Growing SC-Eco = the Social Capital Ecosphere

New options are emerging every day for people to put their money to social purpose.

Headlines raise shrill cries to reconsider nearly every aspect of how people act. Climate change, catastrophic floods, green energy, terrorist bombings, regional wars, decaying city infrastructure and neighborhoods, social inequity, impure food, unethical manufacturing of clothing, pandemic risks and other causes challenge our beliefs in traditional institutions as the sole ways of using money and transacting across global markets.

In interpersonal lending, Kiva®, Prosper®, Virgin Money® and similar Web services bypass traditional banks and foundations to enable microfinance at direct peer-to-peer levels, where people of means lend or donate to people and enterprises without.

The Internet changed how consumers shop, how borrowers borrow, how investors invest, how donors give.

We see social capital in the rapid rise of social networking and affinity services. We have begun seeing its impact on how individuals invest, lend and gift for socially.

Socially-impactful consumption is on the horizon.

Socially-purposeful commerce is increasingly the way that consumers expect manufacturers and retailers to market their products and services. While the expectation for transparently gauging product ethical, environmental and social purity may be in consumers’ minds, the way that each product, industry and seller are going about providing such transparency is chaotic, and lacks standardization essential to efficient markets.

That’s where the SC-Eco: Social Capital Ecosphere comes in. As a holistic approach to transparency, SC-Eco transactions have origins and impacts verifiable as “sustainable.”

The SC-Eco would self-organize as a set of interdependent neighborhoods, virtually connected via the Web.

Each neighborhood lets neighborhoods and visitors alike trace back the environmental, energy and social impacts of choices made.

  • The Mall Services Neighborhood is where via the Web socially-responsible go to find companies, knowing that companies there have agreed to provide standardized access to a broad range of transparency information.
  • The Ratings Neighborhood would be made up of the experts and ratings agencies that today offer a cacophony of 160,000 ratings of “green,” “organic,” “energy efficiency,” “fair trade/labor” or other lifecycle characteristic. Ratings services within this Neighborhood would enable access to their knowledge via a more standardized Wikipedia®-type of interoperable interface, such that the ratings can be more readily compared, combined and tagged to see the impact of a particular product, service or company on the region.
  • The Manufacturing Neighborhood would be a place that product manufacturers and their suppliers can use to coordinate and publicize details of the steps being taken to make their manufacturing processes more Earth-, community- and labor-friendly. Today, companies often are frustrated investing in energy efficient plants and environmental clean up only in response to negative headlines and litigation. Participation in the Manufacturing Neighborhood would broaden the options manufacturers and component suppliers have reach consumers and assemblers with the message that their products are socially-responsible, their corporate governance is open and accountable and their impacts on the Earth are friendly.
  • In the Finance Neighborhood, banks, insurers and other financial services providers would offer specialized programs tailored to the SC-Eco consumer and business. Evidence suggest that enterprises managed to generate social and monetary returns, are more reliable as borrowers (i.e., entail lower loan default risks) and as insureds (i.e., have less severe business interruption, property damage and health insurance claims). By aggregating demand, this Neighborhood will help match such companies and financial organizations offering better terms for doing good.
  • The Agriculture Neighborhood is tailored to the unique challenge of wholesome food. Organic farming, sustainable farming, organic kosher, fair trade indigenous food production, locally-grown, freshwater clean fish and many other designations describe food grown, harvested, processed, packed, shipped, and disposed of consistent with two aims: to be more nutritious when eaten for body and soul. Today, food labeling requires supplementing “Nutrition Facts” with “Production Facts.” Sorting out the food supply chain across growers, handlers, markets and restaurants will be enabled when they perceive a set of consumers opting to eat more heathfully and ethically.
  • The Public Health Neighborhood would align hospital, physician, natural medicine, preventive care, nutrition and lifestyle counseling, insurance and other features into a set of services that amplify choices consumers make to improve not just their own health but that of their region.
  • The Land, Buildings and Infrastructure Neighborhood would serve the needs of developers, architects, engineers, homeowners and others seeking to encourage use and repurposing of land in ways that augment the SC-Eco’s other functions.
  • The Philanthropy and Social Venture Neighborhood includes social venture philanthropists, traditional foundations, program-related investment initiatives of pension fund and foundations, corporate social responsibility outreach efforts and other capital sources that would like to invest in socially-purposeful enterprises and nonprofits but have lacked proof of their “business model.”The SC-Eco inherently writes whole chapters of the business plans for social ventures, by showing demand for services, customers and strategic alliances.

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, a Consulting Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and a CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979), and is licensed as a lawyer in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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