Why procurement is 'uniquely positioned' to boost social impact

23 March 2022

Working with social enterprises can boost innovation, diversity and engagement across supply chains. 

Lucie Durand, director of unusual partners at Yunus Social Business, speaking at the World Sustainability Procurement Day conference, said: “Buying social is not only strategically competitive, but it also pays off for the company.”

She said in more than 80% of cases, companies that are implementing social procurement strategies notice the positive impact on employee engagement, “as well as the mindset shift and cultural change towards more purpose”.

She said: “Social procurement here represents an opportunity to leapfrog the ladder because the social enterprises will become your suppliers and create a positive impact on society by their very nature. In that sense, procurement is uniquely positioned to boost the company's social impact and sustainability efforts.” 

Durand said working with social enterprises improves brand perception, increasing engagement and as well as cost-effectively implementing ESG strategies. 

She added: “Social procurement can be a key component of your sustainable procurement strategy and concurrently drive positive impact in your value chain. You can get products or services for great value from social enterprises, as well as benefits for your company.”

Research from Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) found that such organisations are “far better” at introducing new products or services than regular business, with 66% of social enterprises doing so in the last year.

Andy Daly, head of corporate partnerships at SEUK, who was part of a panel, said social enterprises bring greater innovation, diversity and an enhanced reputation to procurement teams and the wider business. 

“We find very strong diversity in the leadership teams of social enterprises,” he said. Their research found 47% of social enterprises in the UK are led by women, compared to just 16% of businesses across the economy. Additionally, 14% of social enterprises are led by people from the BAME community, compared to just 8% of standard businesses. 

Jaime Paiva, head of procurement and vendor management at Zurich Insurance, further argued prioritising working with such enterprises was important for retaining company employees, as people now “want to work for a company that has a very public social and environmental engagement”.

Paiva said it was important to invite social enterprises into the tendering process to allow them to build the necessary skills needed to successfully win contracts. 

He said: “What we see is that just by inviting them to tender and giving them the opportunity on equal terms to bid for contracts, it's already a way to help them because then the next time they will be better prepared, even though they might not have won or have been awarded with a contract before.”

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