Access seeks social impact through investing its endowment

• The Foundation for Social Investment announces partnership with Rathbones
• The fund manager offers Access a largely fixed income portfolio seeking to maximise social impact while generating positive financial returns

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Access – The Foundation for Social Investment has announced a partnership with Rathbones to manage the Foundation’s endowment in order to maximise the social impact of the funds being held.

Access was given a £60m endowment by the Cabinet Office in 2015 to spend over ten years on funding programmes which help charities and social enterprises to engage with the social investment market and become investment ready. £43m has been received to date with the remainder due to be received by Access over the next few years.

The Foundation is seeking to achieve “total impact” across all its activities. Therefore rather than simply holding these funds in the bank before they are given in grants in the later years of Access’s life, The Foundation is seeking to use them to make investments which will achieve as much social impact as possible, before being repaid and then used to make grants.

Rathbones will invest these funds in social and ethical fixed income investments such as charity bonds and other ethical bonds. Access developed a set of priorities for how its endowment should be invested which align closely with its mission of increasing the flow of capital to charities and social enterprises.

Janie Oliver, Access’s Finance and Operations Manager, explained what Access is seeking to achieve:

“Our priority is to invest as much of our endowment as possible into charities and social enterprises delivering impact and operating in the UK. Where this isn’t possible then we will look to organisations creating social impact in other countries, and finally to companies offering leading ethical, social or governance practices”. 

Access has published its impact priorities in what it has called its “Bull’s Eye” impact framework.

Bull's Eye Impact Framework image

Over time its ambition is to shift as much as possible of the capital in the endowment to being invested at the centre of the bull’s eye. The initial distribution, as a percentage of the total portfolio, is:

Position in the bull’s eye model

Percentage  of current portfolio


Charities and social enterprises delivering social impact in the UK


·      Hightown Housing Association (charity housing association providing affordable homes in southern England).

·      Greenwich Leisure (social enterprise managing leisure and library facilities for local authorities).


Charities and social enterprises delivering social impact  elsewhere


·      International Finance Facility for Immunisation (financial vehicle supporting Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation).


Other organisations delivering social impact


·      Lloyds Bank Helping Britain Prosper ESG Bond (proceeds fund small-scale renewable energy projects, and SMEs and healthcare providers in deprived areas of the UK).


Other organisations that have best in class ESG indicators (priority on S&G)



·      Marks & Spencer (retail group with sector-leading performance in sustainable business practice).





Rathbones won the mandate from Access following a competitive process held earlier in the year involving eight asset managers.

Rathbones is a market leader in offering fixed income social investment products. The Rathbone Ethical Bond Fund was one of the first investment vehicles offering investors access to UK charity bonds. The fund, supported by sustainable discretionary management division Rathbone Greenbank Investments, has a track-record of strong performance in investing ethically spanning more than a decade.

Rathbone Greenbank’s ethical research team has provided screening services to Rathbone Ethical Bond fund since its inception in 2002. The team will report on how the endowment’s investments are meeting the aims of the Access bull’s eye model. It will also identify the primary social challenges being addressed by issuers and the solutions they are providing.

Bryn Jones, Head of Fixed Income at Rathbones, said:

“Over many years, we have shown that it is possible to produce attractive economic returns, while supporting bond issuers with strong environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) values. We continue to show that investors do not need to give up a social return for an investment one, and vice versa.” 

Janie Oliver said:

“We were extremely impressed with Rathbones’ ambition combined with their proven ability to deploy funds to achieve impact from the word go.”

This “Total Impact” approach is increasingly a priority for many charitable foundations who are seeking to achieve impact not just through their grant making but also by using their endowments to make investments which generate a social return.

Martin Rich, a trustee of Access, said:

“We are excited to be using our endowment in this way as a demonstration of how a foundation can maximise its impact. As a spend-down foundation we have a particular set of requirements, so a fixed income approach makes the most sense for us. We are looking forward to sharing our experience with other foundations and learning how together we can mobilise more capital for charities and social enterprises and thus achieve even greater levels of impact.” 

Access will be making grants from its endowment over ten years to fund programmes which support charities and social enterprises to take advantage of social investment opportunities, including through funding investment readiness programmes.

Access announced details of its first two programmes, the Reach Fund and the Impact Management programme earlier in the summer. They will both launch in the Autumn.

The Foundation also manages the Growth Fund, offering blended finance to organisations seeking to make small loans to charities and social enterprises.