‘Buy Social’ – helping to achieve your Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals

‘Buy Social’ – helping to achieve your Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals

Ethical consumerism has become a big trend in recent years as consumers are becoming more concerned about where their money is going, and it’s not just individuals. Large corporations like PWC, Barclays, and Johnson & Johnson and government commissioners are all pledging to spend money with organisations that are prioritising their social, governance and environmental impact.


It is now a boardroom level commitment for many companies to allocate their procurement budget with those suppliers that align with or complement their own ESG goals. Choosing to ‘buy social’, within the diverse supplier and social enterprise community, gives consumers and companies a transparent, ethical and accountable way to spend their money.


Diverse suppliers and social enterprise businesses (often the two go hand in hand) range in size and are spread across a wide variety of sectors. From coffee and water suppliers to toilet paper and socks to design agencies and security companies, there are plenty of organisations to choose from when it comes to meeting diverse supplier spend targets.


What is a Social Enterprise Organisation?


To become a certified social enterprise organisation businesses must satisfy several key criteria, which importantly include proving how profits are distributed and invested as well as company ownership status and evidence of a social mission.


Social Enterprise UK is the leading global authority on social enterprise and the biggest network of social enterprises in the UK. They are a strategic partner to government departments and have led public policy on social enterprise for 15 years.


Social enterprise organisations are founded on a social or environmental mission and like any successful business they are committed to making profit. Unlike other businesses their profits must be reinvested or donated to charities or sustainability projects rather than paying dividends to shareholders.

Working with social enterprises and diverse suppliers is a simple way larger corporations can make a powerful ethical difference.

The £1 billion challenge

In 2016, Social Enterprise UK launched the Buy Social Corporate Challenge, the world’s largest commitment to social procurement. The government-backed initiative sees a group of high-profile businesses working together to maximise their engagement with social enterprise suppliers. These partners now include over 27 global companies including Zurich Insurance, GSK, and real estate giants CBRE.



Social Procurement through Social Enterprise

Large corporations are now more than ever concerned about the social and environmental impact they are having. Many have, or are looking to set up, a strategy to bring diversity, innovation, and sustainability to their supply chain. Social enterprises can help deliver on this strategy.

“More and more businesses are recognising just how powerful the impact – positive and negative – of their day-to-day business spend is on society. Here at Zurich, our ambition is to see our procurement practices drive positive social, environmental, and ethical outcomes. A core part of our strategy is engaging with business partners which can bring diversity, innovation, and sustainability into our supply chain. The good news is that there is a ready-made solution out there which delivers all of this – social enterprises.”


Janette Evans-Turner, Head of Sourcing & Procurement UK & IOM – Zurich Insurance, (https://www.socialenterprise.org.uk/blogs/the-public-sector-must-lead-by-example-in-buying-social/)


“Supply Chain Diversity is increasingly important for CBRE and our clients. CBRE have made a commitment to spend $1bn with diverse suppliers in 2021 and to treble this over the next 5 years. We firmly believe that a diverse supply chain is a catalyst for innovation, creativity and doing good.”

Adrian Dalmedo, Procurement Director, CBRE


Corps Security – A Social Enterprise 160 years in the making


Since their inception in 1859 Corps Security have followed what they call the triple bottom line ethos of ‘people, planet, purpose’. That’s over a century and a half of social value.


Corps was originally founded to help veterans returning from the Crimean war to find gainful employment. To this day the Corps model still actively seeks to employee ex-military personnel.


In July 2021 Corps Security gained Social Enterprise status. This not only acknowledged the good work that Corps has been involved in since their beginning, it also sets them apart from all their competitors in the security sector.


“Social Enterprise status brings many benefits. For our business it guarantees that our social mission remains at the very heart of all we do and ensures we continue to operate in an ethical, transparent, and accountable way. It also means our customers can increase their own environmental, social and governance credentials by choosing to work with us. My hope is that together we can achieve great things for our people and our planet whilst supporting our purpose.”

Mark Rogers, Sales and Marketing Director of Corps Security

In common with all other Social Enterprise organisations Corps reinvest their profits back into their business, to support their teams. They also make considerable charitable donations to create positive social change within the ex-military community.

Combat Stress is their preferred charity and having Social Enterprise status means Corps can secure regular funding for them. This helps to pay for research, clinicians and counsellors to support ex-military personnel with their journey into civilian life and any mental health care they may need.

Since the withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 17th Combat Stress has seen an increase in calls to their Helpline with many veterans feeling let down, angry and frustrated.  Recent coverage may be triggering difficult thoughts and feelings and could be re-traumatising some veterans or worsening existing conditions like PTSD.

Thanks to Corps Security’s clients, Combat Stress have funded 109 Days for the helpline. That is 4,500 calls of which 2,070 were new callers seeking help for the first time. They have given 131 veterans individual sessions with a psychiatrist, funded 575 one-to-one trauma-focused sessions and 862 video therapy sessions at home. In addition, 2,632 participants can attend one-to-one peer support group meetings across the UK.


As well as meeting social enterprise criteria earlier this year and joining the growing number of companies able to offer that ‘diverse spend ’option, Corps Security have also recently been awarded the MOD’s Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) Gold Award. This is in recognition of outstanding support for the Armed Forces community. Corps have been a Living Wage Foundation recognised service provider since 2020 and they’re also a carbon neutral company, funding projects across the world and offsetting 477 tons of carbon a year.


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About the Author: Jane Denney