Higher education sector urged to support social enterprises

14 June 2012

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14 June 2012 | Kamalpreet Badasha

The University of Northampton has launched a campaign calling on the UK’s higher education sector to spend at least £1 billion on buying goods and services from social enterprises.

The £1 billion University Challenge campaign was launched by University of Northampton vice chancellor Professor Nick Petford on Tuesday (12 June) at a Westminster reception. The initiative aims to encourage the public sector to use purchasing power to support social enterprises – organisations that reinvest profit back into their business to achieve social objectives.

For example, Goodwill Solutions, which supplies the University of Northampton with furniture, gives employment to ex-offenders. Professor Petford said: “Every time we buy a desk from Goodwill, the university gets the product it wants and Goodwill is able to continue to employ ex-offenders, therefore contributing to a reduction in re-offending in the local area. 

“The social enterprise sector needs to know it can get high-value, long-term contracts, in order to give it the confidence it needs to attract investment and grow. The higher education sector is going to be leading the public sector in the way it uses its procurement power to support social enterprises.”

The campaign is being supported by Higher Education Funding Council for England, Universities UK, British Universities Finance Directors Group (BUFDG) and Social Enterprise UK.

Karel Thomas, executive director of BUFDG said: “The higher education sector is an excellent place to galvanise commissioners and concentrate spending power on social enterprise. This could change the way generations of business people, civil servants and professionals think and act.”

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