The Ethical Property Company….Creating Space and Time for Community Groups
Ethical, Beautiful businesses come in all shapes and sizes and are involved in a range of activities. This one is different to any we have covered so far, but shows beautiful businesses can be found anywhere. This is Ethical Property, a commercial property business with a difference. Combining the realities of business sustainability and economic necessity with a positive social and community ethos, Ethical Property proves any business can be a force for good. Located across cities in the UK, it has sister companies in France, Belgium, Holland and most recently Australia.
I spoke to Janine Woodward-Grant at Ethical Property and this is what she had to say…
We aim to ensure that commercial property supports the creation of a better world, through the provision of office and meeting space to charities and voluntary groups, retail space that supports small businesses and social enterprises and workshops for organisations in creative industries. We currently support almost 800 organisations working in a wide variety of sectors. Our centres are managed to minimise energy use, waste, car travel and the use of harmful materials while offering tenants modern, affordable and flexible space managed in a transparent and supportive way. We are focused on providing space that facilitates the sharing of resources and the creation of a communal working environment, while removing the complexity and bureaucracy that often exists when renting property.
The history behind the business…
Established in 1998, the concept was first conceived some 16 years earlier. In 1982, Andrew King bought 82 Colston Street, Bristol in order to house some of the many co-operatives springing up across the city. He wanted to offer his tenants reasonable rents, a supportive landlord, a secure and welcoming place from which to work and the chance to share premises and resources with a range of like-minded organisations. By doing this he was to gain from a secure investment that produced a financial return as well as generating a strong social benefit. In 1986 Jamie Hartzell began working with Andrew when they together bought 84 Colston Street and in 1994, Jamie then bought 1A Waterlow Road, in Archway, London to support campaign groups and charities working on environmental, developmental, refugee, human rights and alternative finance issues. In 1998, after several years of research and development, Andrew and Jamie decided to form The Ethical Property Company PLC and the London and Bristol properties were transferred into the new company. Our first share issue was then launched in May 1999 raising £1.72 million which was invested in seven new centres in Bristol, London, Leeds and Oxford. Further centres have since been purchased in Bath, Brighton, Edinburgh, Manchester and Sheffield …..and the rest is history.
Where Share ownership works…Ethically
Share ownership can be a problematic idea for the ethically minded as profits and dividends become more important than values. But this is different. This beautiful business is owned by over 1250 shareholders from a variety of backgrounds, with most being small investors. There is no majority shareholder and only 42 investors with holdings over 50,000 shares, including institutional investors such as Rathbone Greenbank Investments and Aviva and a number of trusts and foundations. Shares are not quoted on the London Stock Exchange or the Alternative Investment Market, instead the Ethical Property Company work with thier stockbrokers to develop a matched bargain market, which is now used by a number of other social businesses. Their brokers therefore use all reasonable endeavours to match willing buyers and sellers.
Shareholders have historically chosen to invest in The Ethical Property Company as a way to contribute to positive social change. They would like to see the company grow, whilst maintaining their strong beliefs and core values. As such, an impressive 82% of those surveyed in 2009 would consider investing in their next share issue, proof of their commitment to smart and sustainable investment and something that brings a new dimension to the idea of owning shares: the wish to invest in social change. Anyone can buy shares in the Ethical Property Company through Ethex, an independent non-profit organisation.
Making Ethical Property work…The Foundry and Brighton Open Market…
To illustrate the work of the Ethical Property Company, Janine pointed out two great examples. The Foundry, in London is a project they are developing in partnership with a range of charitable Trusts and Foundations who are investing in the project as part of their mission-related investment work. This is the largest example of mission related investment in the UK. The centre will provide both a secure, cost effective home for social justice organisations as well as a space from which they can publicise the issues they are working on. In addition to office space it will provide a café; exhibition area and conference / meeting suite. www.aplaceforchange.co.uk
Brighton Open Market is a site they are managing on behalf of Brighton Open Market CIC. The site is more focussed on local regeneration and sustainability. The Open Market will provide an outstanding modern day market promoting fresh, healthy food and providing a platform for local producers. The site will also offer affordable housing, a hub for arts based crafts and a venue for street art and entertainment. www.brightonopenmarket.co.uk
The final word to Janine. Businesses can be profitable and have values too…
We think we are unique in being a national company providing space specifically to support organisations seeking to improve their community or wider society, and who manage this property with a strong social and environmental approach. In addition to this, we do this as a profit making company, delivering a full triple bottom line of returns and providing our investors, who come from a whole range of backgrounds, with a truly ethical investment opportunity. Whilst social and environmental values drive everything that we do, making a profit is an essential element of our model. Paying a dividend regularly and managing our properties so as to increase the long-term value of our shareholders’ investment is necessary to attract the capital we need to put our principles into practice
For more information about the Ethical Property Company and how they might be able to help you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find more information on their website www.ethicalproperty.co.uk
Darren Hoad B.A (Hons.), M.A. M. Phil.
IEMA Certified Sustainability Practitioner CSR-P
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