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 approach to buying from social enterprises involves three complementary steps.
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’.
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 th School for Social Entrepreneurs (an incubator and training ground for social enterprises) and Social Enterprise UK (the social enterprise trade association). We spend with both, for training and marketing opportunities associated with social enterprise.
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.
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:
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.”