The Rise of the Social Enterprise

Ian Murphy, Managing Director, Foodbuy discusses the positive impacts of going social.

The perception of value is changing and we’re seeing more people making purpose-led decisions – trying to do their bit for communities and society. Homelessness, access to clean drinking water and reducing food waste are all challenges that people around the world are facing…. and that procurement professionals can help to influence.

As the UK’s largest food procurement organisation, I feel we have an important role to play in change and raising awareness. We believe social enterprises are going to be essential for a successful future. When we decide to buy social, we’re helping to build a better and more sustainable world.

At Foodbuy, we’re committed to creating social value for the benefit of our business, our client’s businesses and society. Not only because we think it’s the right thing to do, but because we want to lead the way on social procurement. That’s why we’re so pleased to have been named on several procurement awards shortlists for our work in this area, these include a Footprint Sustainable Procurement Award, a World Procurement Award and two CIPS Excellence in Procurement Awards!

To demonstrate our commitment, we’ve become the first procurement organisation in the food and drink sector to join the Buy Social Corporate Challenge – an initiative which sees businesses use their spend to transform lives. The Challenge, launched in 2016 by Social Enterprise UK, brings together corporate partners from a range of industries with a collective ambition to spend £1 billion with social enterprises.

In the past year, Foodbuy has spent around £2.1 million with over 20 social enterprises, tackling key social issues. And this is just the beginning, we’re committed to growing this area of our business to £5 million, with at least one social enterprise per buying category.

Examples of our partnerships include, Change Please, an award-winning coffee company which empowers homeless people by training them as baristas. With jobs created and lives transformed through every coffee purchased, we’re really proud that our partnership has so far supported 67 people out of homelessness. We also work with Toast Ale, turning surplus bread into a ‘planet-saving beer’, Life Water building wells in third world countries and Miss Macaroon who work with unemployed young people to build confidence and skills to become work ready.

We recently also supported a major client to build a social enterprise café with a simple brief; sell products only from social enterprise suppliers. The feedback was great - a staggering 93% of staff preferred the new solution and they were selling products like Nemi Tea, a company supporting refugees through employment, as well as Karma Cola, Divine Chocolate and other great brands helping them to promote social value.

By working directly with social enterprise suppliers, we can use our platform to support and grow their organisations. Yet, we’re also learning from them and our relationships are truly beneficial. These organisations have innovation at their core, and they work with passion and commitment and the rich diversity is making us think differently – our clients and customers are really buying into these brands and what they stand for. When we decide to buy social, we’re helping to build a better world and this is something Foodbuy is determined to lead the way on.