Kresse Wesling: Investors must "roll up their sleeves"

Kresse Wesling of Elvis & Kresse opened the first plenary session at the Good Deals & Beyond Good Business conference with a heartfelt call to investors in social enterprise to do more than just invest.

One of the missions of Kresse’s business, which turns old fire hoses and other waste products into bags, belts and purses, is ‘Do more, be better’. Kresse felt that investors needed to tune into this ethos, roll up their sleeves and "actively engage" in the businesses in which they invest.

Kresse (pictured above, left) also spoke of the need for today’s social enterprises not just to find the best solution to a problem, but additionally to focus on growing. She said: ‘‘We need to grow because the problems we face are bigger than we are.”

In a Q&A session with Kresse and Galahad Clark (pictured above, right), founder of Vivobarefoot and the seventh generation of the Clark’s shoes family, on being asked what the definition of a social enterprise now is, Kresse felt that a tight definition was not helpful as “we need allow for fluidity and growth given different business models are needed to tackle different problems”.

Creativity was an essential ingredient for any social entrepreneur, said the speakers, and Kresse summarised, “anyone who can solve a social problem whilst making money needs to be creative.” And that is how creativity can change the world.

In the second session, Amit Bhatia, CEO of the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment (GSG), spoke passionately of turning the social challenges we face into investment opportunities with the formula “ capital + higher purpose = impact”.

He highlighted that the GSG was aiming to double the current $150bn in impact investment to $300bn by 2020. And he added that the impact movement needed to be “decentralised” and “inclusive”. “The world,” he said, “is one family.”

There followed a fascinating Q&A session chaired by Jessica Brown, fund manager at the Barrow Cadbury Trust, with an esteemed panel of Toby Eccles of Social Finance, Baroness Glenys Thornton of the House of Lords, Indy Johar, co-founder of Dark Matter Laboratories, and Mairi Mackay of the British Council.

Indy Johar summarised by saying, “We need to think bigger in 2018 as we are facing bigger problems”, flagging the need for greater integration and closer relations between government, investors and social enterprises. Indy closed by saying “to see a strategic transformation in society, we need to change the dialogue of what it means to be human”.

The message was clear: we can all make a difference but businesses, investors and governments all need to work together to result in meaningful impact.

Good Deals + Beyond Good Business, delivered by Pioneers Post and Hatch, takes place today at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London. Follow #GDBGB