/ Money, Shopping

Are you ready to join the social revolution?


Today is Social Saturday – a day encouraging us to ‘buy social’ from the UK’s growing number of social enterprises. Is this all new to you – or do you already consider social purpose when you make a purchase?

When we spend our money on products and services a lot of things come into consideration – price, quality, brand and packaging to name a few.

But how many of us think about where our money goes or what it’s being used for? And if we did, how much would that affect our purchasing decisions?

Hot competition for businesses

Social enterprises are businesses which trade for a social purpose. This means they operate across all the sectors businesses trade in – from chocolate to gyms and clothing to dentists. The difference is that they exist in order to put their profits back into their social purpose.

As with charities, this can be any social purpose – such as employing marginalised groups, supporting local communities and global development. There are over 70,000 in the UK now, employing around two million people and contributing £24 billion to the UK economy.

The sector is growing fast too – our latest research shows they’re outstripping mainstream businesses for growth. This growth has been fuelled by pioneering entrepreneurs who believe their companies should exist for the good of society, but also because increasingly you, as consumers, see the value in what they’re offering and want to buy from them.

Buy Social for Social Saturday

We believe there’s much more that can be done – which is why we’ve launched our Social Saturday campaign to encourage consumers to ‘Buy Social’. Taking place today, it celebrates the best social enterprises in the country and highlights the fantastic products and services you can buy from them.

Of course, as businesses all social enterprises have to be able to meet those purchasing criteria I mentioned at the start: be competitively priced, great quality and well packaged. Some, like Divine Chocolate, Better Leisure Centres and Belu Water, are already well-known brands that many people will have used, but there are many others that are still to be discovered.

So, would it make a difference to you if you knew the money you were spending on a quality product or service was going to good causes rather than shareholders? Or have you already bought from a social enterprise?

Of course, those of you who are members of Which? already support a social enterprise, as the organisation re-invests its commercial profits into its campaigning work and free advice for all UK consumers.

We’d love to hear about your experiences. If this is all new to you (don’t worry, it was for me a couple of years ago!), we’d love to hear your thoughts on the Social Saturday campaign. Would you choose a social enterprise over another brand in future? We’ve no doubt you’ll be impressed by what’s on offer – so join the revolution, and buy social!

This is a guest contribution by Charlie Wigglesworth, Director of Business & Enterprise at Social Enterprise UK, to mark Social Saturday. All opinions are Charlie’s own, not necessarily those of Which?


Yes it would, absolutely. When I lived in England, my energy supplier (gas and electricity) was a small, London based company called EBICO. Although their prices were above the average, all their profits went to charity (they were a registered charity). Their customer service and communications were excellent. They were always one of the last companies to increase their prices and only had two or three easy to understand tariffs, so there were consumer advantages for paying over the odds for your energy. The greatest thrill, of course, was knowing greedy shareholders were not getting their hands on your hard- earned money!

In principle yes this is definitely the way forward however in practise I am not doing it as much as I should – however this article has made me think about this again.

I would like to know just how income from social enterprises is used – how much goes to the owners? You mention Which? as a social enterprise that reinvests its commercial profits for the benefit of its members; but before they benefit, the directors are paid very, very large salaries and stand to gain from a very large bonus fund. I am sorry but I am a bit cynical. Charity begins at home – unless you choose to employ big business standards.

John Mabbett says:
11 October 2015

Purchased a Macbook Air after reading the review in Which. Very quick to load and a lovely screen and keyboard. However, there is nothing that frustrates me more than this computer. It seems as if Apple wants you to do what they want. The thing keeps asking to log onto ‘Apple Cloud and Cloud photos’ when all I want do is save to a memory stick. I want to use ‘Pages’ and ‘Numbers’ but things happen like files being saved ‘in the cloud’ when I just want to keep them on the computer and the ‘help’ is close to useless. Sorry Apple, my first and the last from you. I want a computer that I control.

John – Click on the Apple symbol at the top left of the screen, select System Preferences, click on iCloud and turn off what you don’t want to use. Searching the Help for iCloud will also take you to the preferences.

iCloud is handy for those who share things over various devices and do not bother to back-up files.

Without wishing to take this topic OT too much, we use nine Apple computers and the main one – the desktop Mac Pro – has 15TB of storage. Our Broadband is only 8Mbps, however, so everything is backed up on separate discs as well as using iCloud, which would take an eternity to download :-))

Wavechange has already explained how to change things, John, but you should know that Apple makes its computers almost infinitely configurable and leaves the cloud settings as on by default. You, however, are always in control. But if you own more than one Apple device you might find iCloud is worth trying.

As a couple of very quick examples, when you put a date or event into iCal (the Apple calendar) it’s instantly fed to all your Apple devices that are set up using the same Apple ID, so wherever you are you can find out your schedule. The other bit I really enjoy is when you change computer, or simply add another one. Every piece of software you originally bought through the App store is ready for you, with updates if necessary, and it costs you nothing, all courtesy of iCloud.

So where do the vast sums of capital needed for businesses come from, if not shareholders, who want a return?

Moved my energy account to the Co-op, just weeks before they introduced a new computer system that was abysmal. A bunch of chimpanzees could’ve handled the changeover better. It’s still not working anywhere like properly and I’ve moved supplieragain. The management offered no compensation to disgruntled customers and took ages to even apologise in a half hearted manner. I got the distinct impression that they felt nobody should complain because it was a social enterprise. Other energy suppliers may have problems I acknowledge but at least my previous supplier’s computer system and website worked.

Hate to break it to you but the co-operative are not an ethical company, not in the slightest. If you want a real ethical energy supplier you need to go with someone like Green Energy, Equipower or Loco2. I’m with Green Energy and they’ve been great so far. The only problem I’ve had is my old supplier – Scottish Power – who kept on billing me even after I’d switched!

I think to say “not in the slightest” is going a bit too far. The Co-op are less unethical than most.

For me absolutely I try to spend my money in an ethical way, if I can afford it. It’s not always easy to do that. There isn’t a chain supermarket in the UK that you could describe as ethical. Not even the Co-op. It’s interesting to see all the national newspapers singing Lidl’s praises, but they have an abysmal ethical record. Even their recent pledge to pay the living wage, which I do commend, does very little to make their organisation ethical.

I welcome this Social Saturday initiative. In the past I’ve been disappointed to see companies with some of the most poorly-rated ethical operations gaining top-spot in Which polls, so it’s good to see this coming from Which magazine.

I am not sure why any part of what I pay has to go to somebody else’s choice of a ‘good cause’ and why they can’t just trade at a lower price. Isn’t that more ethical, or socially responsible?

I don’t have a problem with shareholders getting a return on their investment – it’s their money which enabled the business to start up in the first place and to develop its products to meet the needs of the market. In many cases the ‘social enterprises’ have merely piggy-backed on other companies’ investment without adding any value in terms of innovation, higher quality, market penetration to priority consumers, or business standards.

On the face of it the social purposes sound good – “such as employing marginalised groups, supporting local communities, and global development” – but they are not necessarily things that I would wish to support and it is not easy to track the destination of funds and the value derived.

Sorry, but just saying “we do good for somebody else” is not good enough for me.

John, i totally agree. If I want to support a good cause I can do that myself, either with money or effort.

When I deal through a third party – charity or “social enterprise” – I wonder just how much of my contribution reaches those really in need.

I also agree with John. Selling at a lower price would be much more ethical.

There are 2 mark-ups on what you are purchasing – one for the seller’s pocket and one for their choice of a good cause.