Oxford a ‘hotspot’ for ethical companies

10:00pm Thursday 29th May 2014

OXFORD’S position as a centre for social business was highlighted by the success of the first nationwide event on ethical investment in the UK.

The event at the Friends Meeting House in St Giles brought together investors and people running renewable energy projects, fairtrade companies and community organisations.

It was organised by Oxford-based ethical investment website Ethex, whose founder Jamie Hartzell said the day had been a great success.

Mr Hartzell started Ethex in 2012 as a way of making it easier for people to invest in firms that deliver a positive social and environmental return as well as a financial return.

Last year, Ethex named Oxford as the fifth best hotspot in the UK for so-called “positive” investment.

He said: “It looks as if we will start a local group in Oxford to discuss the issues further and develop a mutual support forum for investors.

“We will then aim to run the event and set up local groups in other parts of the country.”

Those seeking funding include Low Carbon Hub, which plans to raise more than £2m from Oxford residents to install solar panels on the roofs of 26 schools and business premises, with the electricity generated producing revenue for investors as well as money for new projects.

Non-executive director Wendy Twist said the shares would be available via Ethex. She added: “We are reducing the risk to investors by not issuing the shares until after we have started work.”

The Oxford-based organisation is hoping to finalise a low-cost short-term loan from a fund that supports social enterprise, she said, bridging the gap before shares are issued.

Another venture considering raising money via Ethex is Oxfork, a restaurant in Magdalen Road which is planning to extend its work to offer training in sustainable food.

Ethex’s website offers investors the opportunity to buy and sell shares or bonds in not-for-profit ventures, or invest in ethical cash accounts such as the Ecology Building Society.

Mr Hartzell said: “We felt it was time to get together to celebrate what has been achieved and think about how we can continue to move forward.”

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