Why doing business with a social enterprise makes sense

Robert Ashton, Swarm Apprenticeships CIC

Pause a moment and think. Social enterprises are no longer charitable endeavours you support out of kindness. They are increasingly commercial ventures, with a profit beyond purpose. In fact research by Social Enterprise UK shows that there are more than 100,000 social enterprises in the UK, between them contributing more than £60bn to the UK economy.

The shift to more socially responsible business is accelerating. Public concern about the behaviour of corporates is increasing. People are not happy that shareholders continue to profit, even at the point of business failure. Even respected operators are being caught out by the dubious accounting of once loved high street brands.

Locally we have some excellent examples of social enterprises large and small. Independence Matters, our County’s largest provider of day care, has shifted from County Council department to a community interest company, investing its profits in those vulnerable people it exists to support. And many of us have enjoyed the excellent food and views to be found at Café Britannia, a vibrant city café that employs men coming to the end of their prison sentence. The Britannia brand is growing across the city, not because they’re a social enterprise, but because they offer fantastic food and service.

But you’re running a business. How can you benefit from this growing social enterprise movement? You want your staff to be motivated, competent and focused on building your venture. Have you or they got time to get involved in the social economy? Do social enterprises deliver what your business needs? Well one, above the rest, stands out as being relevant to nearly every business.

Swarm Apprenticeships CIC is a social enterprise. Founded by Robert Ashton in 2013, Swarm has grown steadily over the past five years, thanks to two rounds of social investment. Swarm has also benefitted from the changing apprenticeship landscape; upskilling people within organisations, across all ages and roles'. You no longer have to be young to be an apprentice.

Pprofits also go back into the educational journey of the learners, as well as the new Futures CIC; set up  to provide the coaching and support many youngsters need to get back on the education and employment ladder. They benefit too from volunteer mentors, often recruited from amongst those going through a Swarm apprenticeship. It’s a good way to see the world outside the bubble of their employment.

So there really is no excuse in 2019 for not doing business with a social enterprise. As a movement it will continue to grow. Why not make this year the year the year you profit by working with a social enterprise?

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