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By Sarah Shearman
LONDON, Oct 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The mayor one of Britain's largest cities has launched an innovative fund aimed at tackling social and environmental problems from hungry children to carbon emissions.
The 10 million pound ($12.20 million) venture - the first of its kind in the UK - launched on Wednesday aims to attract private sector contributions to advance Bristol's 2050 vision of a "fair, healthy and sustainable city" that is "carbon neutral and zero-waste".
Bristol city council invested 5 million pounds in CityFunds, an example of 'impact investing,' a multi-billion dollar movement which pursues social and environmental outcomes and financial returns.
Rather than focusing on a single issue, CityFunds invests in local companies that work towards achieving the south-western city's four socio-economic priorities, from equal access to housing to greening transport.
Big Society Capital, a social investment firm, also invested in the fund which backs projects including a wind turbine built by residents to power deprived communities.
Bristol is one of more than a dozen cities including New York, Buenos Aires and Taipei that in September announced plans to fight global warming and pledged to report their progress to the United Nations.
Bristol's mayor, Marvin Rees, said in a statement the fund would transform the city, which suffers from inequality, and could be a "step towards delivering inclusive and sustainable growth."
The idea for CityFunds was partly inspired by similar projects in American cities like Chicago which have worked with business to tackle poverty, said Anna Shiel of Big Society Capital.
The "scale, longevity, and inclusivity" makes this fund unique, said Shiel, adding the model could be replicated across the country.
So-called social entrepreneurs face scrutiny from investors over their ability to deliver social and environmental impact as well as profit.
A challenge is seeking out investments that "truly reach the most underserved people," said Amanda Feldman of the Impact Management Project.
"But the deep knowledge and data on the local challenges that inspired the mayor to start this fund in the first place should be key to ensuring they back organisations that reach those who need it most," she said. ($1 = 0.8198 pounds) (Reporting by Sarah Shearman, Editing by Tom Finn, (Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)
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