April 17, 2019 / 8:43 AM / a month ago

Global firms aim to 'change lives' by backing UK's ethical companies

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Global technology giant SAP is the latest big company to endorse British firms that aim to do good, as more consumers drive businesses to prove their social and environmental credentials.

View of buildings at the Canary Wharf financial district in London, Britain, April 4, 2019. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

The German software firm has unveiled plans to promote ethical firms on its 2 trillion pound a year trading platform, Ariba - the world’s largest business commerce network - where 3.9 million companies in 190 countries buy and sell services.

Following in the footsteps of pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson and consultancy firm PwC, SAP will also award more contracts to British social enterprises - firms that aim to do good as well as make profit - although it did not give details.

Procuring business this way has the potential to “change lives” and build a fairer, more sustainable world, said Adaire Fox-Martin, an SAP executive board member.

“I believe there is opportunity for businesses to make a difference and there is opportunity to demonstrate that, almost like a duty of care, to the communities we serve,” she told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

From a manufacturing company that hires ex-servicemen to a creative agency tackling youth unemployment, a growing number of companies are measuring the impact of their operations and supply chains on major issues, from slavery to climate change.

Over the past three years, 15 corporations have awarded contracts worth 65 million pounds ($85 million) to 250 British social enterprises, creating 637 jobs, according to a report published on Wednesday by Social Enterprise UK.

Global law firm Linklaters works with Auticon, which employs people with autism to carry out data management, it said, while Swiss insurer Zurich buys soap from Clarity, a social enterprise that hires people with disabilities.

Britain is seen as a global leader in the innovative sector, with about 100,000 social enterprises contributing 60 billion pounds to the economy and employing 2 million people, according to the industry body.

SAP said that if just 1 percent of its Ariba business - which includes accounting, security and maintenance - goes towards social enterprise that would give the sector a 23 pound billion boost.

Social Enterprise UK has been brockering these partnerships as part of a campaign, which it launched three years ago to shift how companies spend their money.

“There have undoubtedly been challenges in creating relationships between large private companies and social enterprises,” said Charlie Wigglesworth, Deputy Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK.

“Many are just not able to meet the demands of large corporate orders and large supply chains can be hard to navigate,” he said.

Last month, the British government said it would take into account the social impact of the businesses when awarding contracts to run public services.

($1 = 0.7666 pounds)

Reporting by Sarah Shearman @Shearmans. Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and slavery, property rights, social innovation, resilience and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories

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