London
Thomson Reuters Foundation

All Britons putting money into savings products and pensions are to be given the chance by a new independent institute to choose investments that can do good and get financial returns, the government said on Monday.

Britain's Culture Secretary Jeremy White said the government wanted to make it as simple as possible for "ordinary savers" to put money into issues they care about, be it providing housing to homeless people or funds to renewable energy companies.

British coins

A one pound coin lies on a Union Flag in Loughborough, Britain, onn 3rd May, 2017. PICTRUE: Reuters/Darren Staples

He said the Impact Investing Institute would look for more ways to combine financial returns with a social purpose.

So-called impact investing - which marries social and environmental outcomes with financial returns – has grown rapidly over the past decade, but the sector tends to be mostly accessible to large or institutional investors.

"More people than ever before want their savings and investments to make a real difference to people's lives and the planet, while still generating a return," White said in a statement.

"The Impact Investing Institute will look at more ways for people to do this, whether you're an asset manager or pension fund, or an ordinary saver who wants to invest their money to change lives for the better."

The initiative is being led by Elizabeth Corley, former chief executive of fund manager Allianz Global Investors, and Harvey McGrath, chairman of social investment firm Big Society Capital, who are currently seeking a chief executive.

Corley was appointed in 2016 by the government to chair an advisory group looking at how to grow a culture of social impact investment and savings in Britain.

McGrath is currently chairman of the UK National Advisory Board on Impact Investing.

The Impact Investing Institute is backed by finance companies and charities as well as Britain's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Department for International Development and the City of London Corporation.

"Investing for positive impact goes beyond avoiding harm and mitigating risks, and is at the centre of a wider movement towards more responsible investing," Corley said in a statement.

Recent research from the Global Impact Investing Network, a US industry body, put the overall value of impact funds globally at $US502 billion - double previous estimates, driven partly by a shift of wealth to women and millennials.