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Compass Group, SAP and Zurich Insurance Group join forces to make supply chains fairer and more sustainable across Europe

  • New initiative led by Social Enterprise UK encourages businesses across Europe to ‘Buy Social’ to improve their environmental impact and support the post-pandemic recovery
  • Record level of trade between corporate buyers and social enterprises in UK last year despite pandemic

A group of forward-thinking global corporations are using their collective purchasing power to open up their supply chains to European social enterprises - businesses which reinvest the majority of their profits into a social or environmental mission - in an effort to contribute to a more inclusive and sustainable post-COVID recovery.

Spurred on by the success of Compass Group UK&I and Foodbuy’s participation in the Buy Social Corporate Challenge in the UK, Compass Group, SAP and Zurich Insurance Group are now working together as part of a new pan-European pilot scheme which aims to make it easier for corporations to engage with social enterprise suppliers across the whole of the EU + Switzerland region.

Led by Social Enterprise UK with the support of Euclid Network, the European Social Enterprise Network, and Social Enterprise World Forum, it is hoped that the partnership will make this form of trade far more common across Europe in the years to come.

A database of approved suppliers has already been launched, allowing the companies to connect with a growing number of recommended social enterprises across the 28 countries in the region.

Since the Buy Social Corporate Challenge launched in the UK in 2016, over £165 million has been spent with social enterprise suppliers by the 27 participating businesses, with the level of annual social procurement spend hitting its highest level yet in 2020 despite the challenges of the pandemic.

Dominic Blakemore, Group CEO of Compass Group PLC, said: “Social procurement is a key plank of our Compass Group commitment to a sustainable future for all. Across many of our regions, in particular the UK and USA, we’re already seeing first-hand the powerful social impact we can drive for communities, clients, customers and colleagues through social enterprise partnerships. Now, we’re looking forward to expanding our work globally alongside the other founding members of the Social Enterprise UK Global Expansion group.”

A growing number of social enterprises operate in the business-to-business space, delivering high-quality products and services to corporate clients across a wide range of categories, from employee benefits and events management, recruitment and recycling, to signage and software development.

Though social enterprises can be found in almost every country across the world, they are rising in prominence across Europe thanks to growing support from the European Commission, which is due to publish its European Action Plan for Social Economy later this year. This will outline ways in which the Commission intends to support social economy actors and social enterprises to start up, scale up, innovate and create jobs.

Peter Holbrook, CEO of Social Enterprise UK, said:The global social enterprise movement is thriving, and on every continent social enterprises are taking on the biggest social and environmental problems and in many cases making key contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals. Procurement leaders at large businesses have really stepped up in the last few years to build social enterprises into their UK supply chains, and I am delighted to see that our corporate partners are now focusing on creating opportunities for social enterprises across Europe.”

Germany and Ireland have been identified as countries where the social enterprise supplier base is more mature and where the opportunities to make rapid progress are even greater. Social Entrepreneurship Netzwerk Deutschland (SEND) and Social Enterprise Republic of Ireland (SERI) are strategic partners supporting the delivery of the pilot, accelerating corporate engagement even further with leading social enterprises in Germany and Ireland respectively.

One such organisation is Speedpak, a contract packing and fulfilment provider based in Dublin, which delivers logistics and e-commerce fulfilment services to a range of manufacturers and online retailers.

European corporations and social enterprises operating across the EU + Switzerland region are being invited to get in touch with Social Enterprise UK to find out more about the plans and get involved.

About Social Enterprise UK

Social Enterprise UK is the largest network of certified social enterprises in the UK and the leading global authority on social enterprises. Together with our members we are the voice for the sector. We have led public policy for 15 years, helping pass the Social Value Act, and are a strategic partner to government. We exist to increase the profile of the sector through our campaigns and research, and build the markets for our members - working with some of the UK’s biggest companies to support them to bring social enterprises into their supply chains. Our members reflect the diversity of the sector ranging from local grass-roots organisations to multi-million-pound businesses. We see social enterprise as the future of business.


About social enterprises

Social enterprises are businesses which trade for a social purpose that reinvest or donate over half their profits to further this social or environmental mission. They are an increasingly important part of the UK economy contributing £60 billion and employing 2 million people. Estimates are there are 100,000 in the UK. Research carried out by Social Enterprise UK, the membership body for the sector, shows they are outperforming traditional businesses when it comes to start-up rates, turnover growth and innovation. They are also ahead of the pack when it comes to workforce diversity and pay. For more information and statistics see Social Enterprise UK’s State of Social Enterprise Report 2019 and the Hidden Revolution report which showed the true scale and impact of the sector.