Socially responsible investment--SRI funds--is being touted as the way to make investment money ethically. Even the banks want to get in on that bandwagon. But avoiding the subsidization of weapons, gambling, pornography and tobacco is not necessarily the route to virtue. Using your money to make good things happen, that's what is now being called "social finance."

Simplistically dubbed "the man who bankrolled Gregor Robertson" in order for organic juice magnate to be elected Mayor of Vancouver in 2008, social financier Joel Solomon has co-written The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism (New Society 2017), with journalist Tyee Bridge, founder of Nonvella, for short works of literary fiction, and Arclight, a "custom publishing" service.

While living in the downtown eastside of Vancouver with a tenth-floor panoramic view of the harbour, Solomon is chiefly described as Chairman of Renewal Funds, a $98-million mission venture capital firm. Not bad for a guy born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1954 who inherited $3 million U.S. in the early '80s when his father died. That's around the time he made his first leap into social finance by investing in Stoneyfield Farm, now reputedly the most successful organic yogurt producer in the U.S.

According to his bio, he has invested in over 100 early-growth stage companies in North America, "delivering above-market returns while catalyzing positive social and environmental change." Solomon spent ten years building businesses in Nashville's deteriorating urban core, where he co-founded Village Real Estate, CORE development, and the Bongo Java chain of coffee houses.

Solomon is a founding member of the Social Venture Network, Business for Social Responsibility and is Board Chair of Hollyhock. He a Senior Advisor to RSF Social Finance in San Francisco.

Joel Solomon is a committed capitalist who was nonetheless accused by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper of encouraging "foreign radicals" to infiltrate Canada with their environmental concerns because he is a co-founder of Tides Canada, a national charitable organization.


The Clean Money Revolution Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism (New Society 2017) $29.99 9780865718395

[BCBW 2017]