Changing European Supply Chains for the Better
A new initiative led by Social Enterprise UK with backing from Compass Group, SAP and Zurich Insurance Group, is encouraging corporate buyers across Europoe to open up their supply chains to social enterprises.
Like traditional businesses, social enterprises aim to make a profit but do so with the objective of reinvesting or donating at least 50 per cent of all returns to create positive social change – typically by supporting communities or by making an impact on the environment.
Led by national membership body for the sector, Social Enterprise UK, with the support of European social enterprise network Euclid and Social Enterprise World Forum, the new partnership between Compass Group, SAP and Zurich Insurance Group has been inspired by the Buy Social Corporate Challenge scheme in the United Kingdom.
The partnership will leverage the collective purchasing power of all three corporate participants to make their supply chains accessible to European social enterprises under a pan-European pilot scheme across the whole of the EU + Switzerland region.
A database of approved suppliers has already been launched, allowing the companies to connect with a growing number of recommended social enterprises across the 28 countries in the region.
Since the Buy Social Corporate Challenge launched in the UK in 2016, over £165 million has been spent with social enterprise suppliers by the 27 participating businesses, with the level of annual social procurement spend hitting its highest level yet in 2020 despite the challenges of the pandemic.
Dominic Blakemore, Group CEO of Compass Group PLC, says: “Social procurement is a key plank of our Compass Group commitment to a sustainable future for all. Across many of our regions, in particular the UK and USA, we’re already seeing first-hand the powerful social impact we can drive for communities, clients, customers and colleagues through social enterprise partnerships. Now, we’re looking forward to expanding our work globally alongside the other founding members of the Social Enterprise UK Global Expansion group.”
A growing number of social enterprises operate in the business-to-business space, delivering high-quality products and services to corporate clients across a wide range of categories, from employee benefits and events management, recruitment and recycling, to signage and software development.
Though social enterprises can be found in almost every country across the world, they are rising in prominence across Europe thanks to growing support from the European Commission, which is due to publish its European Action Plan for Social Economy later this year. This will outline ways in which the Commission intends to support social economy actors and social enterprises to start up, scale up, innovate and create jobs.
Peter Holbrook, CEO of Social Enterprise UK, observes: “The global social enterprise movement is thriving, and on every continent social enterprises are taking on the biggest social and environmental problems and in many cases making key contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals. Procurement leaders at large businesses have really stepped up in the last few years to build social enterprises into their UK supply chains, and I am delighted to see that our corporate partners are now focusing on creating opportunities for social enterprises across Europe.”
Germany and Ireland have been identified as countries where the social enterprise supplier base is more mature and where the opportunities to make rapid progress are even greater. Social Entrepreneurship Netzwerk Deutschland (SEND) and Social Enterprise Republic of Ireland (SERI) are strategic partners supporting the delivery of the pilot, accelerating corporate engagement even further with leading social enterprises in Germany and Ireland respectively.
One such organisation is Speedpak, a contract packing and fulfilment provider based in Dublin, which delivers logistics and e-commerce fulfilment services to a range of manufacturers and online retailers.
European corporations and social enterprises operating across the EU + Switzerland region are being invited to get in touch with Social Enterprise UK to find out more about the plans and get involved.
In the UK, an estimated 100,000 social enterprises contribute some £60 billion to the economy every year, employing around two million people. Research carried out by Social Enterprise UK shows they are outperforming traditional businesses when it comes to start-up rates, turnover growth and innovation. They are also ahead of the pack in the areas of workforce diversity and pay. (For more information and statistics see Social Enterprise UK’s State of Social Enterprise Report 2019 and the Hidden Revolution report which showed the true scale and impact of the sector).