Cross-sector partnerships to power us through tough times?

24 November 2010 | By Cause4 staff

Back in June 2010 Cause4 highlighted the Annual Small Business Survey data from 2005 – 2007. It showed that the 62,000 social enterprises operating in the UK were making a profound impact on the economy and employment, generating over £20 billion and creating almost a million jobs. However, to develop social enterprises further in these more challenging economic times when unemployment figures are rising significantly profit-making businesses need further encouragement. We need the corporate sector to support their not-for-profit counterparts by offering expert guidance to growing numbers of people whose best chances of gainful employment might arise through the setting up of new enterprises.

Recently the supermarket giant Morrison’s announced plans, in partnership with the Salvation Army and CREATE, to run an employment initiative which will pilot in Leeds and expand nationally to new stores in Birmingham, Sunderland and Liverpool. This is planned to create 1000 jobs for graduates of CREATE’s Potential Employment Academy programme. CREATE is a social enterprise that develops employment skills by offering young people from disadvantaged communities training within catering, cafés and retail businesses across Yorkshire. The scheme will offer graduates from CREATE’s Potential Employment Academy three months of on-the-job training at Morrison’ stores alongside opportunities to achieve educational qualifications, professional accreditation and undergo apprenticeships.

Whilst social enterprises are now the talk of the town, they are in fact not a wholly new phenomenon. As long ago as 2001 a collaboration between HSBC and the social enterprise Green-Works, who remove surplus or unwanted office furniture and re-sell them at competitive prices to schools, charities, community groups and start-ups, was launched. Years later Green-Works continues to win awards and, as a result of the initial support proffered by HSBC, it has established five processing centres nationwide and an annual turnover exceeding £2 million. More importantly, it has flourished sufficiently to be able to donate valuable furniture across the developing world and to provide placements for over 800 young people through a Green-Works training and employment programme.

Whilst their major motivation will have been an altruistic one, for HSBC the collaboration affirmed their commitment to social and environmental responsibility and resulted in positive PR. It also highlights how partnerships between businesses and social enterprises can provide long-term sustainable mutual benefits. HSBC’s vision almost a decade ago is admirable and offers an exemplar of good practice.

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