The Asda Enterprise Growth Award recognises businesses that engage, support and do business with small and medium enterprises (SMEs), driving local economic growth. In 2015, we have seen a surge in entries for the BITC Responsible Business Awards. Increasingly, large corporations are understanding the value in engaging with SMEs through support programmes and by trading directly with them, and consequently seeing the positive knock on effects this has on the local economy and the business bottom line. The innovation and diversity in products and services offered by SMEs is being recognised as a means to strengthen the supply chains of large corporates, cementing the business case for engaging with SMEs.
A trend that is particularly noticeable from the shortlist and in particular the finalists in the category this year is how corporate SME programmes are being integrated into core business operations and n fostering a partnership approach between both parties. The entries in the category clearly demonstrated the business and societal benefits from the SME support programmes, particularly where they are aligned with their core business. The business benefits range from revenue growth to an increase in employee satisfaction and skills development, and in the SMEs financial sustainability, job creation and growth were clear benefits from the trading and support from larger businesses.
A clear example of this was this years’ Winner East of England Co-operate and their program Sourced Locally. Launched in 2007, Sourced Locally procures products directly from local suppliers across the Co-operative’s trading area of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, re-investing £34 million back into the local economy over the past seven years. Sourced Locally has also achieved business benefits for East of England Co-operative with increased sales from a broader product range, while aligning with the Co-operative’s commitment to connect customers with food provenance and local food. The East of England Co-operative’s investment in the programme is championed at all levels in the company and, clearly demonstrates the transformative effects that large corporates can have on SMEs and the local economy, not only financially but through the extensive support being provided to the local growers and the jobs safeguarded and created as a consequence.
Wates Group, Highly Commended in the Enterprise Growth category, are also demonstrating an exemplary commitment to supporting SMEs and, in particular, social enterprises. Wates aim to grow an innovative and responsible supply chain by procuring social enterprises to deliver services, skills and goods for their business and consequently leading a buy social agenda in the sector, an industry first. Their commitment to working with social enterprises is not only supporting the local economy but also having positive impacts in the community where they operate through the social and environmental causes addressed by the social enterprises they procure from.
Despite the many efforts to engage with SMEs, there is still a lot of work to be done in making the procurement practices of large corporations easier for SMEs to access, which judging from the applications received, would not only drive local economic growth but also business growth and employee satisfaction for all parties involved.