Justine Greening: Treasury must recognise and encourage the positive societal impact of social enterprises
At the Conservative Party Conference fringe event titled “Social enterprise delivering at every scale: local, regional, national and global”, Lord Adebowale from Social Enterprise UK, lead a panel discussion on local regional, national and global social enterprise.
‘A hidden revolution’ - this is how social enterprise was introduced the Tuesday morning fringe event at Conservative Party Conference.
Chaired by Lord Adebowale an expert panel consisting of Justine Greening MP, CEO of Nationwide Joe Garner, and CEO of Co-op Energy David Bird discussed the merits of social enterprises.
With over 100,000 enterprises delivering upwards of £60 billion GDP, the audience heard how social enterprises have quietly become the fastest growing form of enterprise, working towards delivering an economy that is inclusive and fair for all. The aim of these companies is to make a profit like any traditional businesses, however they are unique in the fact that their primary purpose is threefold: to be profitable, safe and growing, and positively contribute to society and the environment through directing the profit to this purpose.
"People understand increasingly that businesses who focus only on one form of delivery, profits for the shareholders, are not developing the world in a positive way." - said Lord Adebowale.
For the former Education Secretary and social mobility advocate Justine Greening MP, social enterprises were the way forward. She thought that most businesses around the UK have come to realise that they need to act more socially responsibly, that they can't disconnect from the community around them.
"They have realised that they need to play a positive role in their communities", she said.
One of the largest and oldest of these societies is the mutual Nationwide. Despite being the second biggest provider of mortgages and savings and one of the UK’s highest tax payers, their CEO Joe Garner said they do not see themselves as a big business.
"We are not a bank or a corporate, we are a society and we remain true to our guiding social purpose."
Mr Garner detailed the work Nationwide does to help bolster communities, such as financing the construction of housing communities and funding and setting up local community boards.
The CEO of Co-op Energy David Bird expressed frustration at the fact that people seem to think of social enterprises as limited to coffee shops and microbreweries.
"This model does work at scale and I think that there are a huge number of us in a huge range of sectors. And they do make a real difference to the economy, environment, and employment."
Mr Bird said that more needs to be done to educate and support those who want to explore this new business model and show them that "this is the way forward. "
He also called upon policymakers and key influencers to think of how social enterprises can be rewarded for the positive social impact they have.
Justine Greening MP backed his call, saying it was "absolutely vital" for government to look at business taxation and how to better value the social benefit that social enterprises give to communities large and small.
The MP continued, saying: "Social mobility should be at the heart of every government department, and be a part of their mission."
"Until Treasury reforms and really values investment in people in the same way it value investment in a road, then we will not get sensible investment decisions made to deliver equal opportunity."