Common Cents – Community Impact: Investing on the Islands

by Rupert Downing, Vancouver Island Community Investment Cooperative – 

Impact investing is a fast-growing vehicle for getting a financial return while also creating positive benefits for people, the planet and communities. By 2015 the sector grew to $9.2 billion in Canada.

After working in Community Economic Development in many places for 40 years, I wanted to know how we could add “invest local” to “buy local” to build our Vancouver Island communities. We did the research and modeled how funds could be managed in the B.C. context. Then we tested the idea on potential investors and were overwhelmed with the public response and interest in all parts of the Island. Next was testing the market for patient capital amongst local enterprises and affordable housing developers. Again, an overwhelming positive response: “we need patient community capital to take our projects to scale.” As of right now, of the $500 million in annual RRSP investments by Island residents, not one cent goes into local investing ($4.5 billion in B.C.).

And so we launched the Vancouver Island Community Investment Cooperative to become a vehicle for local people to invest for community impact in our own backyards, earning a modest financial return for ourselves whilst also giving back to our communities.

Our first capital raise in the Fall of 2018 targets: agriculture and food enterprises; affordable housing; renewable energy; clean technologies; First Nations Partnerships; enterprises that create employment for local people and those with disadvantages, and; waste recovery/recycling.

We have partnered with CCEC Credit Union to administer our funds in a registered GIC, and use it as collateral on loans to enterprises picked by our Board and Investment Committee, with due diligence by staff at the Credit Union. The Cooperative is democratically controlled by its member/shareholders – one member one vote. Each member pays a one-time fee of $250 and then is able to subscribe to investments each year at whatever amount is suitable to them, with a five-year limit on redemption. Over time, we hope to create a Vancouver Island Community Impact Fund of around $20 million in a diversified portfolio of ethical investments of benefit to communities throughout the region, with at least a GIC rate of return for subscribers.

And we are not alone: we have started a BC Coalition for Community Impact Investment ( that is working across communities to make this a dynamic new ethical investment option for all B.C. residents just as it has been for residents of Nova Scotia and other places for many years.

Find out more, and join us. We’ll be holding a public information session in Sidney in the early Fall, phone on 250-727-5475 or visit for more information.

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