How Companies Build Sustainability Into Their Core Business: Andrew Levitt from Bridges Ventures shares his perspective.

May 05, 2016

How Companies Build Sustainability Into Their Core Business: Andrew Levitt from Bridges Ventures shares his perspective.

In 2014 Peter Bakker, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development declared ‘CSR is dead. It’s over’

 The question is what would replace it?

 We have witnessed and welcomed a growing movement by companies to build sustainability into their core business. As part of BITC's Responsible Business Week, many companies shared the practical steps they were taking to do just that. Leading companies including Interserve, Johnson & Johnson, PwC, RBS Group, Santander, Wates and Zurich went a step further and pledged their support for the Buy Social $1 Billion Challenge.

 We had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Levitt from Bridges Ventures and hearing how his business is taking practical steps to being a sustainable business.

 Why did you choose to work in social investment and what do you love about your job?

I chose to move into social investment in 2008.  I had spent 8 years working in the UK financial services industry (mostly within cooperatives, mutuals and organisations with a commitment to wider stakeholder value), but I wanted to move into social investment to focus explicitly on driving measurable social impact at scale alongside financial returns. I left my job, studied for an MBA for a year (with a focus on social investment and international development), and then moved to work for MicroCred Group, an international microfinance investment firm. I spent a year as their Director of Strategy in Paris, and then moved to Madagascar as CEO of MicroCred Madagascar, the largest microfinance institution in the country.   I then returned to the UK in 2012 and joined Bridges Ventures, to lead their work in Social Impact Bonds.

 You're also a mentor for On Purpose Associates, how did you get involved with On Purpose?

When I first moved back to the UK I was introduced to Tom Rippin, CEO of On Purpose, by a mutual friend.   I was inspired by On Purpose’s mission and success at bringing talent into the sector, and immediately offered to be a mentor.  Since 2012, I have mentored Associates for Virgin Unite, EveryChild, and now The Soap Co.

 Bridges Ventures was one of the first companies to buy The Soap Co. hand wash and lotion for your office. Is buying sustainable and ethical products important to Bridges Ventures?

As a specialist impact investor, Bridges only invests in organisations that are having a positive social or environmental impact – either through what they do, where they do it, or how they go about it. But we also want our own business to be as impactful as possible: we were one of the first B Corporations in the UK, and try to put sustainable and ethical business practices at the heart of everything we do. Buying hand wash and lotion from The Soap Co. provides us with another way to drive meaningful social impact – and demonstrates to our team that we practice what we preach.

 Would you recommend other businesses buy sustainable and ethical products for their offices? Why?

I would definitely recommend that other businesses look at how their office purchases can be more sustainable and ethical.  Customers and visitors often form their first impression of your business from your office; and products such as those created by The Soap Co help to convey an image of an organisation that cares about the impact of its supply chain at every level. It also serves as an ever-present reminder for staff that their employer values sustainable and ethical business practice.

 What's next in the social impact and social investment space?

My focus in the social impact and investment space is on transforming public services to deliver better outcomes, in a way that offers better value to the public purse.  We have recently released a report (which you can read here about how commissioning on a ‘payment by results’ basis via Social Impact Bonds can help to improve existing public services, as well as support innovative new interventions. The opportunity for social enterprises to drive really transformational change in public services across the UK is something that really excites me.

 The Soap Co. is an ethical luxury soap brand that creates products that are good and do good. We supply our products to businesses that share our commitment to sustainability. We help them create positive impact through their supply chain whilst reducing their environmental footprint. Every purchase creates employment for our staff whom are blind, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged. If your business is looking to include sustainable and ethical products in your office, do not hesitate to get in touch. 

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