Social Enterprise Day: Commons Speaker pledges to 'buy social'
Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, pledged yesterday to get more social enterprises supplying products and services to parliament.
John Bercow was speaking at a breakfast briefing hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Enterprise to mark Social Enterprise Day.
The pledge followed the announcement that Belu Water is now supplying bottled drinking water to the House of Commons, giving social enterprise a constant presence at the heart of the UK's decision-making circles.
Belu donates 100% of its profits to the charity WaterAid and since 2011 has given more than £400,000 to fund clean water projects for over 27,000 people in the developing world.
Jo Swinson, minister for employment relations and consumer affairs, told Pioneers Post that the "bottles of Belu Water were now proudly sitting there in all the debates and select committees" representing and raising awareness about the use of business and entrepreneurship for social good.
"It's a responsibility for us to get the 'buy social' message across, secondly it's very important that we continue to find new partners to grow, the bigger the business, the bigger the social impact we can make," said Karen Lynch, CEO of Belu Water.
"The key thing for us is to be sustainable in ourselves and make our own revenues," she said, and for other social enterprises looking to find new partnerships Lynch said she thought it was key to "work together and look for routes to market who get what social enterprise is about and want to support it."
She gave restaurant operator Tragus as one example of a company that Belu Water was dealing with to distribute to restaurant chain Cafe Rouge, and also recommended Zepbrook as an organisation seeking to make social enterprise central to how it operates.
Other forward-thinking private sector businesses exploring the social enterprise scene at the event included PricewaterhouseCoopers, RBS and Landmarc Support Services.
"The social value and social enterprise movement are at a point that I've never known in my 30 years in politics," said Labour MP and vice-chair of the committee Hazel Blears in her address to the audience of social enterprises and private businesses. "And we're going to see if we can, right at the heart of government, be an exemplar for this agenda."
Blears said she was planning to work with Bercow, the highest authority of the House of Commons, to make social enterprises core suppliers of the House of Commons.
Bercow said: "I pledge to you that I will work with social enterprise to build on the achievement of Belu Water being used by the house."
"I will work with Hazel to try to maximise our achievement and deliver measurable and meaningful progress for the remainder of this parliament and well into the next."
The event also marked the one year anniversary of the 'Buy Social' campaign launched by sector representative body Social Enterprise UK. Its chief executive, Peter Holbrook, explained the aims of the campaign.
"We want to say loudly and clearly that social enterprises are open for business and 'buying social' is a way that businesses can demonstrate not through their CSR programmes but more through their everyday trading activity that they are part of the solutions that we need to find to tackle the local and global problems we face," he said.
Currently, half of social enterprises are succesfully trading with the private sector. Businesses that marry profit with social and environmental goals contributing more than £24bn to the UK economy. But only one in five of the UK population can recognise businesses with a social or environmental purpose at their heart.To boost the awareness of social enterprise in the private sector SEUK premiered an animation to depict the significance of 'buying social'.
Adding further fuel to the 'buy social' campaign, Business in the Community's social enterprise support programme, Arc, kicked off a major ad campaign this week across more than 100 London Underground stations to raise public awareness and understanding of social enterprises.
The campaign will reach 2.15 million people every two weeks for a 12-week period. The ads showcase the work of From Babies With Love, which sells organic baby clothes and donates 100% of its profits to orphaned and abandoned children around the world, and Rubies in the Rubble, which tackles food waste and unemployment through the production of chutneys made from surplus fruit and vegetables.