Social Enterprise And Leadership: UK Big Business Get Serious About Social Impact

Social Enterprise And Leadership: UK Big Business Get Serious About Social Impact

As social enterprises across the globe step onto the world stage at the Social Enterprise World Forum. Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) has released their Year 4 Impact Report of the Buy Social Corporate Challenge and announced Adaire Fox-Martin, Executive Board Member at SAP, as Global Ambassador to drive the Buy Social Corporate Challenge forward into new territories and expand the social impact of companies.

Since the Buy Social Corporate Challenge was launched at Number 11 Downing Street four years ago, a total of £91,545,356 was collectively spent by its corporate buyers. The number of businesses who have signed up to the challenge has risen from 7 to 24, representing a broad section of the economy from high-profile construction and facilities management companies, to leading lights in the healthcare, tech and professional services industries.

Infrastructure provider Amey PLC has set itself a target of achieving 5% of addressable spend going to social enterprise suppliers by the end of 2023. Foodbuy (part of Compass Group) is running a high-profile campaign to push social enterprises further into the food and drink sector. Johnson & Johnson has worked with well over 50 social enterprise suppliers in the UK over the last 6 years. Nationwide Building Society has successfully introduced social procurement to a number of its strategic providers through its events and wider advocacy.


Key Takeaways

· 24 of the UK’s biggest businesses have signed up to the Buy Social Corporate Challenge, aiming to collectively spend £1 billion with social enterprise suppliers – businesses which trade for a social or environmental purpose.

· Some of the leading companies that are forging the Buy Social change include Amey PLC with their aim to achieve 5% of addressable spend going to social enterprises by 2023, Foodbuy with their focus on pushing social enterprise further into the food and drink sector, Johnson & Johnson with their 6-year track record of buying social and Nationwide Building Society with their success in collaborating with strategic providers on social procurement


Additionally, Adaire Fox-Martin, Executive Board Member at global software giant SAP and named among the top 50 most powerful women in the world by Fortune magazine, has been chosen to spearhead the corporate challenge as official Global Buy Social Ambassador. With her extensive experience in connecting and delivering solutions to some of the largest organizations around the globe, Adaire will help grow markets and build capacity for social enterprises across the globe, encouraging other leading businesses to integrate social businesses into their supply chains.

Commenting on her appointment, Adaire Fox-Martin said: “The concept of social enterprise underlies SAP’s very mission: to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. It is clear that purpose and profit can and must co-exist. The social enterprise movement isn’t only evidence; it’s inspiration. Corporates have a profound role to play – buying social isn’t just corporate philanthropy or even traditional corporate social responsibility. This is about having an environmental or social mission woven into the fabric of your business. And this is what it’s going to take if we are to overcome the challenges we face today.”

1,253 jobs have been created directly or indirectly at social enterprises over the last four years as a result of contracts with Buy Social Corporate Challenge partners. Every pound spent with a social enterprise helps reduce inequalities and enables businesses to do their part to help build back better.

Commenting on the Year 4 Report, Peter Holbrook Chief Executive at Social Enterprise UK said: “The Buy Social Corporate Challenge has continued to go from strength to. The idea behind the Challenge is a simple one – that everyday business spend can be used to change lives. With a jobs crisis looming, now is the time for businesses to look at their social and environmental impact and recognise the power and influence they can have in building a fairer, more sustainable economy.”

A Changing Trend Towards Social Enterprise

As intelligenthq collaborator Paula Newton pointed out in Social Enterprise: Trading For A Social Or Environmental Purpose series, social enterprises generally have a remit to do good in some way by solving a social or environmental problem. These organisations typically know who they are trying to help and why. One difference between social enterprises and charities is that these are organisations that aim to meet their needs for income through vending products and services. They will often not look for grants and donations to keep going. That said, they may use grants to get underway at the outset, or may look for alternative sources of financing such as debt finance (loans), equity finance or community finance. The founder of social enterprises generally launches them with a view to making a difference in the area targeted.

One important area that distinguishes social enterprises from other forms of organisation is that if profits are made then these are reinvested back into the organisation to help them with achieving their vision for change. Social enterprises will usually define a mission which is the reason that they exist and will outline the issue they seek to solve. This will be a problem of a social or environmental nature. These organisations are open and responsible, and are not reliant on the government in any way.

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