By Daniel Hunter

Measures to grow the global market for social investment have been announced at the first ever G8 conference on the subject.

Britain alone has over 180,000 social enterprises, generating £55 billion for the economy. While many of these organisations have traditionally relied on grant funding, a growing number of investors are now providing them with affordable but repayable finance.

This means that socially minded investors can increase the impact their money has, as the returns on funds can be reinvested in new groups and projects dedicated to tackling social problems and boosting economic growth.

At Monday's conference, G8 governments committed to help grow the global market for social investment. The first steps towards this include:

- an OECD report, to value the current international market for social investment;
- work to bring social investment closer to international development projects;
-establish a global expert group to work on best practice and recognised international standards in social investment.

An international taskforce, made up of G8 government, industry and civil society representatives will oversee these commitments and will be chaired by Sir Ronald Cohen, founder and chair of the world’s first social investment bank Big Society Capital.

Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd said: "We have the opportunity to transform the funding environment for ambitious charities and social enterprises. Social investment is the opportunity to move away from hand to mouth funding and access long term affordable finance. It can support much needed growth and social innovation. It is early days and it is not for everyone but the opportunity is an important one. That is why more and more countries are looking closely at the lead we have taken in the UK."

Sir Ronald Cohen said: "The G8 Social Impact Investment Forum and the important initiatives resulting from it are big steps forward in the development of impact investment. I am delighted to be chairing the G8 taskforce, whose bold mission is to turn impact investment into a global force."

Other initiatives announced include a Global Learning Exchange on social investment, open to investors, entrepreneurs and policy makers to debate and create ideas as well as invite new voices to the field.

An open letter from industry congratulated the PM and G8 countries on their efforts to grow the global impact investment market, and to support them going forwards. The letter was signed by over 80 leading voices from finance and civil society — including JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Big Society Capital, KPMG, the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations and the Omidyar Network.

The conference was also attended by Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening, Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude MP and Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd amongst other foreign government ministers, business leaders and delegates.

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