How having a social enterprise can help businesses win public work

Having a social enterprise as part of your business can make a big difference when bidding for public procurement contracts under the terms of the Social Value Model. Alan Boyce of Thrive looks at one social enterprise that’s making a big impact while boosting its parent company’s appeal to contracting parties. 

An ambitious social enterprise, spun-off from a locally headquartered waste management company, is putting its big plans into effect with stunning results on local job creation and employability.

Kenny Waste Management Social Enterprise Ltd Driving Change (Driving Change) is a rare example of a social enterprise that aims to work on a national scale as well as locally. It’s helping people from backgrounds that cause them to struggle to find work to gain the skills, experience, motivation, and opportunities they need to succeed. 

Driving Change was launched by one of Thrive’s clients - Kenny Waste Management - so we decided to dig a little deeper into their success, to inspire and guide other businesses that may be thinking of setting up a social enterprise of their own. 

Social enterprises are commercially run businesses that aim to make a profit. Where they differ from an ordinary business is in their guiding purpose and the use to which profits made are put. In short, social enterprises have a clear social or environmental mission, are genuinely independent, earn at least half of their income through trading, are controlled in the interests of their mission, reinvest at least half of any profit made in support of that goal and are transparent about all operations and impact.

The vast majority of social enterprises are very small and very local in their activities. Driving Change, Kenny Waste Management’s social enterprise, exists to strategically address the inequalities that exist for those that are furthest from meaningful employment. Based in Greater Manchester, the company has a long, proud history of being a business that, as Driving Change’s director Alex Mayes puts it, has “always done the right thing”.

As well as strong environmental credentials (Kenny Waste Management recycles or recovers more than 99% of waste it processes) the company has always tried to look past factors that may be holding people back from employment and focus on what they have to offer. So, in 2018, Kenny Waste Management set up Driving Change as a social enterprise dedicated to helping people in traditionally “hard to employ” groups develop the skills and experiences they need to find long-term, fulfilling work - both locally and nationally. 

How Driving Change drives change

Driving Change has a two-part objective – “To offer waste management and related services to create employment and training opportunities for adults facing disadvantage in the labour market”. To deliver the first part, Driving Change makes use of its parent company’s resources. Effectively, waste management work won by Driving Change is subcontracted to Kenny Waste Management. Driving Change is also keen to develop its own independent revenue streams as well and are currently working on plans to build and sell skips. 

When it comes to delivering the second part, Driving Change has three programmes. Turning Points creates work placements, experience, job shadowing and trials in the waste management sector. Evolving Horizons provides training workshops and mentoring to help people achieve relevant qualifications. Operation Basecamp goes out into education and the wider community to raise awareness of the careers options available and to share experiences about the industry.

Together, these three strands embody a comprehensive ‘theory of change’ which has been developed in conjunction with Kenny Waste Management’s charity partner, Salford Foundation. This provides a framework for planning, delivering, and measuring progress across all of Driving Change’s objectives. 

But it’s at the individual human level where Driving Change’s impact is most profound. Take the case of Paul. At age 50, after 30 years driving a taxi, Driving Change helped him to retrain as an HGV driver. Or ex-offender Lee. After struggling to find work, he reached out to Kenny Waste Management as a business that “looks past labels”. Today, he’s a waste compliance officer. “A secure job means so much more than an income. It’s about being part of a community and being able to live a life outside work that you enjoy,” says Lee.

There’s also law student Lydia. After completing an internship in 2021, she was invited to help diversify Driving Change’s board, becoming a non-executive director. These are just a few of the people whose lives have been affected by Driving Change, along with the many others who have been helped to achieve accredited qualification, received career advice and support, been given opportunities to job shadow and more. 

What your social enterprise would do won’t be the same as what Driving Change is doing, but their story shows just how broad and deep the impact of organisations that value social benefit baked into their DNA can be. 

Why set up a social enterprise?

As well as helping to create employment opportunities for people from disadvantaged parts of the community, Driving Change also generates significant benefits for its parent company. More and more procurement policies are stipulating either the involvement of social enterprises in projects directly or are demanding high levels of social value commitment, delivery, and proof. So, having a social enterprise as part of their overall offering makes Kenny Waste Management highly appealing as a supply chain partner. 

Customers can be certain that money spent with Driving Change is ring-fenced for the delivery of social benefits. They are also guaranteed a high level of transparency and close attention measuring and quantifying impact in delivery. And, involvement of a social enterprise in a project supply chain can be presented as a contribution towards social value under the “Tackling Economic Inequality” pillar of the Social Value Model.

In an age where businesses can suffer serious reputational damage if they are shown to not be living up to the values they espouse, companies that work with Driving Change can be sure they will not be vulnerable to accusations of ‘social-washing’ around waste management and disposal.

As well as helping Kenny Waste Management demonstrate its business ethics, Driving Change benefits the group in other ways. It builds close relationships with organisations which share similar social goals to work on mutually beneficial community projects - tier 1 contractors Kier Group, for example. By training up people to work in waste disposal, Driving Change also helps address the sector’s skills shortage and this in turn helps Kenny Waste Management attract talent. Increasingly, candidates want to work with an ethical company that has a wider social or environmental purpose.

Good business sense and doing the right thing

For Kenny Waste Management, running a social enterprise is not just the right thing to do. It’s also good business sense. The next step for Driving Change is for it to widen its reach and deepen its impact.  In 2022, they will be establishing a grant scheme enabling other SMEs to access funds to tap into the potential of their own teams.

By setting up a grants scheme, Alex Mayes explains, Driving Change will be able to provide training to address skills shortages across the UK in areas where companies have immediate needs for qualified staff. Plus, the social enterprise is aiming to influence other businesses to ensure that all pay the real living wage. It’s leading by example in that regard, by already paying it to all its non-apprentice employees. 

Many people think that social enterprises hold the key to changing the face of the economy and to delivering levelling up across the country. And, with more than 100,000 social enterprises in the UK, employing two million people and contributing £60bn per year to the economy, they might just be right. 

For further information on how social enterprises can help your business, contact the team at Thrive.

Alan Boyce is a senior researcher at online software platform and consultancy Thrive.