6 insights from leaders of social procurement in construction

At the launch of our Social Procurement in Construction Guide, a panel of leaders from across the built environment and social enterprise sector shared their knowledge on how impactful social procurement can be achieved. Here are six things attendees learned from the discussion.


Watch the discussion in full from 09:09


1. The huge potential in the construction sector is already being realised

Not only does the scale and breadth of the construction sector means there is vast potential for social procurement but big names in the industry are already leading the way.


Social and environmental sustainability advisor, Rachel Woolliscroft said “Construction accounts for a phenomenal amount of value here in the UK; around £120 billion per annum. It provides employment for circa 2.5 million people. As a sector, I think we are at the forefront of really driving and shaping change that is increasingly influencing how we live, the quality of our lives and the world we live in.”


2. Social procurement makes good business sense

Su Pickerill commented on the added benefits to businesses, additional to ethical motivations. Su highlighted how being a social procurement leader pulls in new clients and creates a positive culture that attracts and retains top talent; "Organisations that are doing this well, will have a better attraction in terms of people coming into their organisation. If you aren’t doing it for any other reason then look at the stats around who you can employ and the sustainability of your business going forward."


3. Intermediaries make social procurement happen

The demand to work with social suppliers is often already there but it’s the connection between supplier and buyer that can be lacking. Panellists highlighted the importance of specialist intermediaries in connecting businesses with the right opportunities.


Lucy Ferguson, of social enterprise, Mediorite said “Like a lot of social enterprises I really struggled to try to speak to the right people and get traction selling our services” and went on to say how an intermediary introduced their social enterprises to Wates Group and from there grew into the construction sector.

Make social procurement quicker, easier and more impactful


4. Events allow social procurement leaders to connect

All panellists noted that engagement with Wates Group, who have spent £30 million+ with social enterprises in the last 7 years, had led to further opportunities and wider attention for the social procurement movement.


Torquil Allen of social enterprise Tarem Services highlighted events as an accessible way of getting in touch with people championing social procurement, “One of the difficult things is to get hold of the right person… These events are great because you meet people like Su Pickerill (Wates Group), yourself [Rachel Woolliscroft] and others who are totally bought into the idea of actually engaging social enterprises.”

Events are a great way to:

  • Increase understanding of social procurement in your network

  • Put buyers at the table with social enterprise suppliers

  • Make your organisation stand out as a leader on impact

Speak to us about running your own social procurement event hello@supplychange.co.uk


5. Engagement is needed at every level

The panel agreed that commitment by a company’s leadership is essential but that commitment needs to translate all the way through the organisation.


Torquil Allen talked about the importance of setting targets and engaging the people who will be carrying out the projects. “When I speak to the operations people at Wates you can hear the urgency and I think this is because there are targets in place… Also, the people right at the top are very vocal about engaging social enterprises.”


6. Research shows you where to focus

Sam Scharf, Executive Director of Community Impact Partnership, spoke about how knowing where to focus gave buyers a direct route into social procurement, and that good spend analysis and research is essential to find those areas of focus. “Spend analysis showed where the best opportunities are. We’ve identified cleaning, ground maintenance and horticulture, construction and planned maintenance as areas that we think are ready to expand. That’s not to discourage enterprises working with housing associations in other areas but one learning was we need to focus to start somewhere.”


You can get the Social Procurement in Construction Guide for free here.

To speak to us about your journey to social procurement, contact hello@supplychange.co.uk