Why We Prefer Social Enterprises and Co-ops as Business Partners

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

At HCT Group, we believe that social enterprises and co-ops make natural business partners. When the time comes to find a new supplier, we will always ask if a social enterprise or a co-op can fit the bill. The recent publication from Social Enterprise UK, Fightback Britain showed that 29% of all social enterprises receive some work from other social enterprises. We would have hoped that that number could be higher.

We can’t always find one – we are a social enterprise in the transport industry and social enterprise or co-op bus manufacturers are a bit thin on the ground. Sometimes, a supplier might ask us to make too great a sacrifice in terms of price or quality and that doesn’t work for us.

If we can’t find a suitable partner we also prize working with SMEs in areas of economic deprivation. We measure how much money we spend in the most deprived 25% of local authority areas in the Index of Multiple Deprivation as a part of our social impact monitoring (pdf).

However, we can and do find a broad range of competitive, high-quality social enterprise suppliers and I’d like to make a business case for seeking out a social enterprise and co-op supply chain. Of course, part of our reason is to support both our movement and the subsequent positive social impact that doing business with a social enterprise can achieve – but sometimes, the social enterprise or co-op choice is simply better.

Recently, we needed to rebuild our website. Our requirements were quite a tall order – we have a lot of stakeholders, each with very different information requirements – but as a social enterprise, all our stakeholders are valuable. We felt that the only way to get a site that treated all of them with equal respect was to work with a co-op or social enterprise, for whom that approach is second nature.

Source: Guardian.co.uk (link opens in a new window)