The UK lags significantly behind some of its European neighbours in the social impact investment field, with the Netherlands and Switzerland experiencing more than 20 times as much per capita social investment as the UK.
Conducted by Tooley Street Research for the microfinance provider Oikocredit UK, the study uses raw data from Eurosif, a non-profit membership body for socially responsible investors across Europe, collected from asset managers and self-managed asset owners earlier this year, and relates to total assets held at the end of 2013.
It shows that UK investors have committed a total of £1.1bn in social impact investments, equivalent to about £17.06 per head of population. The total market across Europe is worth about £15.7bn.
Of the nine European countries surveyed, the Netherlands has the most active social investment market in proportion to the size of its population, with £411.07 invested per capita. The top three is completed by Switzerland (£407.80 invested per capita) and Sweden (£86.03) – these are far ahead of the other six.
Italy’s £25.83 per capita investment and Austria’s £20 compares with Germany’s £13.25, France’s £12.15 and Spain, at the bottom of the pile, with £1.47.
The Netherlands has about a quarter of the population of the UK and Switzerland around an eighth, so the total amounts of social investment in those countries are far larger than in the UK.
Monica Middleton, national director of Oikocredit UK & Ireland, said: "This research shows that UK investors are trailing well behind our European counterparts, and in fact have very low awareness and understanding of socially responsible impact investments as an alternative to other financial products or overseas donations.
"This is in stark contrast with our heritage for charitable giving, and the recent boom in other sustainable lifestyle choices made by UK consumers, such as fairly traded goods."