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Buying Social

We’re supporting the Buy Social campaign, using our purchasing decisions to drive greater social and environmental impact

We formalised our support for the social enterprise sector as part of our responsible procurement programme in 2016 as a founding member of the Buy Social Corporate Challenge (BSCC), a joint venture with Social Enterprise UK, the Cabinet Office and the business world. Its aim? To harness the spending power of business to realise greater social and environmental benefit. Buying from social enterprises empowers communities, creates opportunities for vulnerable people and supports our commitment to transition to a net zero and circular economy, in line with our Purpose and our values. Since then, we’ve spent over £1 million annually with close to 50 social enterprises.

Our Buy Social strategy is made up of a number of strands, which include:

  • establishing fair, accessible and open procurement processes
  • working with Social Enterprise UK and our key suppliers to find prospective social enterprises
  • offering our commercial expertise and financial support to facilitate successful commercial engagements
  • raising awareness of social enterprise amongst our people, suppliers and clients
  • measuring our impact of buying social
buy social circle

Our approach 

Our approach to buying from social enterprises involves three complementary steps.

Procurement process

We aim to ensure that our supplier selection process is transparent and objective, and is flexible enough to accommodate smaller businesses like social enterprises. We also hold and participate in ‘Meet the Buyer’ workshops to help social enterprises understand how we work, as well as sharing insight into working with big corporates. In some cases, we’ve introduced requirements for key first tier suppliers to explore opportunities to use social enterprises in their provision of services to us.

Identifying potential social enterprise suppliers

We work very closely with Social Enterprise UK and our first tier suppliers to identify social enterprises that might have the potential to supply to us. Typically, we pilot social enterprise goods and services in one part of our business before rolling them out more broadly, allowing the social enterprises time to get familiar with our requirements. Social enterprises can show their interest in supplying to us using this form.

Supporting social enterprises

We provide support to social enterprises through the PwC Social Entrepreneurs’ Club, offering mentoring, skills development and capacity-building support. With around 250 social enterprises currently members of the Club, and more than 500 since its inception, it enables us to get to know each other ahead of any formal contracting.

Opportunities and risks

There can be risks associated with buying from social enterprises compared to larger, well established suppliers. Some social enterprises may be less familiar with the standards and controls used by big businesses, so we collaborate to ensure the quality and security we need can be delivered in ways that are not overly burdensome for smaller start-ups. Another risk relates to the delivery capacity of smaller social enterprises, which may not—initially—be able to offer continuity of supply across our whole UK business. So, we adopt a ‘multi-local’ approach, and buy from social enterprises in categories that are not ‘business critical’ and where alternatives exist.

On the whole, however, we feel that the opportunities outweigh the risks. ‘Buying social’ fits with our commitment to diversity and inclusion, encouraging social mobility and supporting disadvantaged groups in society. It also inspires our people, engendering pride in the business. And, it complements our community affairs programmes, creating synergies that increase the impact of our work in both areas.


Social enterprises have formed a key pillar of our community programme for several years, and we’ve established a range of ways to ‘buy social’.

The Fire Station

We set up a social enterprise hub eight years ago at The Fire Station in London. It’s home to a number of important social enterprises, including the School for Social Entrepreneurs (an incubator and training ground for social enterprises) and from 2011 to 2021, Social Enterprise UK (SEUK). We spend with both, for training and marketing opportunities associated with social enterprise.

Brigade at the Fire Station

The Fire Station also houses Brigade, our social enterprise bistro and bar, which provides training and employment opportunities in food service for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. It’s delivered through the Beyond Food Community Interest Company (CIC), a unique collaboration between PwC, Beyond Food and WSH Restaurants. PwC is a key customer for Brigade, and regularly hosts corporate and employee events at the venue. 

Operational procurement

We procure goods and services from a variety of social enterprises to support our office operations, boost employee engagement and enhance our client marketing. Examples include:

  • Mediorite is a creative agency that provides training and opportunities for marginalised young people to gain experience in the creative industry. They’re one of our go-to suppliers for video and photo services and have produced a video library for PwC over the course of our five year relationship, including the recent PwC Carol Service 2020.
  • Auticon provides data and analytics services. All their consultants are on the autism spectrum and have unique cognitive strengths, such as attention to detail, pattern recognition and logical analysis.
  • Organic Blooms are a florist and flower grower who offer seasonal, sustainable grown British cut flowers as bunches or floral displays for events. They provide training and employment in horticulture to people with disabilities, mental health problems and support needs.
  • We continue to work with our corporate merchandise provider to offer an increasing number of social enterprise products. Now available are hand-made chocolates from Harry Specters, who provide employment opportunities for people on the autism spectrum; macaroons from Miss Macaroon, who train and employ young care leavers and ex-offenders; reusable notepads from Correctbooks, who send their wipeable stationary to children without education supplies in developing countries; and rucksacks from Madlug, who for every bag purchased give a backpack to a child in care. As approved suppliers to our corporate merchandise partner, these social enterprises now have access to a wider range of potential corporate customers.

Case study, Buying social at Christmas

The festive period looked different in 2020. With a national lockdown in force and our people working remotely from their homes, a different approach was required to bring teams together for their holiday events. While in-person events were no longer an option, there was an opportunity to further support social enterprise suppliers - such as Social Stories Club, Social Supermarket and Fat Macy’s - by replacing event goodie bags with customisable hampers containing selection of edible social enterprise treats and a personalised message, mailed directly to our people.

Social Stories Club finds products for their hampers bursting with positive stories of social impact, many of which are suppliers we work with already. As a PwC Social Entrepreneurs Club member, we’ve watched them go from strength to strength in the last two years. Typically you might find speciality loose-leaf tea from Tea People, Fairtrade Divine Chocolate bars, Dash Water, chutney from Rubies in the Rubble, handmade soap from Arthouse Unlimited, hot chocolate from Cafe Direct and more in their hampers. All of these social enterprises put their social and/or environmental mission at the core of their business; whether that’s tackling food waste, improving livelihoods for farmers and their families overseas or supporting social mobility and inclusion for marginalised groups in society here in the UK.

“PwC has been an incredible support from the start. They have provided excellent advice and expertise, met with us personally to find out more about what we do, and have made game changing orders that have helped us grow to where we are now. This support has allowed us to make our first hires providing jobs for those furthest from the labour market. PwC cares about social enterprises and makes an enormous effort to support in any way they can. They are a leading example to all corporates of the impact that can be made by actively incorporating social enterprises into supply chains.”

Karis Gill, Co-founder, Social Stories Club

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Emma Cox

Emma Cox

Global Climate Leader, PwC United Kingdom

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