As we recover from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is incumbent on all of us within the business community to consider our roles in helping our society to build back better. How can large companies play their part in moving us towards a fairer and more sustainable economy? With the average FTSE100 procurement budget totalling approximately £4 billion per year, could the answer lie in our supply chains?

The future of procurement – delivering diversity, innovation and sustainability

More and more businesses are recognising just how powerful the impact – positive and negative – of their day-to-day business spend is on society. Here at Zurich, our ambition is to see our procurement practices drive positive social, environmental and ethical outcomes. A core part of our strategy is engaging with business partners which can bring diversity, innovation and sustainability into our supply chain. The good news is that there is a ready-made solution out there which delivers all of this – social enterprises.

Social enterprises are businesses with a social or environmental mission. Like traditional businesses they aim to make a profit, but it’s what they do with their profits that sets them apart, reinvesting them so that society benefits. They do this through a variety of means, such as employing individuals with barriers to the job market, supporting businesses to become carbon-neutral or by investing in projects which contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.

A significant number of social enterprises operate in the business-to-business (B2B) market, which means corporate buyers can build societal benefit into their procurement simply by switching who they buy from. We call this ‘social procurement’.

The £1 billion challenge

In 2016, Social Enterprise UK launched the Buy Social Corporate Challenge, the world’s largest commitment to social procurement. The government-backed initiative sees a group of high-profile businesses working together to maximise their engagement with social enterprise suppliers.  

Zurich is proud to be a Founding Partner on the Corporate Challenge, and we are also delighted to see that there are now 23 other large businesses signed up. Today sees the release of the Buy Social Corporate Challenge Year 4 Impact Report, which shows that a total of £91,545,356 has been spent by our corporate partners with social enterprises since 2016. This ‘corporate-social trade’ has directly or indirectly created over 1,200 jobs at social enterprises over the last four years, very often for individuals who face barriers to the labour market.

Social Enterprises – a growing opportunity

There are about 100,000 social enterprises in the UK, contributing £60 billion to the economy and employing 5% of the total workforce. From the creative industries to IT services, from facilities management to events, and from HR to hospitality, the opportunities to engage with social enterprises are higher than ever.

Zurich works with a growing number of social enterprises, such as Belu. Belu brings innovation in the creative filtration solutions it delivers to our offices and sustainability in the way it operates, as the only water brand certified carbon neutral to PAS 2060 standard. The real gamechanger, however, is the impressive £5 million which the firm has donated to Water Aid in the last 10 years from sales of bottled water and water filtration systems, transforming hundreds of thousands of lives with access to clean water.

Get involved

The Buy Social Corporate Challenge has enabled us to drive social procurement across many parts of our business. I feel inspired that I can play a small part in changing the way procurement and organizations spend their money. Get in touch with the team at Social Enterprise UK to explore how the day-to-day business spend at your company can help to move us towards a fairer and more sustainable economy.


Click here to download the Buy Social Corporate Challenge Year 4 Impact Report