It’s strange to think that it was almost six months ago when the UK first went into lockdown. Since then, a lot has changed and so much remains uncertain. We’re now thought to be at the beginning of an economic downturn worse than what was experienced after the Second World War, and we’re yet to see the full effects of this prediction.
What we have already witnessed, though, is thousands of job losses, whole industries on the verge of collapse, and the tragic loss of human life right across the world. It is widely acknowledged that these worst aspects of the pandemic have hit those most marginalised the hardest. People on lower incomes are proven to be at greater risk of contracting the virus as well as being more likely to lose their job. COVID-19 has brought to the surface the vast inequalities that exist in our societies. So, as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, we must keep a focus on how we can recover in a way that benefits all of us. It’s clear that we cannot go back to business as usual.
But just as we recognise the disastrous impact of the coronavirus crisis, we can also notice that it has presented us with a rare opportunity to rethink the way we do things. At this critical time, all areas of society must come together to find solutions that will help us build back better. One such solution is to provide support and investment for organisations that were already addressing many of the issues we are now facing. From providing jobs and training opportunities to those most marginalised within the workforce, to protecting our natural world through innovative, sustainable practices, social enterprises are at the forefront of delivering the positive change we so desperately need.
At an individual consumer level, choosing to buy from social enterprises is brilliant, where and when you can. However, there is also a vast and largely untapped potential in supporting these businesses through private and public sector procurement. Procurement, done right, is one of the greatest tools we have with which to build social value into the fabric of society. It has the power to create real, lasting social and environmental change by providing a sustainable income to those organisations leading the way in tackling our greatest challenges.
From a procurement perspective, the beauty of social enterprise is that these businesses are essentially just that: businesses. As well as the positive impact they make, they provide just about every product or service you could possibly need, from stationery and coffee to IT and cleaning services.
For instance, there’s Ethstat, which provides office supplies and stationery while using its profits to support those experiencing homelessness. Or Belu, which supplies water filtration to champion environmentally sustainable practices and, at the same time, donates 100% of its net profits to WaterAid to help end water poverty. There’s also Clear Voice, offering interpreting and translation services while providing jobs to refugees struggling to find employment. Or Family Fund Business Services, who work with local councils to secure essential household items for those on low incomes, while also supporting families raising disabled children. The list of goods and services they provide, and the ways in which these businesses are delivering impact, is endless.
The concept of social enterprise has often been referred to as “business where society profits”. It’s clear that now more than ever we need this kind of model in order to support those who need it most and to build a fairer world. Big business and the public sector alike have a responsibility to act, and a role to play in building back better. Social procurement has the potential to create a more inclusive and equitable society, at no additional cost to buyers. Now is the time for them to get behind social enterprise.
Watch our #buildbackbetter video here to hear from Supply Change Suppliers themselves on what they are doing to help #buildbackbetter.
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