Members sign in

Register as a Member

Social Enterprise West Midlands is a growing network of over 400 members involved in the social enterprise sector in the West Midlands. We offer free membership which gives you access to a number of benefits. Full details including an online application form are available in the Join Us section. Should you have any membership enquiries please call us on 0845 450 7515.

  • Print Page

BUY SOCIAL | Corporate Challenge launched today at Downing Street!

18 April, 2016

Buy Social Corp Challenge Launch 180416

Today, a reception will be held at 11 Downing Street to launch an initiative that will see big businesses procure goods and services from the UK’s social enterprise sector, helping it to prosper and grow. The event helps to mark the start of Responsible Business Week.

The Buy Social Corporate Challenge, led by Social Enterprise UK and the Cabinet Office, will support a group of high profile businesses to spend £1 billion with social enterprises by 2020. The partners already on board are Interserve, Johnson & Johnson, PwC, RBS Group, Santander, Wates, and Zurich – and the hope is to enlist far more businesses, from a diverse range of industries, to take part.

  • Big businesses join forces to spend £1 billion with social enterprises
  • Interserve, Johnson & Johnson, PwC, RBS Group, Santander, Wates, and Zurich all signed up
  • Initiative led by Social Enterprise UK and the Cabinet Office
  • UK home to 70,000 social enterprises, businesses with a social or environmental mission
  • Launch helps mark the start of Responsible Business Week

Support for the partners will include the training of their procurement teams on how to source and buy from social enterprises, and advantages of doing so. They will also receive advice on measuring the impact of their spend with social enterprises, and how to use the data in sustainability reporting and bid writing.

The business case

According to Social Enterprise UK, procuring from social enterprises gives private sector organisations the opportunity to be a force for good in the communities in which they operate. They can help businesses to meet their supplier diversity aims and often bring with them innovation and creativity. Also, more businesses are buying goods and services from social enterprises as a result of wanting to demonstrate their commitment to social value and to comply with the Social Value Act.

Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK, said:

“Big businesses are waking up to the potential of their supply chains, rather than CSR budgets, to deliver meaningful social change. Buying from social enterprises places sustainability at the very heart of a business, creates innovation and helps support the growth of organisations that are tackling some of society’s most pressing problems. I applaud all of the partners who have already signed up to the Buy Social Corporate Challenge for their leadership in this space and encourage others to get involved.”

Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson, said:

“This exciting project will have a huge impact on the social enterprise sector. This isn’t about asking businesses to spend more, but to spend in a way which helps us to build a more compassionate society. It’s a win-win for businesses and social enterprises and I am delighted to launch it from Downing Street today.”

Tim Haywood, Interserve’s Group Finance Director and Head of Sustainability, said:

“Businesses of all shapes and sizes can and should do more to support social enterprises to grow and prosper. At Interserve, sustainability shapes every aspect of how we operate and we are proud to be a partner of the Buy Social Corporate Challenge and to build on our ongoing work with BITC through the ‘arc’ social enterprise support programme.”

Mark Hicken, Managing Director, Janssen UK & Ireland and Chair of the Johnson & Johnson UK Leadership Council, said:

“Social procurement is the right thing to do and we are fully supportive of this Challenge. At Johnson & Johnson UK, we have already established a procurement programme to purchase business goods and services from social enterprises, enabling us to make an impact to the lives of others and support those furthest from the job market through our day to day business.”

Gaenor Bagley, Executive Board Member at PwC, said:

“We are already benefitting from using social enterprises in our own supply chain and are committed to working with suppliers to widen this access through our support of the Buy Social Corporate Challenge. We also champion the sector’s growth via our Social Entrepreneurs Club which offers mentoring and master classes.”

Laura Falkner, Head of Supply Chain at RBS, said:

“We want to grow and develop our engagement with social enterprises and this initiative will help us to do that. We will be showcasing the potential of these businesses across the bank and to our suppliers, allowing both to find more about the fantastic range of products and services social enterprises offer – and to consider buying social. In doing so, we hope to help to transform the lives of disadvantaged people and communities across the UK.”

Fiona Tyler, Procurement Director, Santander UK said:

“Our purpose is to help people and businesses prosper, and we are committed to helping local communities thrive. We launched the SEDA Awards in 2011, the first step in our journey to learn more about the sector and how best to support it. We’ve taken that insight into our procurement and are very pleased to be part of the Challenge, to bring more social enterprises into our supply chain.”

Andy Wates, Family Director at the Wates Group, said:

“We’re delighted to be amongst the founding members of the Buy Social Corporate Challenge. Our involvement is reflective of the work we are already undertaking with social enterprise partners, and the values of the Wates Group businesses. We see this initiative as a catalyst for change which we hope will inspire more companies to put social enterprise at the heart of their business strategies.”

Amy Brettell, Head of Charities and Social Organisations at Zurich, said:

“Using goods and services from social enterprises isn’t just about ticking a CSR box. Zurich’s investment in initiatives like water brand Belu, an ethical business that donates all profits to WaterAid, and WildHearts, whose profits fund microloans in the developing world and entrepreneurial training in UK schools, can deliver genuine social change in the communities in which they operate.”

More information about the initiative can be found at


Some social enterprise stats for you… 

  • Growth – 70,000 in UK, outstripping SMEs for growth in turnover (52% compared with 40%)
  • Innovation – 59% developed a new product or service in the last year (compared with 38% SMEs)
  • Jobs – employ more than 2 million people, and 59% actively employ those furthest from the labour market
  • Diversity – 84% of leadership teams have at least one woman (compared with 54% SMEs)

(Source: State of Social Enterprise 2015 report)


© Social Enterprise West Midlands 2014, Birmingham Enterprise Centre, 1st Floor Cobalt Square, 85-89 Hagley Road, Birmingham, B16 8QG, Tel: 0845 450 7515