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Seeing is Believing: Boosting the job market by supporting social enterprise growth

Senior business leaders go on a Seeing is Believing visit on Tuesday 7 March in Leeds to learn more about the value of social enterprises. Led by Charlotte Cool, the Vice President of Corporate Affairs at ASDA, attendees learnt the importance of working in collaboration with social enterprises to ensure a thriving, inclusive society.

Despite the fact that social enterprises generate more than £24 billion annually for the UK economy and employ nearly 1 million people, creating social and environmental benefits for us all, they continue to face huge challenges around scaling-up their businesses and accessing finance and supply chain opportunities. Social enterprises make huge contributions to the UK economy and if they thrive, this benefits the society and plays an essential role in creating sustainable benefits for business, their employees and customers.

What is a social Enterprise?

The day started with some deep insights from Peter Holbrook, CEO, Social Enterprise UK, into what a social enterprise is, why they exist and the contribution they make to the UK economy. Joanna Forsey, CEO of Paperworks social enterprise explained how by the very nature of their business, they provide work preparation training and support to adults with learning, physical and mental health related disabilities. Delegates then had the opportunity to interact first hand with the trainees who benefit from being employees of Paperworks.

Why business should work with social enterprises

The visit then took delegates to Leeds Beckett University where they heard from leaders of Innovative social enterprises: Alistair Ponton, CEO of Viewpoint Research; and Miranda Stead, Director of Attigo. They introduced their businesses and the social impact that they’re delivering whilst sharing with delegates the challenges and opportunities they face as enterpreneurs around issues such as future proofing their sales pipeline, developing effective marketing plans and scaling up their businesses.

The delegates then made their way to SHINE social enterprise where they heard about Business in the Community’s arc programme which connects businesses and social enterprises to help them grow and create jobs. Since the programme’s launch in 2011, it has created over 4,500 jobs. This represents an estimated saving of £20.7m to the state and a contribution of £221m Gross Value Added to the UK economy.

Watch this film by Inside Job Productions, a beneficiary of BITC's arc programme.

Delegates also heard from Ian Duffy, Head of UK Communications and community development at BP, and Mat Roberts, Director of Sustainability Strategy at Interserve, on how their support of social enterprise is embedded within their core business strategy and the commercial benefits they get from it.

The day wrapped up, with a highlight on the benefits of business and social enterprise partnerships between ASDA/SHINE and Interserve/Legacy Sports

Speaking with these businesses and entrepreneurs, it was clear that if businesses worked more with social enterprises, they will grow, more jobs could be created benefitting both big business and society.

Find out more about The Prince’s Seeing is Believing, BITC’s programme giving senior business leaders first-hand insight into key social and environmental issues.


Visit participants:

Visit leader

Charlotte Cool, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, ASDA


Business Delegates

Andrew Davies, Partner, DLA Piper

Brian Worrall, Director of Corporate Affairs, Certas Energy UK Limited

Ian Cornelius, Commercial Director, Skipton Building Society

John Cully, Chief Procurement Officer, Amey

James Hyde, Partner, Eversheds

Marcus Mackenzie, Partner, Freshfields

Mat Roberts, Director of Sustainability Strategy, Interserve

Michelle Meldrum, Executive Director (Operations), Gentoo Group

Minnie Moll, Joint Chief Executive, East of England Co-operative Society

Nathan Lane, Director, Campfire PR

Phil Ponsonby, Chief Executive (Trading), The Midcounties Co-operative

Richard Gregory, Senior Advisor, Clydesdale & Yorkshire Bank

Robert Hunt, Chief Corporate Officer and External Affairs Director, Veolia

Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive Officer, Social Enterprise UK