SMEs account for 75% of Amey’s UK supplier base, including social enterprises. © Amey
SMEs account for 75% of Amey’s UK supplier base, including social enterprises. © Amey

Building strong relationships is key to working with social enterprises

25 October 2019

Working with social enterprises is about building relationships and thinking innovatively. That’s according to a panel of speakers at a conference staged by construction firm Amey in London earlier this month.

Speaking at the Social Value Supply Chain Charter launch, experts discussed how companies might benefit from working with the rising social enterprise sector. They concluded that strong relationships between procurement teams and social enterprises ensured open communication which can help smaller companies overcome accessibility barriers. 

Kate Bull is director of Britain’s Bravest Manufacturing Company, a social enterprise providing employment opportunities for the armed forces community. She praised the strong relationships her company has with Amey.

“We can talk openly about some of the difficulties we face when applying for work,” she said. “There could be a 39-page tender document that lands on our desk, and the only bit we can apply for is on page 19, subsection A. When running social enterprises, those documents are just a nightmare.”

David Ogden, business director at Amey, agreed: “We need to be more innovative and more collaborative. I think we're guilty of trying to do a lot of it on our own, and not engaging and doing things collectively. From a maturity perspective for the construction sector, engaging with social enterprises needs a push.”

He explained how, following the introduction of the government’s Public Services (Social Value) Act and pressure from clients, the construction sector is starting to work more with social enterprises. However, this requires the sector to evolve.

Charlie Wigglesworth, deputy chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, was another speaker at the conference. “Buying from social enterprises is a really clear and tangible way to demonstrate that you're having a social impact,” he said. “Social enterprises are equal on quality, and very similar on price as well. These have to be high-quality performing businesses. This isn't about making a compromise decision between quality and price; it has to be about both.”

Earlier this month, Amey released the Social Value Supply Chain Charter to assist suppliers in identifying ways to deliver social value in their operations. The company pledged to spend £40m with social enterprises by 2023.

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