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‘Unless we go about changing we will continue to hurtle down this path. We'll ask ourselves 30 years down the road “Why the hell didn't we do something?”’ was the urgent message Crispen Sachikonye gave to attendees of the Social Procurement Festival. In a call to action, The CEO of Social Value UK highlighted the responsibility of those in power to make changes and for everyone to hold those in power to act.
The wide-ranging audience included corporate leaders, procurement professionals, public sector decision-makers and over one hundred social supplier innovators. Here is some of what they learned about the value of social procurement in securing the future of their businesses and the planet.
Valuable innovation comes from social suppliers
In a discussion on circularity, Reconomy’s Ben Angove highlighted the “creative, innovative solutions to big problems” that social suppliers create. Many of the event’s speakers spoke of the value that social suppliers can bring due to their hands-on experience in tackling social and environmental challenges
An enduring mission to tackle these ever-changing problems, often with few resources, means that social suppliers have become leading innovators in their fields. “You’re setting yourself up for something that will last into the future,” said Susan Griffiths of CBRE as she urged businesses to realise the value of this kind of innovation.
Social suppliers can create the workforce of the future
The ‘green economy’ requires a large workforce with new skills. The creation of new skills gives opportunities to tackle issues around lack of employment. This opportunity is particularly suited to the many social suppliers engaged with helping those facing barriers to employment.
Clarion Housing Group’s John Wallace led a discussion where we heard how Clarion worked with training provider and social supplier, Retrofit Academy CIC, to give people valuable retrofitting skills. The creation of these skills gave individuals access to careers in a growing sector and Clarion got access to a workforce needed to make their housing stock more energy efficient, thus securing the long-term value of their assets.
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Social suppliers can help buyers meet their goals
“There’s value to our clients and our business in diversifying our suppliers” said Deloitte’s Piumi Mitchell when speaking about social procurement in corporate supply chains. Natwest’s John Hayes echoed the motivation for large corporate businesses to adopt social procurement but acknowledged the barriers; “The will is high but the limitations are high too.”
Social suppliers can help corporates understand and lower these barriers and realise the value in the opportunities created from this. Both Hayes and Mitchell referred to the success of working with social supplier, auticon UK who were represented on the panel by Steve Hill, highlighting the value directly to their own businesses and their clients.
Intermediaries can simplify the challenge
Many speakers echoed Sachikonye’s call for businesses to move away from singularly prioritising profit. The much-needed shift to focusing on multiple outcomes also creates complexity, explained Mayank Shah of Minority Supplier Development UK (MSDUK). Sustainability, diversity, inclusion and equity are finally at the top of the agenda but large organisations need help with such big direction changes.
Hayes pointed to Natwest’s engagement with intermediaries Supply Change and MSDUK as a way of simplifying some of the challenges. Similarly, Gerry Higgins of Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF), explained how organisations that hold relationships with both buyers and social suppliers are best placed to create the solutions that help them connect.
This can include solutions that help social suppliers with visibility like the Supply Change Platform, SEWF’s work with a leading procurement software to highlight social enterprises and Constructionline’s efforts to support social suppliers into the construction industry.
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