SVN Inspired Me to Create Social Venture Fund: Wayne Silby
Fearless financier honored by SVN for pioneering impact investing
Monday July 16, 2012 -- Camille Jensen
It was conversations with other Social Venture Network (SVN) members nearly 25 years ago that first prompted Wayne Silby to talk about the idea of creating a venture fund with social values. As a result, he did, establishing the country’s first social venture fund in 1989 called Calvert Social Venture Partners.
Now the SVN co-founder is expressing his gratitude for a community of like-minded peers.
“I feel like SVN created a community where you could talk about the values that could create those kind of innovations,” he tells Sustainable Solutions.
“SVN created this way that we could discuss values, stretch ideas and talk about some of our deepest desires, which for me was to see money go towards and be channeled into ventures that had a social face, and not to make it about money but to make it about a whole set of values.”
Silby’s pioneering work continues to reverberate today. Not only did he found the first social venture fund, he co-founded one of the earliest mutual funds dedicated to socially-responsible investments, Calvert Social Investment Fund in 1976.
The investment fund not only supported companies that were making social and environmental impacts, it also monitored their work and through shareholder actions asked them to be even better companies. This led to Dell being the first computer company to institute a post-sales recycling program; others in the industry followed.
Calvert Social Investment Fund also set aside approximately one percent of its assets to invest in community needs at below market rates – the first investment company to do so. It was successful, spawning the Calvert Foundation, which now manages about $400 million in microfinance, fair trade, and other investment projects directed at issues of social justice.
For these achievements and others, SVN is honoring Silby with a Hall of Fame Impact Award for his work as a Fearless Financier.
Silby says he’s most proud of doing things people thought were crazy at the time. It takes a lot of courage to still stand by what you believe when everyone else in the room disagrees, he recalls, adding it was the SVN community that gave him the confidence to keep his ground.
Now, returning from a conference in Beijing, China where he spoke to high-net worth investors about using their investments, not philanthropy, to make the world a better place, Silby feels rewarded by the uptake of these ideas around the globe.
"It's taken 25 years but I am telling you impact investing (has seen) a strong trajectory in the last couple of years," says Silby.
“Here it is really happening all over the world now, and it first started at SVN.”
Silby will be recognized along with 24 other SVN Hall of Fame honorees Nov. 13 at SVN’s Hall of Fame celebration in New York City.
— More to Come
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