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SEBI Committee approves the creation of Social Stock Exchange in India

Samhita recently conducted a study of SSE’s in 7 countries to evaluate its importance in India

 October 21: The Securities and Exchange Board of India approved the creation of the ‘Social Stock Exchange’, which is seen as a game-changer in the social impact segment. These are regulated platforms that bring together social organisations, donors, and investors to facilitate funding and aid in the growth of organisations with a social purpose.

Samhita’s study on Social Stock Exchanges from seven countries

Samhita’s report reviews seven SSEs in Brazil, Portugal, South Africa, Jamaica, the UK, Singapore and Canada. The report analyses the recommendations proposed by India’s SSE Working Group and provides additional suggestions.

India as the world’s largest democracy, gears up to construct an SSE customized to the needs of the Indian organizational ecosystem, a comprehensive analysis of the experiences, structures, and learnings from SSEs across the world can aid civil society, policymakers and the private sector in their endeavor to create an enabling environment for social organizations.

Highlights of the study –

  • Domestic regulations and taxation laws play a crucial role in influencing SSE structure
  • SSEs focus on certain visible thematic areas
  • While SSEs allowed different types of donors/investors, institutional investors are common
  • SSEs have strong measuring and reporting metrics but do not always capture the impact
  • SSEs face challenges of sustainability and scale
  • SSEs have the potential to play a role in building the social sector

SSEs can theoretically unlock new capital, promote equity, and introduce new instruments for donors to fund operations, streamline regulations and create an ecosystem of enabling frameworks for civil society. The report also lays down the risks such as duplicating the operations of a conventional stock exchange, segmenting or further exacerbating inequalities within sectors, and failing to create a strong culture of giving. Stakeholders must create a representative that incorporates the concerns and wisdom of civil society and social organisations. The report concludes that an SSE can be a means for the markets to serve the society, not for society to serve the markets.

“Our report did a comprehensive analysis and reviewed SSEs across seven countries. It suggests that engaging and educating donors/ investors about effective and strategic forms of giving, and providing commensurate tax incentives to incentivize them, are critical factors that can determine the success and sustainability of the SSE in India, in addition to the provisions already created by SEBI.”, says Tanushree Parekh, Advisor, Samhita.

Addendum:

Given below are the key findings and guidelines enlisted by experts of the Samhita team for the Social Stock Exchange in India.

SEBI has specified that SSE will allow both non-profit and for-profit social organizations to list. It is likely that SEBI may approve the criteria put forth by the second expert committee (Technical Group).

  • In our view, the criteria for non-profit and for-profit social organizations are fair and reasonable, allowing a wide range of social organizations across sectors, ranging from small to large, to register and thereby promote equity of access in the social sector.
  • The INR 100 Cr. capacity building fund suggested by the two expert committees can be leveraged to aid smaller organizations in strengthening their systems and processes and thus prepare them for listing on the SSE.
  • The Technical Group had also recommended specific criteria (67% or more revenues/ expenditures/ beneficiaries to be from underserved segments) to safeguard against impact-washing by for-profit social enterprises and establish the primacy of social impact in their models.
  • Standardized reporting and social audit requirements stipulated by SEBI will help strengthen the transparency and credibility of the social sector.

However, the SSE should ensure that the accreditation and certification process for social auditors takes into consideration the context, nuances and realities of social organizations and programs and avoids blueprinting from financial auditing processes. A multi-stakeholder process involving practitioners, academia and social research organizations can impart credibility and relevance to the social audit certification.

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