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Press Release

£1bn Buy Social Corporate Challenge launches at Downing Street

by Interserve Press Office | Apr 19, 2016
  • Big businesses join forces to spend £1 billion with social enterprises
  • Interserve, Johnson & Johnson, PwC, RBS Group, Santander, Wates, and Zurich all signed up
  • Initiative led by Social Enterprise UK and the Cabinet Office
  • UK home to 70,000 social enterprises, businesses with a social or environmental mission
  • Launch helps mark the start of Responsible Business Week

£1bn Buy Social Corporate Challenge launches at Downing StreetA reception was held at 11 Downing Street on Monday to launch an initiative, supported by Interserve, that will see big businesses procure goods and services from the UK’s social enterprise sector, helping it to prosper and grow. The event helped to mark the start of Responsible Business Week.

The Buy Social Corporate Challenge, led by Social Enterprise UK and the Cabinet Office, will support a group of high profile businesses to spend £1 billion with social enterprises by 2020. The partners already on board are Interserve, Johnson & Johnson, PwC, RBS Group, Santander, Wates, and Zurich - and the hope is to enlist far more businesses, from a diverse range of industries, to take part.

Support for the partners will include the training of their procurement teams on how to source and buy from social enterprises, and advantages of doing so. They will also receive advice on measuring the impact of their spend with social enterprises, and how to use the data in sustainability reporting and bid writing.

The business case

According to Social Enterprise UK, procuring from social enterprises gives private sector organisations the opportunity to be a force for good in the communities in which they operate. They can help businesses to meet their supplier diversity aims and often bring with them innovation and creativity. Also, more businesses are buying goods and services from social enterprises as a result of wanting to demonstrate their commitment to social value and to comply with the Social Value Act.

Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK, said:

“Big businesses are waking up to the potential of their supply chains, rather than CSR budgets, to deliver meaningful social change. Buying from social enterprises places sustainability at the very heart of a business, creates innovation and helps support the growth of organisations that are tackling some of society’s most pressing problems. I applaud all of the partners who have already signed up to the Buy Social Corporate Challenge for their leadership in this space and encourage others to get involved.”

Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson, said:

“This exciting project will have a huge impact on the social enterprise sector. This isn’t about asking businesses to spend more, but to spend in a way which helps us to build a more compassionate society. It’s a win-win for businesses and social enterprises and I am delighted to launch it from Downing Street today.”

Tim Haywood, Interserve’s Group Finance Director and Head of Sustainability, said:

“Businesses of all shapes and sizes can and should do more to support social enterprises to grow and prosper. At Interserve, sustainability shapes every aspect of how we operate and we are proud to be a partner of the Buy Social Corporate Challenge and to build on our ongoing work with BITC through the ‘arc’ social enterprise support programme.”

More information about the initiative can be found at:

Read Responsible business is good business, a blog post by Tim Haywood. 

- ENDS -

Notes to Editors

For more information, interviews and images, please contact Shehan Perera in the Social Enterprise UK press office: / 020 3589 4959.

Social enterprise in numbers (from the State of Social Enterprise 2015 report)

  • Growth - 70,000 in UK, outstripping SMEs for growth in turnover (52% compared with 40%)
  • Innovation - 59% developed a new product or service in the last year (compared with 38% SMEs)
  • Jobs - employ more than 2 million people, and 59% actively employ those furthest from the labour market
  • Diversity - 84% of leadership teams have at least one woman (compared with 54% SMEs)

About Social Enterprise UK

Social Enterprise UK is the national trade body for social enterprise. Social enterprises are businesses that are changing the world. When they profit, society profits. Together with our members we are the voice for social enterprise in the UK. What unites them is their commitment to changing the world through business. Visit and @SocialEnt_UK for more information.

About Interserve

Interserve is one of the world’s foremost support services and construction companies. Our vision is to redefine the future for people and places. Everything we do is shaped by our core values. We are a successful, growing, international business: a leader in innovative and sustainable outcomes for our clients and a great place to work for our people. We offer advice, design, construction, equipment, facilities management and frontline public services. We are headquartered in the UK and listed in the FTSE 250 index. We have gross revenues of £3.6 billion and a workforce of circa 80,000 people worldwide.


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