£45 million spent by Corporates on social enterprises to change lives for marginalised communities

More than £45 million has been spent by UK Corporates on social enterprises, according to a new report from Social Enterprise UK (SEUK), on its pioneering initiative, the Buy Social Corporate Challenge, which is changing lives by redirecting Corporate supply chain spend into businesses which deliver social impact for some of the most deprived communities in the UK and around the world.

SEUK is calling for UK businesses to spend £1 billion with social enterprises, in this world-first scheme, which is supported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and Business in the Community. Major corporate partners include Amey, Johnson & Johnson, PwC, Robertson Group, Santander, Wates Group and Zurich, recently joined by Linklaters, Mace, BP and LV=.

Calling for more Corporates to sign up to the Buy Social Corporate Challenge, Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK, said:

“Businesses are increasingly being held to account by their customers and their staff over how they operate, who they work with and the impact they are having on society and the environment. Traditional concepts of corporate social responsibility are often just not good enough but what the Buy Social Corporate Challenge has done is helped catalyse a movement of large companies who are using their core business spend to create real positive impacts in the communities they work with and around the world.

“If we are to achieve our ambitious target of £1 billion spent with social enterprises we need more businesses to get involved. What the Challenge has managed to achieve in the last two years has undoubtedly been impressive. Just over a handful of companies have manged to create hundreds of jobs, weave social impact into their supply chains and spend millions with social enterprises. Think of the impact if every FTSE 100 company was on board.

“Social enterprises are thriving, market-leading businesses, which also deliver significant social benefit. Our latest report shows that 100% of major corporates have found the services of social enterprises to be either as good or better than their previous suppliers with prices which are just as competitive. It makes sense that more corporates should sign up – it’s a win-win situation.”

Commenting on their support for social enterprises, Daniel Hamlin, Commercial Lead at Janssen UK a Pharmaceutical Company of Johnson & Johnson said:

“At Johnson & Johnson, we are committed to transforming lives in under-served communities and our mandate to make a positive impact on the societies in which we live and work originates from Our Credo.  We are very proud to have been working with social enterprises since 2013 and have always received high quality at competitive rates, therefore we encourage other UK businesses to also consider using social enterprises for their essential business spend.” 

As part of the challenge, social enterprises have been able to reinvest almost £3 million profit into their social missions, helping to create 329 jobs, while supporting some of the most deprived or marginalised communities in the UK and around the world.

Social enterprises benefitting from the challenge include Auticon, the market-leading IT consultancy which exclusively employs consultants on the autism spectrum; Change Please, a coffee supplier, which creates sustainable jobs for the homeless and Wild Hearts Office, a stationery supplier, which supports female entrepreneurs in the developing world.

Involvement in the Challenge has not only been hugely beneficial to the social enterprises, the Corporate partners to the Challenge have also reported benefits from their involvement around staff engagement, business development and the increased positive perception of their business.

Join the Challenge

As today marks two years since the launch of the Buy Social Corporate Challenge, and a spend of more than £45 million, SEUK calls on more Corporates to discover the benefit of working with social enterprises. Visit socialenterprise.org.uk/corporate-challenge

Speaking of the benefits of joining the Buy Corporate Social Challenge, Alex Thomson, Head of GBS Procurement, Global Business Services (GBS) at BP, said:

“BP’s engagement with our supply chain partners is an important part of how we deliver our corporate strategy. Engaging with SEUK helps to further enrich our supply chain with a more diverse range of socially responsible suppliers, extending how we contribute to the communities in which we operate.”

The Business Case for working with social enterprises

Commenting on the business case for working with social enterprises, Su Pickerill Group Community Investment Manager at Wates Group said:

“Wates is proud to support the Social Enterprise sector, enabling us to harness our procurement spend to deliver greater social value. This approach reflects Wates’ values to create a positive legacy in the communities in which we work and also aligns us with clients who share such values. Supporting Social Enterprise therefore makes sense both commercially in terms of supporting work winning and by leaving communities stronger and more resilient. We are committed to ensuring business is a force for good and this approach enables us to deliver on that, for our communities and our clients. The Buy Social Corporate Challenge is a channel for Wates to engage with other socially minded organisations and to encourage diverse and innovative organisations into our supply chain.”

Engaging Staff

David Adair, Head of Community Affairs – Corporate Sustainability at PwC said:

“PwC is committed to widening opportunities and building a more diverse supply chain via social enterprises. The Buy Social Corporate Challenge enables us to increase our spend with social enterprises which support underrepresented groups, and engage our staff. Both the Corporate Challenge and the ‘Buy Social’ campaign have really struck a chord with people across the organisation. We have held a number of social enterprise fairs across the UK, which have raised the profile of social enterprises and excited our teams as to the impact they can have through choosing to Buy Social.”

Case studies

Zurich and Wild Hearts Office

Through working with Zurich, Wild Hearts Office, a social enterprise providing office supplies, such as stationary, has been able to transform the lives of 1,451 micro-entrepreneurs in poorer countries – the majority of whom are women. They have been able to work their own way out of poverty just through the support of one large company switching its stationary provider.

Significantly the Challenge is acting as catalyst for the growth and development of social enterprises. To date it has directly or indirectly created 329 jobs, often amongst those most marginalised from the labour market. Having a major corporate client has also led to winning new contracts, more innovation, geographical expansion and more business confidence.

Amey and Blue Sky

Social enterprise, Blue Sky (part of the Forward Trust) supports ex-offenders into work through employment, training and support. Working with Corporate Challenge partner Amey has allowed them to create hundreds of jobs – reducing re-offending rates and creating opportunities for one of the most vulnerable and hard to reach groups in the country.

Commenting on their partnership, John Chesters Commercial Director at Blue Sky said:

“With the support of Amey we have together developed a highly innovative employment model that generates significant personal, social and economic impact, creating more life-changing opportunities for ex-offenders than with any other company that Blue Sky works with. The partnership has paved the way for other companies in a variety of sectors to work with Blue Sky, creating a greater number of more diverse job opportunities for ex-offenders.”