Investment sparks engagement

Green bonds and community shares win public backing for climate action

Craig Burnett

Editor

Innovative funding methods and partnerships can help councils get ambitious climate projects off the ground. But they can also deepen community engagement in climate solutions. Two pioneering organisations explain how. 

Crowdfunding platform Abundance Investmentexperts in green bonds, offer a growing range of products supporting council-led climate projects. For as little as £5, people can invest in initiatives taking place or delivering benefits on their doorstep. Abundance has raised £107m for UK net zero and social infrastructure projects – with 25% of investors putting in £100 or less. 

Karl Harder, Joint Managing Director at Abundance, says the bonds’ popularity reflects the growing number of people wanting to move their money from ‘destructive’ to ‘productive’ investments. He also highlights how bonds get people involved in climate action in their area, and the benefits this brings.  

“We’ve got huge challenges to build support for radical climate action. The more people are directly involved, the more they’ll understand, support and advocate for change.” 

Benefits for councils and investors

The bonds offer councils a platform to engage with residents, who are often keen to support further climate action in their area. They are designed to be easy for councils to operate, and offer authorities borrowing at a better rate than the Public Works Loan Board, which often finances council spending. They might support solar energy parks, cycleway improvements or other sustainability projects. 

Two recent Abundance community municipal bonds in Warrington and West Berkshire both reached their £1m target ahead of schedule. Investors can even choose to feed the returns from their bond back into their council to support further climate action – such as rewilding roadsides. 

The bonds are a particularly attractive for residents as interest rates are currently low, making many other investment options less appealing 

Community shares upgrade youth club

Crew Energy is a community benefit society working across London to promote a low-cost, low carbon future – often in partnership with local authorities.  

The organisation offers community shares – a form of withdrawable share capital that allows community ownership of sustainability projects. Investors receive interest every year until the total investment is repaid. 

This January the organisation’s first community share offer raised £50,000 to install four air source heat pumps at Devas Club, a youth club in Battersea, helped by support from the Community Shares Booster Programme. 

Crew chairperson Toby Costin explains that community energy groups are experienced at finding funding, have access to grants that council’s don’t, and can reach communities councils struggle to engage on climate issues. And he echoes the fact that projects involving the community will generate wider backing for climate action. 

Crew’s other activities include energy cafes, where residents can get advice on lowering their bills and addressing fuel poverty. 

The organisation’s work is endorsed by Aimee Brough, Partnership and Engagement Officer at Wandsworth Council. She says: “Crew have been brilliant. It’s really beneficial in demonstrating the positive impact of working with community led groups.” 

Abundance and Crew Energy shared insights at a meeting of Ashden’s Local Authority Hub Network. Visit our hub page to discover more insights and practical tips for local authorities.

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