Social enterprises in consumer markets

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Live Q&A

The Guardian Social Enterprise Network is running a live Q&A on how to break into the consumer market on 24 Sep 13 from 11:00 to 12:30 UK time


David ensured the Start in Salford business model was scalable both from a service provision and financial perspective. This year Start in Salford secured a deal to supply sustainably-sourced chopping boards to the John Lewis Partnership. Before Start in Salford, David was a project manager at The Enterprise Fund.

  • Bas van Abel – founder and chief executive, Fairphone

Bas is the founder of Fairphone, a social enterprise that makes ethically produced smartphones. He is an active member of the international maker and digital fabrication community and has a background in interaction design and a personal interest in electronics. Bas has worked on many projects both as a designer and technical engineer.

Shortly after joining the Indego Africa team in August 2010 as a legal fellow, Deirdre took the reins of Indego's growing creative and sales departments. As Creative Director, Deirdre manages Indego's product development and design, e-commerce site, wholesale business, retail partnerships and brand awareness.

Andrew is a social entrepreneur creating new employment opportunities through Kenspeckle, an award-winning chocolatier and confectioner. Kenspeckle broke into the consumer market and is now sold in Selfridges. Kenspeckle is part of Lynemouth Community Trust, of which Andrew is manager.

Douglas Westwater – executive director, Run Native

Douglas is an expert in organisational development, business planning, project management and funding and financing. Douglas is the executive director of Run Native, a online market place set up to sell products made by social enterprises.

At first Ben ran Pants to Poverty in his spare time. Now the ethical underwear is distributed in over 20 countries and is recognised as the UK's leading ethical underwear brand. Ben is also the director of Pi Foundation, a newly set up charity.

Severine has worked in new business and retail development roles for Media, Fashion and Luxury Brands including JWT, Zadig&Voltaire, Burberry and Stella McCartney. She was very interested in social change and philanthropy and in 2013 co-founded, the first online e-commerce destination where shoppers can help raise awareness and money for charities, causes and promote social entrepreneurs making a difference all over the world.

IoS article

The launch of the UK's Social Economy Alliance on 25th June 2013 prompted the Independent on Sunday to profile a few of the social enterprises that consumers can switch to.

Peter Holbrook, a spokesman for the alliance, said: "The last decade has seen massive progress in the social sector in the UK. Social enterprises and co-operatives are outperforming just-for-profit businesses; alternative banks have better returns on assets, lower volatility and higher growth; and a growing proportion of start-ups are socially driven. A shift in the plates of the UK economy is happening.

Water bills

There are 14 million customers of Thames Water – that's a lot of people to get angry about the news that it does not pay any corporation tax. By contrast, Welsh Water is a not-for-profit company with no shareholders. Money is paid in dividends to customers or goes into environmental projects.

Energy bills

If you're worried about the Big Six putting up bills, you could switch to one of the smaller gas and electricity suppliers. One of these smaller firms is Ebico, which happens to be based in David Cameron's Oxfordshire constituency, and is a not-for-profit company with high levels of customer satisfaction.

Care homes

Private equity firms have an 8 per cent share of the care homes market – just over £1bn worth. If you're not happy about spending money on private equity "predators", you could choose a care home social enterprise like the Sandwell Community Caring Trust, which runs services in the West Midlands and Torbay for 600 people.


If you have to take public transport, wouldn't it be great if it was also helping the community? HCT Group has a turnover of £28.6m, but all profits go to training and new services, particularly in deprived areas. It runs 10 London red bus routes, and services in Yorkshire, Humberside, Bristol and the Channel Islands.


What is the best coffee shop the social economy has to offer? Cafédirect, the fair trade coffee company, is one of the longest-running social enterprises, with profits going to help coffee producers. It insists that it needs to make profits to do good. There are also hundreds of local, community-owned cafés across the country.

Bottled water

OK, so bottled water is not environmental. The plastic bottles go to waste, and tap water is more economical. But Belu, the bottled water company that is stocked by restaurants and well-known chains, claims to be 100 per cent carbon neutral, doesn't export and gives all of its profits to WaterAid.


Amazon made £3.35bn in sales in the UK in 2011, but paid just £1.8m in corporation tax. There are some fantastic examples of community-based, independent bookshops around the country, including Arnolfini in Bristol, an arts centre which this week is hosting an eco festival, the Big Green Week.


Pants to Poverty sells clothing produced from cotton grown and manufactured in India. Its profits support the farmers, and fund schools and seed banks.

Source: Jane Merrick, Independent on Sunday, 16 Jun 13:



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