Skip to main content
The UK’s ethical ‘responsible finance’ sector lent £200 million to 40,000 businesses, social enterprises and individuals in 2019, creating and protecting 13,800 jobs, according to new figures published in our Annual Industry Report today.  Responsible finance providers (its members) supported thousands of credit-worthy businesses and social enterprises rejected by or unable to access finance from mainstream lenders. They also helped tens of thousands of people on low incomes avoid borrowing from high-interest lenders.

The providers (also known as community development finance institutions) lend to financially excluded individuals whose only other options for credit are often exploitative and even illegal high-interest lenders and to viable but under-served businesses and social enterprises.

Transparency and affordability are key to these FCA-regulated providers, which will not lend to a customer if their loan will make the customer worse off, and do not lend to businesses or social enterprises unless it will increase the business’ chance of success. In 2019 they saved their personal customers, who often face a ‘poverty premium’ in higher charges for utilities and credit, £7.5 million in interest payments to high cost lenders. They created thousands of new businesses, and created and protected 13,800 good jobs in businesses and social enterprises.

Research published in Responsible Finance: The Industry in 2019 also demonstrates:

  • Responsible finance providers lent a total of £200 million to 40,000 customers in 2019.
  • The providers lent £78 million to over 4,200 businesses, creating 3,400 new businesses and creating or saving 8,300 jobs. The businesses they lent to reported an average £320,000 increase in turnover.
  • £93 million was lent to almost 400 social enterprises – creating and saving 5,500 further jobs.
  • £24 million was lent in 35,000 loans to individuals, saving low income households over £7.5 million in interest payments.
  • £3.3 million was lent to over 200 homeowners, enabling people to bring their homes up to a decent standard and to stay in their own homes.

The research also demonstrates how responsible finance providers directly contribute towards reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals – and includes four key recommendations to enable the sector to scale-up to meet un-served demand.

The University of Birmingham’s Centre on Household Savings and Management (CHASM) is working on a project focused on creating a new savings manifesto.  The project aims to kick-start a renewed national and local debate on the importance of a coherent savings framework, to help lower-income households build up a financial cushion and a greater level of financial resilience.  A savings manifesto will be published in early Autumn.


briefing paper was produced ahead of the University’s May conference which aimed to:



  • Understand the savings needs of low-income households, both regionally and nationally
  • Gain learning from local and national practitioners and policy makers
  • Develop a prioritised list of proposals which could feed into the savings manifesto


The paper also looks at other key issues for the project to consider including:


  • Savings policy initiatives that have been introduced over the last few years, particularly for lower income households
  • Looking at the purpose of savings for lower income households and asking a number of key questions, such as what are savings used for
  • What people can expect to see from a new savings agenda
  • The challenge facing low income households to be able to save (1 in 5 of the bottom income decile were only able to save “now and then”)
  • Building on the variety of savings schemes and policy measures that already exist, like Help to Save
  • The role of social landlords and the idea that money could be deducted from rent into a savings account
  • Looking at what savings schemes are available on the market now and what alternatives could be.


Read the briefing paper.