£840m Cordant becomes UK’s biggest social enterprise

The Cordant Group, a recruitment and facility services business with a turnover of £840m, says it has become the UK's largest social enterprise.

Announcing the move from corporate to social enterprise, Cordant, which is the UK's second largest recruiter, released a statement which said: “The decision to become a social enterprise, taken unilaterally by Phillip Ullmann, executive chairman, and the entire board is driven by a desire to improve lives and change society, one community at a time.”

The Cordant Group employed 125,000 people with 5,000 clients last year. According to its latest annual report for the year ending December 2016, its turnover was £1.2bn with a pre-tax loss of £9m. The company's PR firm confirmed to Pioneers Post today that the current turnover is £840m.

The largest social enterprise in the latest data report from the SE100 Index, the biggest survey of the UK's social enterprise sector's turnover, profitability and employment, is the Anchor Trust with a turnover of £367m. 

The Cordant Group states that in its transition to becoming a social enterprise it has already changed its articles of association to include a series of social commitments, capped annual shareholder dividends and capped all executive salaries at £400,000 (20 times that of the lowest paid workers). Beyond that, it has also developed a number of plans which reflect its social mission.

Executive chairman Phillip Ullmann (who has rebranded himself ‘chief energiser’ in the release) has expanded on how the company will become a social enterprise in a longer interview that will be published by Pioneers Post tomorrow.

In the interview, Ullmann tells Pioneers Post he has made the changes as “fundamentally, society and capitalism are not working”.

Ullman hopes to create social impact in two of the sectors in which Cordant already employs people: education and healthcare. Once shareholder requirements are satisfied, the remaining profits will be channelled into various projects to address the needs of society. These are currently in a “discussion/design phase”.

The company has been working with education guru Richard Gerver to create an interactive workshop week which it hopes will improve teacher and pupil engagement.

In healthcare, Cordant is offering to build IT platforms at zero cost that will improve the delivery and quality of care.

It intends to create a platform that the NHS can use to offer shifts directly to healthcare professionals which it hopes will save the service money by avoiding the need for recruitment agencies.

The company also hopes to find ways for employees to find work more rewarding, citing disengagement levels as high as 90% in some surveys.

Excess profits after dividends and any profit share will be reinvested for the benefit of society at large rather than for shareholders. Cordant is owned by three branches of the Ullman family.

Ullmann commented: “Our dream of building a genuine, global social enterprise that can delight people and improve the lives of thousands if not millions is now being realised.”

The changes will take place over five years and Bates Wells Braithwaite will be assessing the social impact created annually.