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How collaboration is helping the social enterprise sector thrive

In the last few years, Orbit has become a leading champion of social enterprise, understanding that an effective way to create impact as an organisation is to embed social enterprise in the supply chain. That is why in 2018, Orbit set our three founders the challenge of helping to redirect its procurement spend to social enterprises. In just a couple years, Orbit went from spending £0 with social enterprises to £2.6million+ in 2021. Orbit has also helped Supply Change redirect £300k to businesses that are creating impact. This Social Enterprise day, we celebrate how our relationship with Orbit has helped social enterprises to secure more income and create more impact.

£55k directed through our DPS

Supply Change and Orbit Group collaborated to create the first-of-its-kind Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) for Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) suppliers. Private and public sector buyers can use the system to find and contract suppliers who deliver social and environmental impact on top of their services. For these suppliers, it offers a simple way to find and bid for contracts without having to repeatedly verify all their credentials.

At the time of writing, our DPS has directed £100k to VCSEs including Supply Change Trusted Suppliers, Ethstat Ethical Stationery, Recycling Lives, Nuneaton Signs and Clearvoice Interpreting Services. Just amongst those suppliers, spend is being invested in reducing carbon emissions and supporting ex-offenders, homeless people, disabled people and victims of displacement and exploitation in work.

Making connections at events

Our online Meet The Buyer events offer suppliers and buyers valuable “face-to-face” opportunities to connect and create impact through procurement. Orbit is a regular participant and even co-hosted one of our first events. Through these events, Orbit met Stay Nimble and contracted the social enterprise to help its communities develop skills and career opportunities. The housing provider also connected with Planet First Energy which has completed an audit of Orbit’s energy use to help the business reduce its use and buy more renewable energy.

Investing in impact with the Community Impact Partnership

Along with fellow housing associations L&Q Group, Clarion Housing Group and Peabody Group, Orbit formed the Community Impact Partnership. The partnership was established as a way of providing investment and support to social businesses. A key aim of the partnership is to unlock opportunities for social businesses within housing sector supply chains. The partnership worked with Supply Change, HACT and Renaisi to undertake an intensive research project that would determine how they can achieve this.

When the pandemic took hold, the partnership also worked with Supply Change to deliver free webinars for social enterprises that would help them secure funding, develop their businesses and survive in difficult times.

Identifying opportunities for social procurement

More recently Supply Change analysed the spend of Orbit Homes, the house-building arm of Orbit. The aim was to provide areas of focus where switching to social suppliers would be achievable and impactful. We identified 6 areas where contracts could be given to social suppliers and highlighted that construction, operations and cleaning held the most potential. We found 33 suitable suppliers across the 6 categories who could deliver services including waste management, interpreting, PPE, office supplies, paint, signage and tea.

Gifts that give back for their community

We also worked with Orbit Homes to create welcome gift packs for new residents. This is a great example of how an organisation can serve itsown community and have wider social and environmental impact. The packs included specialty coffee and tea, customised water bottles provided by Supply Change Trusted Suppliers, Change Please, NEMI Teas and Brandmythingy. These organisations are tackling homelessness, supporting refugees and getting children active respectively.

Continuing to grow with Orbit’s support

That initial challenge set by Orbit in 2018 was what sparked the creation of Supply Change. Through grant funding and investment, we have been able to grow and support more partners looking to be leaders of sustainability and impact. As well as financial support, the insights as a customer has helped us build an offering that lowers barriers to social procurement for suppliers and buyers. We continue to enjoy a close relationship with Orbit and look forward to collaborating further to create better supply chains that prioritise people and the planet.


If you’re interested in increasing your spend with social enterprises, using the DPS or joining us as a partner to further our mission to redirect spend to social enterprises, get in touch.


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