“Social enterprises are the cornerstone to local economic growth and regeneration. We believe that making them an integral part of our supply chain is a sure-fire way to inject capital directly into the economy and we urge our industry peers to join us in this effort.” – Stewart Reid, Business Director, Wates Living Space
Affordable housing contractor, Wates Living Space – part of the Wates Group – has made a renewed call for businesses to increase investment in social enterprises by doing more business with the sector. The company has already traded over £5m with social enterprises across the UK and has set itself a target of increasing this to £20m by 2020.
The company sees Birmingham as central to these efforts. “The city has one of the highest concentrations of social enterprises in the UK, employing approximately 14,600 people across the city,” says Wates Living Space business director, Stewart Reid. “More impressively, there are over 50 registered social enterprises in Digbeth alone, all working for the sole purpose of overcoming economic and social challenges. Our recent ‘Seeing is Believing’ event was a powerful forum to demonstrate their successes in action and to celebrate the strong growth of the city’s social enterprise sector.” Hosted jointly with iSE, the event gave attendees the opportunity to observe a variety of social enterprises in action.
The most recent social enterprise addition to Wates’ supply chain is Birmingham-based Argonaut Community Enterprises, which employs people with disabilities, sensory impairments and learning disabilities. Founded in 2010 by two deaf people committed to improving employment opportunities for those at greatest disadvantage in the labour market, Argonaut now offers a full range of domestic and commercial services including cleaning, laundry, gardening, repairs and maintenance and facilities management. Argonaut Community Enterprises was a SEWM Social Enterprise Awards winner 2013 and is also an UnLtd award winner.
“We’re very proud to say that this appointment is enabling Argonaut to increase sustainable employment opportunities for local people,” says Stewart Reid.
Further evidence of Wates’ commitment to the sector is its recent publication of ‘Communities Count: A practical guide to unlocking social value’, a new social value toolkit that aims to equip housing professionals with a means to embed social value within their organisations and at the heart of their communities.
This kind of constructive, proactive relationship with the private sector doesn’t happen overnight. Huge efforts have gone into fostering this particular relationship with Wates – and a lot of this is down to iSE. We look forward to seeing more companies recognising the importance of social enterprise in their supply chain development and the key role the sector plays in the Birmingham economy.
→ If you’re a social enterprise providing services that could be of interest to Wates Living Space or the Wates Group send mail to Wates’ community investment advisor, Liam Manton.
→ Watch Gill Winstanley discussing being part of a private sector supply chain here.
→ More about social enterprise on the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership website.