The modus operandi of venture capitalism is quite simple: make money – the more the faster, the better. Social venture capitalism (SVC) – or what Joel Solomon, president and CEO of Vancouver SVC pioneer Renewal Partners, calls “patient capitalism” – puts a more nuanced emphasis on “triple-bottom-line” accounting, with equal weight on people, the planet and profits.
The idea isn’t that money is irrelevant, just that it’s only one of several considerations – another being that investments be measured in decades even centuries, not months or years. While Renewal Partners didn’t invent SVC, it is widely credited with being a North American leader in socially responsible investing – and making good money doing so: on average, a two-plus-times rate of return.
Notable successes over the years include Small Potatoes Urban Delivery, Happy Planet juice, Salt Spring Coffee, organic grocers Capers and cleaning products outfit Seventh Generation. In early 2009, the firm launched Renewal2 Fund, bringing in 40 wealthy outside investors – half from outside B.C. – to participate for the first time (heretofore, Renewal’s efforts had been bankrolled by Solomon and his silent partner, Carol Newell). By year’s end, Renewal2 had raised $20 million, with another $20 million expected by mid-2010.