The importance of social enterprise in 2020: our takeaways from Social Enterprise Futures

business development manager ben andrews

Ben Andrews, Business Development Manager

Although we couldn’t attend in person this year, Social Enterprise Futures 2020 did not disappoint. Social Enterprise UK’s two-day event brought together organisations from across the UK and during the sessions we heard from numerous social enterprise leaders and celebrated the work of the sector. We came away with three key highlights from the sessions.

Social enterprise is our strength

A social enterprise is any business that serves to promote a social purpose in a way that is financially sustainable i.e. not reliant on grants or donations. We operate like any other business, the big difference being that – rather than any profit going straight into shareholders’ pockets – social enterprises use their profits to make positive change to communities and/or the environment.

At FFBS, any profit we make is gifted annually as unrestricted funding to Family Fund, our parent charity, which, in turn, enables the charity to support even more UK families with disabled or seriously ill children. So social enterprise doesn’t necessarily mean ‘non-for-profit’. We are all for profit, just profit that does good. Who knew? Well, admittedly, we did. 

Paul Polman – former CEO of Unilever – opened the event by speaking on the universal importance of business ethics. Nowadays, we are seeing more and more legislative and societal expectation that companies behave ethically and more and more firms being held to account for cutting corners in the interests of profit. Polman explained that, in his view, it’s the companies that care about people and about the world that will have a long term future; those caring only for their shareholders will struggle in years to come.

We’ve got to promote social enterprise success

Another key message of the event was driven home by Sophi Tranchell, CEO of social enterprise Divine Chocolate. If we want social enterprises to succeed, we’ve got to make it happen. Both as organisations and individuals, we get to choose where our money goes and who gets our business. We can further the movement by buying from social enterprises, to not only receive the service we need, but promote great causes at the same time.

Apart from delivering social value with our spending decisions, choosing to support companies that do good will compound the pressures on all firms to improve their business practices. We can create an expectation that all companies do better, as well as increase financial incentives for CSR and sustainable operation.

Expecting great service from social enterprises

Something that Claire Dove, Crown Representative of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector, spoke about in her discussion with the leading lights of the sector, was the importance of social enterprises offering competitive products and services. Our profits may further great causes – that is amazing in itself – but we need to innovate and offer a quality experience like any business does. Not just to survive, but to thrive and grow. If we establish ourselves as respected and trusted organisations in our respective industries, we will have more influence and a greater voice to push for change.

As Dai Powell, SEUK board member, emphasised, social enterprises have shown themselves to be just what the country needs this year. Now more than ever our local economies and communities need support and investment. Social enterprises can be the solution.

We’re proud of where our profit goes and the social enterprise community is a great one to be a part of. If you have need for procurement of essential items, FFBS can make the process easier and, by buying through us, you can deliver social value twice over. Get in touch to find out more.

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