Social investment

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation’s first social investment was made in 1997. Since then we have formalised and grown our social investing. We have made over 150 social investments through our £45m social investment fund, the returns of which are recycled.

Our approach to social investment

We believe that social investment is a powerful and financially sustainable tool we use, alongside grants and our own actions, to achieve our impact goals.

Our social investment strategy, designed to help achieve our impact goals, focuses on three objectives.

1. Impact-first direct investments


  • Supporting new innovative financial models.
  • Driving responsible solutions to market failure.
  • Demonstrating the financial viability of social investment.
2. Influencing the social investment market


  • Enabling a broader, more accessible social investment market.
  • Building a more innovative social investment market.
  • Stimulating a more supportive wholesale investment market.
3. Learning and sharing


  • Creating a more strategic social investment portfolio.
  • Establishing a greater collective impact.

We take a proactive, flexible approach to making investments - not ‘one size fits all’: we assess the most effective use of our funding to create the greatest impact. We take risks where others can’t, and look to co-design solutions where markets have failed or aren’t yet working. We commit to sharing our learning and encourage collaboration so that we can have a greater collective impact.

Our investment approach is underpinned by a robust Social Investment Policy Statement which guides our decisions on selection and risk.

How we use social investment

We support organisations seeking to create impact, which align to our impact goals, as well as backing new ideas and infrastructure that would benefit the social investment market.

We operate an ‘impact-first’ approach and seek to catalyse impactful organisations with our finance. We start with the social need and tailor our investment: adapting and selecting financial instruments that are most appropriate.

We aim to work at a portfolio level: constructing a portfolio to further our impact goals.

What we invest

  • £100k

    Minimum investment

  • £2m

    Maximum investment

  • £437k

    Average investment


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