Charity ponders 'ethical' shares to bring in money

Plan considered by Hackney Community Transport to raise cash from markets

A charity that runs one of Britain's best-known social enterprises is considering making an "ethical public offering" to raise finance.

Hackney Community Transport is investigating new ways of raising money from the market, according to its chief executive Dai Powell, a government social enterprise ambassador.

Powell told Third Sector HCT could form a new company to issue shares, which would be offered to investors interested seeing an ethical as well as a financial return on their investment.

"It would be similar to a standard public offering," said Powell. "But it would offer people a lower financial return in exchange for a social return."

HCT is currently taking legal advice on the process, which would involve transferring assets from the charity to a profit-making company.

"We could start a new company, sell the charity's assets at fair market value to that company and make it part of the company's constitution that it must return any profits to the charity," said Powell.

"However, we need to make sure the company can't be taken over by a private business."

One way of avoiding that situation, he said, would be to issue 'preference shares', which would not have voting rights in the country. Another would be to create a 'golden share', which would outvote the others.

"An advantage of being part-owned by our community is that we would have a natural constituency that would hold our ethical stance to account," he said.

His organisation was also looking at other options, he said, such as offering charity-only investments that would give a similar return to bonds, but would allow charities to invest their money ethically.

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