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Charities buying more from social enterprises, according to latest data

Celia Richardson of Social Enterprise UK says the third sector is beginning to understand the benefits of doing so

Celia Richardson
Celia Richardson

An increasing number of third sector organisations are buying goods and services from social enterprises, a survey by Social Enterprise UK has found.

The survey of 878 social enterprises found that 48 per cent of social enterprises trade with the third sector, compared with 39 per cent two years ago.

Overall, 14 per cent of social enterprises said their main source of income was trading with charities, social enterprises and other third sector organisations, compared with 8 per cent two years ago.

The data was collected as part of SEUK’s biennial state of social enterprise survey and has been released in advance of its full report, which will come out next Tuesday.

Celia Richardson, head of policy and communications at SEUK, said that charities were realising the benefits of buying from other third sector organisations.

"Traditionally, you have reserves and you invest them, and you get donations and you spend them on the cheapest thing that will help your beneficiaries," she said. "But charities are increasingly looking at their organisations as whole entities. If they buy goods from other social organisations, that could be part of the charitable mission.

"But if you invest your reserves in the wrong people, you could be harming your mission. We want anti-poverty charities to make sure they aren’t investing their reserves in payday lenders, for example."

Richardson said that 90 per cent of companies in the supply chain for the last SEUK conference had been social enterprises.

"Historically, private businesses have been more interested in having an ethical supply chain than charities have been, but charities are beginning to catch up," she said.

She said that social enterprises were increasingly targeting charities as potential purchasers.

"Businesses are more likely to brand themselves as social enterprises now than they were two years ago," she said. "Start-ups are more likely to do so than established companies as well."

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