For sure, the Social Stock Exchange (SSE) in London is trying to raise funds for companies and make money for investors. But its companies must also fix social problems or improve the environment.
"The organizations that pass our vetting process and meet [our] listing requirements are then free to trade," the Social Stock Exchange says.
The SSE has seen rapid growth since it launched with just 12 companies in 2013. Today it has nearly 50, including MagneGas (MNGA), a cleantech company based in Florida, which joined the exchange earlier this month.
Thanks to its partnership with NEX (NEXGY), a U.K. regulated exchange that focuses on electronic trading, the SSE operates like a traditional stock market, allowing investors to buy and sell shares.
"From seed investment through to IPO and secondary listings, the Social Stock Exchange is able to cater for all fund-raising and visibility needs of those companies that fit its admission criteria," the SSE says.
The London exchange claims to be the only regulated market in Europe offering investors the chance to trade shares in companies committed to a better world.
The SSE says that ability to buy and sell shares is key to encouraging more people to put money into impact investing and social enterprises.
Other platforms, such as Canada's Social Venture Connexion (SVX), are taking a more cautious approach.
"The question for the future is how SVX can manage that secondary market, changes in value of shares and so on," said Adam Spence, director of SVX. "We need to look at the technological, regulatory and even moral implications of a secondary market in impact investments. That will take a few years."
SVX launched its online platform in 2013, connecting investors with qualified social enterprises that are not listed on a stock exchange but want to raise money via private share placements or crowdfunding.
Spence says the idea took root in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
"It was the early days of recession and we saw a huge need for capital to solve problems like inequality, climate change and so on. So we started to look at ways to mobilize capital," he explained.
Before companies can raise capital on SVX, they are assessed on the impact of their products or services. One of its members, Komodo OpenLab, recently raised $500,000 Canadian dollars ($390,000) to finance a device that helps people with mobility problems.
Impact investing is also growing in Asia. Bangladesh-born entrepreneur Durreen Shahnaz has set up the Impact Exchange, a public social stock exchange, and Impact Partners, a platform for private placements and crowdfunding to help social enterprises raise capital.
The former banker and media executive says she's building a "pipeline of high-impact enterprises" that she hopes will eventually list on the exchange.