Social value makes good business sense

Comment from Helen Moore, Managing Director, Orbit Homes


In the lead up to International Women’s Day on the 8th of March and our predominantly women-led discussions at The Social Procurement Festival on the 11th, we are asking leaders in value-driven business to share their experiences and hopes for the future of social procurement.


In this article we hear from Managing Director of Orbit Homes, Helen Moore, about why investing in social enterprise suppliers is “not just about a warm glow” but “makes good business sense too.” Orbit provides landlord services to over 45,000 properties and builds around 1,500 quality new homes each year. Over the next year Supply Change will be supporting Orbit to build on their social procurement strategy and introduce more social enterprise suppliers across the organisation.


One of the things which attracted me to joining Orbit was its focus on social value. It’s not an add on or nice to do but is intrinsically woven into the organisation. As a provider of affordable housing and a leader in creating thriving communities, generating social value is simply what we do.


After years working within the sometimes ruthlessly commercial private sector, to be part of a team which has social value at its heart is very rewarding. From a customer perspective it presents a real opportunity to create differentiation for the brand, the Orbit Difference as we like to call it, and from a team and personal perspective, it makes going to work even more fulfilling. But it’s not just about a warm glow and positive marketing, it makes good business sense too.


As a housing association and developer, we absolutely reinvest our profits into our properties, our building programmes and improving our service offering; that’s a given. But by combining our social value ethos with commercial thinking and procurement, we can reinvest our profits into creating jobs and supporting local economies too. Our approach is to work with businesses who deliver the quality we need and inherently live our values, and in doing so we are able to deliver incredible impact and make our core spend work harder as a result.


We have done this in partnership with Supply Change and in incremental steps. This year we have started by identifying a number of social enterprises who we were already working with on a small scale, or who could deliver a positive change in the way we do things.


For example, we were already working with Ethstat, an ethical stationery cooperative which guarantees 100% of its profit is given away to help some of the most vulnerable people in society. In the last 12 months we’ve significantly increased the scale of our business with them with the result that they have been able to invest over £25,000 of profits from our orders to support causes focused on addressing homelessness, whilst also creating employment opportunities for homeless people to fulfil our orders at the enhanced London Living wage.


We’ve also partnered with Planet First Energy to audit our communal energy spend, with FRC Group to provide furniture for our Independent Living schemes, Just Ask Services on facilities management, and with Nuneaton Signs to provide signage across the group.


At a local level we’re improving our environmental credentials around waste management by partnering with Recycling Lives and Community Wood Recycling. Not only does this support our commitment to reducing waste to landfill, but it creates opportunities for local disadvantaged people and reduces cost; it’s a win-win and we’re looking to extend these partnerships across more developments this year.

By doing things incrementally and using initial results to build confidence within the business as well as assurances of delivery, we are now looking to increase the number of social enterprises in our supply chain and increase our spend with them. By demonstrating the value - both social and commercial - of social enterprise partners to the business, we can do more. And that just makes good business sense.

You can hear more from Helen and other leaders in procurement and social enterprise at The Social Procurement Festival on 11th March.

Remaining tickets available here

If you are interested in the social enterprise suppliers mentioned in this article, please get in touch with us at hello@supplychange.co.uk