Buying Social

We’re supporting the Buy Social campaign, using our purchasing decisions to realise greater social and environmental benefit.

As part of our responsible procurement programme we seek to use our purchasing decisions to realise greater social and environmental benefit. This fits with our values and our purpose, and demonstrates one way sustainability considerations can be incorporated into mainstream business decision-making.

We’ve been committed to buying from social enterprises for a number of years, and spent £1.5 million with more than 40 social enterprise suppliers in 2017.  In 2016, we joined the Buy Social Corporate Challenge as a founding member. The Challenge was set up by Social Enterprise UK in partnership with the Cabinet Office, and aims to build markets for social enterprises by challenging all of us to think about where we buy our goods and services from. The goal is to increase the collective spend with the UK’s 77,000 social enterprises by 2020.

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We are committed to buying goods and services from social enterprises, businesses that reinvest their profits for good, benefiting people and the planet.

  • We have fair, accessible and open procurement processes
  • We are raising awareness of social enterprise across our business
  • We have trained relevant staff about buying from social enterprise
  • We work with Social Enterprise UK to find social enterprise suppliers
  • We provide a route to market for a number of PwC Social Entrepreneurs
  • We are committed to measuring the 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Programmes

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 five 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 Social Enterprise UK (the social enterprise trade association). 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 often marginalised young people to gain experience in the creative industry.  We’ve used Mediorite for a number of projects requiring photo and video services, including the video library on this website.
  • The Soap Co. manufactures and sells toiletries and cleaning products, employing blind or people with other disabilities who cannot find opportunities in mainstream industry.  We buy The Soap Co. products through our cleaning contractor for use in the washrooms in our offices.
  • We’ve worked with our corporate merchandise provider to introduce a social enterprise range. They now offer hand-made chocolates from Harry Specters (providing employment opportunities for people on the autism spectrum), and macaroons from Miss Macaroon (providing training and employment for young care leavers and ex-offenders). As approved suppliers to our corporate merchandise supplier, these social enterprises now have more access to a wider range of potential corporate customers.

"We are already benefitting from using social enterprises in our own supply chain and are committed to working with suppliers to widen this access through our support of the Buy Social Corporate Challenge."

Gaenor Bagley, Head of Corporate Purpose at PwC

Case study, Mediorite

“Mediorite is an award winning social enterprise and creative agency. We deliver film and photography services to clients including PwC and offer free film and photography training and work experience to young Londoners. Our social mission is to tackle youth unemployment so as well as upskilling young people from diverse backgrounds we make sure all our jobs create paid work for the young people we’ve trained.

As a growing social business we need networking opportunities, work and help with our social impact and that’s what PwC’s Social Entrepreneurs' Club has given us! 

We’ve delivered a number of projects for PwC which has included a mix of film and photography to record the Club’s Awards and celebrate successes of some of the entrepreneurs in the Club which saw us profile businesses not only in London but also go up to Glasgow (with young sound recordist Ondre who loved the accent so much he wouldn’t stop talking about it for weeks!) and capture the energy of One Firm One Day.

Because PwC took lots of time to demystify their systems and processes for everything from procurement to internal permission to film we’ve been hand held through our first experience with a large corporate and that been an invaluable experience. We’ve also been able to take learnings to apply to our existing processes to improve how we work. PwC’s jobs have also rippled down to paid work for young creatives Ka-miller, Ondre, Leanne and Reece offering them an invaluable experience working with a big corporate!”

Lucy Ferguson, Director at Mediorite

Case study, Mediorite

Contact us

Katie Pour
Manager, Corporate Sustainability
Tel: +44 (0)20 7804 1806
Email

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