Posted: 13 Oct. 2019 7 min. read

Changing purchasing, changes the world

More and more corporates are choosing to buy products and services from social enterprise businesses. Social enterprises are profit making businesses, which exist to drive positive environmental, community or social change. To mark this month’s Buy Social for a Better World campaign, Charlie Wigglesworth, Deputy Chief Executive at Social Enterprise UK sheds a light on why this shift is making a huge impact on society and the environment, as well as benefiting corporates.

Corporates taking part in Social Enterprise UK’s Buy Social Corporate Challenge spend £65 million a year with social enterprises; supporting social enterprises to upskill and open doors to employment. At Social Enterprise UK we have the ambitious, but confident, target of this reaching £1 billion. The premise of the Buy Social Corporate Challenge is simple – if businesses need to spend money on products and services, why not spend that money in a way that maximises the positive impact on society?

Buying social is not about giving money to charity. It is about good business decisions that make good business sense. Social enterprises have to compete on quality, price and service – after all, they have to be viable businesses if they are to continue making a difference.

In fact, social enterprise businesses often rival for-profit competitors when it comes to price and quality. Social Enterprise UK recently surveyed major corporates and discovered that 100% have found the services of social enterprises to be either as good as or better than their previous suppliers and 20% were cheaper in price. 70% of businesses also see social enterprises as a key way of bringing innovation into their supply chain.

At a time when businesses are increasingly being held to account for the impact they have on society and the environment, buying goods and services from a social enterprise is an easy way to help make this a better world. Supply chain relationships can last for 20 or even 30 years, so the purchasing decision has to be a good one if it is to be sustainable.

Social enterprises also create employment and often purchase from other social enterprises, which means the benefits of a single purchasing decision can have an even greater impact.

That is why the Buy Social Corporate Challenge campaign resonates with so many different organisations, and the number of businesses joining the campaign has risen from 14 at the start of the year to 21 today, with the number growing monthly.

The UK already has a thriving social enterprise sector, with over 100,000 social enterprises worth £60 billion to the economy, employing more than two million people.

The sector is growing rapidly. Start-up rates are very high – three times the rate of small businesses – and these social enterprises are often dynamic and innovative. Social Enterprise UK exists to help these businesses grow.

Deloitte has been working with Social Enterprise UK for the past seven years and has helped many social enterprises to grow their business, prepare them for expansion, or create a digital presence. Deloitte currently works with eight social enterprises as part of its One Million Futures initiative, helping to achieve accelerated business growth of ambitious and exciting organisations, such as Cracked It, a smartphone repair service staffed by young ex-offenders and youth at risk. Cracked It aims to create a society where no young person feels that crime is their only option by providing training and employing opportunities and changing their perceptions of the world of work. They also support young people to develop skills, preparing them for employment.

Buy Social for a Better World runs from 7 to 12 October. Social Enterprise UK has many opportunities for including social enterprises in your purchasing decisions – whether that is catering for an event or checking for bugs in software.

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Key contact

Kate Condon

Kate Condon


Kate is a Manager in the Responsible Business team working with our charities, schools and social enterprises as part of One Million Futures. Kate drives communications and marketing initiatives to build the profile of One Million Futures both internally and externally.