Social Responsibility and Sustainability

Socially positive investments

The University is investing up to £8m in social investments for the benefit of society.

A tour guide stands in the Grassmarket area of Edinburgh
Invisible Cities is a social enterprise that trains people who have experienced homelessness to become walking tour guides of their own city.

Social investment means investing in organisations, fund and projects that deliver a social benefit alongside a traditional financial return, such as organisations working to dismantle poverty or by supporting social enterprises to upscale their work.

As of 2021, the University has allocated £8m to invest in socially-positive activities. A total of £5.8m has been committed to date of which c£1.2m has been drawn down with a further c£2.1m investments in the process of being made.

Investing for good

In December 2019, the University approved a new Social Enterprise and Social Investment Strategy that sets out the University's vision to be recognised as the leading UK university for social enterprise and investments by the academic year 2023-24. The University will do this by taking a rigorous approach to investments that deliver an acceptable return, whilst also delivering multiple benefits for society, the economy and the environment.


Why the University of Edinburgh is investing £1.5m in social enterprises

Our social investments

Big Issue Invest & Power Up Scotland

The University has committed to invest £1.5 million in Big Issue Invest, a social investment organisation which is a group of subsidiaries of the Big Issue Magazine Group, one of the best known social enterprises in the United Kingdom. The investment is used to offer loans to social enterprise, charities and profit-with-purpose businesses.

£1m investment will be force for social good

£500,000 of the total investment is with Power Up Scotland.

Power Up Scotland Impact Report 2020

Fair by Design Fund

In the UK, around 10 million people have to pay extra costs for the same goods and services as people who are financially better off. This is called the poverty premium, the extra cost of being poor. The Fair by Design FUnd by Big Society Capital is a venture fund that invests in organisations tackling the poverty premium. The early-stage businesses receiving investment from the Fund provide services in sectors such as energy, insurance, borrowing, transport and food. The fund’s investment process includes a focus group of people with lived experience of the poverty premium.

Fair by Design Fund

Scottish Social Growth Fund 2

In May 2019, the University invested £1m into the Scottish Social Growth Fund 2 managed by Social Investment Scotland. The fund, worth £17 million in total, enables social enterprises, charities and voluntary groups to access affordable and flexible loans of between £100,000 and £1.7 million to support them to deliver community projects that do everything from creating employment to protecting the environment, all while contributing to the wider economy.

Scottish Social Growth Fund 2

Prosper Social Finance

Prosper Social Finance is the UK’s first student-run socially responsible investment fund. The University is investing £10,000 a year for five years to support Prosper to manage a values-driven equity portfolio.

Read Prosper's latest annual report

Edinburgh Local Community Grants

The Edinburgh Local Community Grants scheme helps the development of projects, community activities and sustainable local action through funding and collaboration. We support local people's vision for a better Edinburgh. Since 2017, we've provided more than £300,000 to 79 incredibly worthwhile community projects across the Edinburgh City Region.

Community Grants


Nov 2020: University encourages HEIs to make social impact investments

Dave Gorman, the University's Director of Social Responsibility & Sustainability, co-authors a blog for Big Society Capital setting out the University's approach to social impact investing and calling for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to work with each other and the social impact investment sector to achieve greater social impact.

Universities as social impact investors: the snowball effect of value 

Get involved

Prosper is the first student-run social investment fund in the UK; founded and run entirely by students at the University of Edinburgh.

Find out more about the student social investment club