The United Kingdom is encouraging the private and public sectors to throw their purchasing power behind socially responsible businesses with an online directory. The online catalogue of 9,000 UK-based social enterprises aims to create a bigger market for companies whose business has a positive social or environmental effect. The UK is widely recognised as a pioneer of social enterprises, with more than 70,000 mission-led businesses in the country.
Results & Impact
There are nearly 9,000 UK-based social enterprises listed on the Buy Social Directory. Social Enterprise UK data shows that local and central government spent an estimated $240 million on member businesses in the 2013/2014 fiscal year
Social Enterprise UK, the City of London Corporation, Aspire Group and the Cabinet Office
The Buy Social Directory allows people buying things for their businesses or government departments to find suppliers who have a social mission. For example, a company that needs curtains and blinds could get in touch with Bita Pathways, which supports people with mental illness by giving them job training. Companies involved are asked to shift $1.3 billion of procurement into social enterprises, and the government has pledged to lead by example
The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has made it easier for the public and private sectors to use their huge spending power for good by creating a directory of social enterprises.
Buy Social is an online catalogue of nearly 9,000 UK-based suppliers with a social mission. Social Enterprise UK, the national membership body for socially responsible businesses, launched the scheme to create a bigger market for companies whose business has a positive social or environmental effect. Companies and consumers can contract for a variety of products and services – from floral arrangements to website design.
Social Enterprise UK, the City of London Corporation, housing provider Aspire Group and the Cabinet Office collaborated to build and fund the directory.
Social Enterprise UK data shows that local and central government spent an estimated $240 million on member businesses in the 2013/2014 fiscal year.
“We asked businesses to say they would use social enterprises in their supply chain up to one billion pounds ($1.3billion) and that we in government would also commit to social enterprises. The issue is actually finding enough social enterprises. And a billion pounds is nothing relative to the size of their supply chains, so there’s a very big area of opportunity. By bringing government and business together, we can fix some really wicked problems,” said Shevaun Haviland, Deputy Director of Business Partnerships at the Cabinet Office.
An office that needs water coolers could contact Belu Water, a carbon neutral company that has donated £1.5 million of its profits to WaterAid, a charity that provides clean water and sanitation to impoverished communities. A company that needs soft furnishings like curtains, blinds or bedding could get in touch with Bita Pathways, a social enterprise that supports mental health recovery through education and job training.
“We’re hearing more and more that getting involved with core purpose and mission is high on their agenda. There’s evidence that, as a business, if you put purpose at your core, you’ll grow faster and be bigger. So it’s become a commercial imperative. The potential is huge. It’s a really exciting time for us,” said Haviland.
Social Enterprise UK sets several criteria for the businesses it promotes, including fair, open and accessible procurement and measurement of impact on its social mission. The Buy Social Directory is part of the membership’s body larger mission to promote more trade with social businesses.
The UK is widely recognised as a pioneer of social enterprise. Government statistics identify 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, which contribute $28 billion to the economy and employ nearly a million people.
(Picture credit: Flickr/Bita Pathways)