SOCIAL ENTERPRISES: THE CRUCIAL LINK IN THE CONSTRUCTION SUPPLY CHAIN

Date: 03/01/2019
Author: Angie Eardley
Company: Wates Construction

In May 2017, the Wates Group published a report* on the impact of its relationship with the Social Enterprise (SE) sector, which found that every £1 spent with SEs generates £1.77 of social value. As its engagement with the sector ramps up, Angie Eardley, Community Investment Manager at Wates Construction, urges the contractor’s industry peers to follow suit.

As main contractors, we have a very wide reaching supply chain that forms a fundamental part of everything we do. We manage project budgets, money that is spent with subcontractors and suppliers local to our projects. This gives us a very simple but very powerful opportunity; we are spending money, so we should spend this money in an ethical way - trading, wherever possible, with organisations that support local communities.

This is the idea on which the Social Value Act was formed in 2012 and although this calls for social wellbeing to be factored into public sector works, it’s becoming increasingly important that this resonates across every industry. The private sector is adopting these practices, which is fantastic. But there is still some way to go and I’m a big believer that SEs are the key to ensuring organisations become a force for good.

Wates is a founder member of SEUK’s Buy Social Corporate Challenge. Through this we have committed to spend £20m with the sector by 2020 across the Wates Group, contributing to our fellow SEUK partners’ target of spending £1bn with SEs. We’re very proud to be part of this amazing network to help spread the SE message. With SEUK we have held ‘Seeing is Believing’ events across the country to demonstrate to our clients and partners the incredible work done by the sector. Meeting the people who directly benefit from SEs, most of whom are vulnerable or have limited access to employment, never fails to inspire.

One of the many social enterprises Wates has worked with is recycling and waste management business, Recycling Lives, which works to reduce reoffending rates, homelessness and food poverty. In 2017 the Wates Group spent £654,000 with Recycling Lives, which helped the SE deliver 16,400 meals through its food distribution centre. Another amazing SE we’ve worked with is Calico Enterprises, through which we have appointed an apprentice at one of our sites in the North West as part of Calico’s shared apprenticeship initiative, which ensures continuity of training opportunities for local people.

It’s very easy to focus solely on the social value impact that SEs make through their work, but their effectiveness as businesses can never be underestimated. The social enterprises we work with are specialists in their respective trades and that makes them a valued part of our supply chain. In a social enterprise you have a supplier that reinvests its profits to do good but you also have a reliable, trustworthy and expert member of your supply chain. It’s a no brainer!

So far this year, Wates has traded over £3m with SEs nationally and we’re on track to achieve our target spend of £3.5m for the year. I have been a Social Enterprise champion at Wates for six years, through which I work with my colleagues to connect them with SEs that fit our projects. For as long as this fantastic sector thrives, it will always make up a vital strand of our supply chain, and that for me is such an exciting prospect.”

* Impact Evaluation of Wates' Relationship with Social Enterprises, The Wates Group, May 2017