In Your Network: Jamie Hartzell
Jamie Hartzell runs Ethex, a not-for-profit organisation promoting ethical investing, making it easier for people to invest in businesses which have social, as well as financial returns. Find out what drives him:
1) Please give a brief explanation of what it is you do and why?
My father died when I was in my twenties, and I suddenly found myself with some money. At the time I was heavily involved in social justice work, and it started me thinking about how I could give or invest my money to address the issues I was concerned about. After several years of philanthropy, I founded the Ethical Property Company, which provides affordable serviced office space to charities, campaign groups and social enterprises. The company raises capital by issuing shares direct to the public, and now operates in four countries across Europe and has more than 1,500 shareholders.
I realised that there was a huge level of interest from people in making positive investments, but there was absolutely no infrastructure in place to create a proper market. So I recently founded Ethex, a not-for-profit that brings all the positive investment opportunities together into one website, and allows people to invest in them directly.
2) Why did you join the Fellowship?
I joined the Fellowship as I maintain a lifelong interest in new and innovative ways to address social issues. The RSA certainly offers me that, but I only wish I had more time to absorb them all and get more actively involved.
3) In what capacity do you think you could contribute to society/the Fellowship?
I’ve got more than 20 years’ experience in founding and managing social businesses and I’m committed to the growth of the sector. It’s great to see the RSA also engaging through their Social Entrepreneurs Network.
4) What would you change in society given the chance?
For me it has to be the financial system. We’ve gone so far astray that I think we need to go back to the basics and start over. I want people who have money to take more responsibility for it, rather than entrusting it to professionals. How many of us know what our money is up to right now?
5) What recent bit of news have you heard which inspires you?
I had mixed feelings about the recent news that retirement is bad for your physical and mental health. As a lifelong social entrepreneur, I had hoped that there would come a point where I could sit back and relax. But now I learn that it would be better for me to carry on starting new businesses!
6) What did you learn last week?
That only two FTSE 100 companies do not have subsidiaries based in tax havens, and that banks are the most prolific tax haven users. It only goes to underline the extent to which the commercial world has lost any sense of social responsibility.
7) Tell us about another interesting Fellow you have spoken to.
I was thrilled to learn that John Pontin is a fellow of 25 years standing. John and I are now working together on raising investment for Converging World, which sets up wind turbines in India. Renewable energy schemes in India save more carbon dioxide as the Indian energy economy is so coal intensive. It takes a man with a breadth of vision as wide as John’s to get a social business like that started.
8) What would you like to connect with Fellows about?
I think Fellows have got a lot to offer social business. That could be expertise, in the form of mentoring or directorship, or it could be actively investing. We’ll only be able to change the financial system if people are prepared to take personal action! I would encourage all fellows to visit www.ethex.org.uk.