towards positive social effects, among other things by having a separate business area for investments in social entrepreneurs.
SEB participants, in addition to Mats Torstendahl, included Christina Norrbring, Head of IT Solution Delivery, who presented the bank’s collaboration with Unicus, a company that recruits IT testers from among persons diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Other speakers included Erika Lundquist, Head of Private Banking, who talked about customer demand for philanthropical investments. Mats Olausson, from Climate & Sustainable Finance, LCFI, explained the difference between regular social bonds and social impact bonds. The former are often tied to property investments while social impact bonds can be about preventive social initiatives.