Community Municipal Investments (CMIs)

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Two-thirds of UK councils have declared a Climate Emergency, setting ambitious Net Zero targets for their regions that will require billions of low carbon investment over the coming decade.

Yet councils are at the mercy of political and economic changes and will struggle to meet these targets whilst maintaining front line services without new sources of borrowing, non-repayable capital, and the active participation of residents.

ENTER COMMUNITY MUNICIPAL INVESTMENTS (CMIs)

CMIs are bonds (or loans) issued by the council corporate body and administered by a regulated crowdfunding platform, Abundance Investment. They were co-created through research led by Dr Mark Davis at the University of Leeds during his 2019 Financing for Society project.

The UK’s first two CMIs were launched as “Local Climate Bonds” by West Berkshire Council and Warrington Borough Council in the Summer of 2020. Each met their £1M target ahead of the close date.

Funded by Innovate UK, this 2021 report by Dr Davis presents key findings from these two case studies and evaluates the potential scalability of CMIs as a simple, low-risk mechanism for diversifying borrowing sources and – due to an innovative donation feature – a new way of boosting non-repayable capital for councils.

On 13 July 2021, the early success of CMIs – issued as Local Climate Bonds – inspired a national campaign by the Green Finance Institute to provide a cost-effective way for local authorities to fund hundreds of green local projects in the run-up to and beyond the UK’s critically important UNCCC COP26 summit in November 2021.

Key Findings

  • Community Municipal Investments (CMIs) have the potential to ensure local Net Zero strategies are delivered more effciently. They facilitate a valuable local contribution to wider national and global efforts to meet climate targets by 2050.
  • Offering the CMI model to residents provides a simple practical way of showing how local people can help to improve their wider environment.
  • A powerful conclusion from the success of CMIs to date is the value to councils in aligning Net Zero strategies with local investor motivations. This is the challenge that engages residents most forcefully.
  • The UK’s first two CMIs demonstrate that they can begin to improve attitudes towards the council amongst local people.
  • By harnessing the power of local government and aligning with local Net Zero projects, CMIs provide a simple and low-risk way to connect the financial and non-financial ambitions of local residents.
  • CMIs are seen as an accessible way for people to participate in supporting local Net Zero strategies who otherwise would be reluctant to engage in deliberative public forums.

The Numbers

  • There are 404 councils across the UK. Over the last 5 years, they have borrowed on average £5BN/year in aggregate. 270 of these councils have declared a Climate Emergency and have local Net Zero strategies in place, including investment plans.
  • Calculations suggest that CMIs could help to raise as much as £3BN if taken up by all
    343 local authorities in England. Within 5 years, it is reasonable to estimate that CMIs could provide up to 5% of all UK council borrowing, equating to roughly £250M of lending per year.
  • Available HMRC and ONS data shows there is £3.34TN of investable wealth in the UK (including defined contribution pensions, ISAs and general financial assets). Although not all of this wealth will match the risk / return profile of CMIs, the PCAN report found that 73% of UK savers and investors were interested in the CMI product. This number increases to 98% for those that self-identify as ‘ethical’ and/or ‘altruistic’ investors and equates to around 8 million UK residents.
  • Given this evidence base, a conservative estimate would be that 0.25% of the £3.34TN available could match the CMI profile. This would equate to a potential total retail market size for Local Climate Bonds of around £9BN.

What Next?

To find out more, and to begin the journey of launching a CMI in your local area, please use the contact details provided below:

  1. Download the full report Davis, M. (2021) Community Municipal Investments: Accelerating the Potential of Local Net Zero Strategies. University of Leeds. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5518/100/70
  2. Contact the Author and Research Partners at the University of Leeds, Abundance Investment or Green Finance Institute for more information:
    Mark Davis – m.e.davis@leeds.ac.uk
    Karl Harder – karl@abundanceinvestment.com
    Ryan Jude – ryan.jude@gfi.green
  3. Evaluating the Social Value of Innovative Finance: A Case Study of Community Municipal Investments is a new PhD project at Leeds, funded by an ESRC Collaborative Award, to assess the impact of CMIs as they launch across the UK until 2023. For more information, click here.

CMI Explainer

Animation by littlemotel.tv/

This film was recorded as part of the reporting stage for the original Financing for Society project at the University of Leeds, which was funded by the Government’s Inclusive Economy Unit.
This communication is for informational purpose and is not intended as a financial promotion for retail investors.
Mark Davis is an Economic Sociologist based at the University of Leeds, where his research evaluates the potential of alternative finance to build a fairer economy. Working with Abundance Investment and Local Partnerships, Mark was PI on the Financing for Society project that assessed the suitability of investment-based crowdfunding for the public sector. This work led to the co-creation with UK local authorities of the new Community Municipal Investment (CMI) product to finance green and social infrastructure projects in local economies. The model was launched in West Berkshire and Warrington in the Summer of 2020, and subsequently promoted as ‘Local Climate Bonds’ to all 404 UK authorities via a national campaign led by the Green Finance Institute that began in July 2021. Mark was Co-I on a large Horizon 2020 project to test business models and innovative finance options at the European level through the PROSEU project, which evaluated prosumerism as a means to promote the active participation of citizens in supporting the continents green energy transition. Active in a number of policy and civil society spaces, Mark has worked as an Advisor to the Council of Europe and is an Expert Reviewer of applications to European Commission funded research.
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