Mark Hicken, Managing Director of Janssen UK & Ireland, a pharmaceutical company of Johnson & Johnson, gives his perspective on the importance of working with social enterprises.

Today, there are around 70,000 social enterprises in the UK according to Government figures, with 25% of those founded within the past three years.[1] This huge growth in businesses that focus not only on making a profit, but also on addressing societal needs, serves to emphasise their importance in society – joining the dots between large corporates with substantial supply chains, and communities or individuals that face barriers to the traditional job market will yield benefits for both parties.

At Johnson & Johnson Ltd, our mandate to make a positive impact on society has been embedded within the organisation since the founding of our Credo in 1943.  As the world’s largest and most broadly-based healthcare company, we recognise our responsibility to help transform lives in under-served communities through our business expertise in healthcare, wellbeing and science.

Our company has been working with social enterprises since 2013 and the Buy Social Corporate Challenge was an opportunity for Johnson & Johnson to further establish social enterprise partnerships across our business.  As a founding partner of the challenge, we have committed to allocate £15m of our UK purchasing spend with social enterprises by 2020.

By redirecting our corporate supply chain spend in this way, we aim to create and support 150 jobs for those furthest from the job market - including roles for people with mental and physical disabilities, autism and those in isolated or vulnerable populations, amongst others.

Three years in, we are starting to see strong traction across the business.  We are pleased to announce that in 2017 alone, we were able to create or support 34 jobs in UK social enterprises, working with some incredibly inspiring businesses and individuals, addressing very real societal needs.

While mental health is high on the political and news agenda, research from the federation of trade unions shows that a staggering 75% of people who suffer from long-term mental illness are unemployed.[2] Recognising that traditional working hours and environments can be a big part of the barrier for these individuals, healthcare and digital agency, Attigo, was formed – offering flexible working arrangements, tailored to individual needs.  Through this approach, Attigo is able to deliver high quality digital content, by individuals that have previously been at a disadvantage in the labour market.  Johnson & Johnson has worked with Attigo since the company’s inception – supporting its growth as a social enterprise.  By using Attigo’s services, in 2017 Johnson & Johnson enabled the company to create five permanent jobs.

Additionally, Johnson & Johnson has continued to extend its relationship with Inside Job Productions - an award-winning film and media production company that reinvests their profits into a Production Trainee Scheme. This scheme provides paid work and training opportunities for people who might otherwise struggle to find or keep a job, helping young people with mental health issues and ex-offenders to overcome experience gaps, that are a result of their personal backgrounds.

We are delighted to see the positive impact that social enterprises are having on the lives of those who face barriers to the job market and would strongly encourage other organisations – of all sizes – to join the challenge.  Why wouldn’t you?

[1] Social Enterprise UK, The Future of Business - State of Social Enterprise Survey, 2017

[2] TUC, Mental health and employment, 18 May 2017