Bridges launches new ‘Evergreen’ permanent capital vehicle for mission-led businesses

  • Bridges Evergreen Holdings is a new kind of investment vehicle, designed to free ambitious mission-led businesses from the constraints of traditional fund structures
  • It will look to back profit-with-purpose companies, public sector spin-outs, social sector organisations and employee-owned businesses
  • It is structured as a holding company rather than a fund so it can provide ongoing support over the long term, with no exit requirement
  • In addition to financial capital, it will also offer strategic, operational and impact management support plus access to the specialist networks of the Bridges team

Bridges Ventures (“Bridges”), the specialist sustainable and impact investor, is proud to announce the launch of Bridges Evergreen Holdings (“Evergreen”) – a new permanent capital vehicle designed to provide long-term support for ambitious mission-led enterprises.

Evergreen will make equity or quasi-equity investments in profit-with-purpose companies, public sector spin-outs, social sector organisations and employee-owned businesses that are looking for a mission-aligned partner. In addition to financial support, it will draw on the experience of the Bridges Ventures team to offer hands-on strategic and operational support to management, to help them grow faster and deliver more impact.

Mission-led businesses like these have a vital role to play in tackling some of the big social challenges of our times. But they often find it difficult to access the funding and support they need to grow. Bridges has been working to address this problem since 2009 with the Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund, which backed high-growth, high-impact social sector organisations like HCT, the social enterprise bus operator, and CASA, an employee-owned domiciliary care business.

However, tackling these entrenched challenges at scale often requires a long-term approach. Bridges has designed Evergreen to help mission-led organisations meet this need. It is structured not as a fund but as a holding company, producing yield for investors via dividends and loan interest. With no requirement to seek exits, it can act as a permanent source of capital and support, making it easier for these organisations to achieve their long-term goals.

Evergreen will focus on high-impact organisations operating in the same four key areas as Bridges’ existing funds: health & well-being, education & skills, sustainable living and underserved markets. In particular, it will seek out areas where mission-led organisations can enjoy a structural or competitive advantage, i.e. where customers, commissioners or other stakeholders particularly value their model, and/or where their model enables them to deliver a better product or service.

Evergreen will launch with initial commitments of £23m. Big Society Capital is the cornerstone investor, while the vehicle has also attracted support from a range of investors, including local authority pension funds (such as Greater Manchester and Merseyside Pension Funds), trusts and foundations (including the eaga Trust, which promotes employee engagement and ownership) and philanthropic individuals. It will be chaired by Scott Greenhalgh, an experienced private equity investor and non-executive director.

Antony Ross of Bridges Ventures said: “We believe that mission-led businesses have a hugely important role to play in our society, particularly in the provision of social services. We’ve learned from the Social Entrepreneurs Fund that when mission-led organisations get the right kind of funding and support from aligned investors, they can grow faster, compete more effectively and scale their impact. With Evergreen, we have developed a structure that allows us to be a long-term partner for these organisations. We want to thank our investors for showing faith in this pioneering model, and we look forward to working with more mission-driven management teams in the coming years.”

Freddie Waite of Big Society Capital said: “Many mission-driven organisations are trying to tackle difficult, entrenched social problems that require a long-term view. A similarly long-term, patient investment from a mission-aligned investor can enable these organisations to focus on the services they deliver, and increase and improve the impact these create. Alongside strategic, operational and impact measurement support, this is a truly innovative solution to meet this need. We are delighted to be investing into Evergreen and are confident it can build on the previous success of the Social Entrepreneurs Fund.”


Notes to editors

About Bridges Ventures

Bridges Ventures is a specialist fund manager focused exclusively on sustainable and impact investment, with offices in London and New York. Since 2002, the firm has now raised nearly £800m across its Sustainable Growth, Property and Social Sector funds in the U.K. and the U.S. It invests in high-impact SMEs, properties and social sector organisations that are helping to solve some of society’s biggest challenges, with a focus on four key impact ‘themes’: health & well-being, education & skills, sustainable living and underserved markets.

About the Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund

The Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund (“SEF”) was launched in 2009 to address the critical funding gap often faced by social enterprises with ambitious growth plans. Seeded by the Bridges Charitable Trust, it was a £12m closed-ended fund designed to provide quasi-equity to these organisations. Raising a dedicated fund – with the support of the Cabinet Office and other social investors – allowed Bridges to create a dedicated investment team with the specific skills and resources needed to shape and lead risk capital investments, supporting its investee organisations at both a strategic and operational level.

About Big Society Capital

Big Society Capital is a financial institution with a social mission, set up to build the social investment market in the UK, so that charities and social enterprises can access appropriate repayable finance to enable them to grow, become more sustainable and increase their impact on society. It is doing this by building a diverse social investment market: encouraging investors to lend or invest money to achieve a social as well as a financial return. Since it was set up as an independent organisation in 2012, Big Society Capital has invested £289 million in specialist organisations who lend to charities and social enterprises.