28 Feb 2024

How to make procurement easier for social enterprises

The integration of social enterprises into the procurement processes of larger companies is becoming increasingly important. It’s not just about hitting ESG targets. Social enterprises bring innovation, community focus, and sustainability into the corporate world. But, and we’ve been through it, they often face significant barriers when trying to become suppliers to big companies. Here are a few ways that big businesses can make it easier for social enterprises to be part of their procurement process, fostering a more inclusive and sustainable business ecosystem.


Simplify the procurement process

Big companies can streamline their procurement processes to be more accessible for social enterprises. This could involve reducing the complexity of application forms, offering guidance through the procurement steps, and being transparent about what is required. Simplifying the process can lower the barriers for smaller enterprises that might not have the resources to navigate complex procurement systems – when we spend five days filling out a form, that’s five days not delivering projects. Don’t expect the same policies and procedural documents some larger vendors have – have a level of flex.


Implement supplier diversity programmes

Creating or enhancing supplier diversity programmes that specifically target social enterprises is a powerful step. It’s not enough to set targets for procurement from social enterprises – you need to provide dedicated support structures, including mentoring and development programmes, to help these businesses scale and meet procurement needs.


Adjust payment terms

Social enterprises often have limited financial reserves. Big companies can support them by adjusting payment terms to ensure quicker payments, thereby alleviating cash flow pressures. This might include shorter payment cycles or upfront payments for social enterprise suppliers. And don’t make us chase for months at a time. We have people to pay too. And on that, don’t make the pitch process lengthy – it’s unpaid labour for many.


Offer capacity building and support

Big companies can offer support and capacity building to social enterprises to help them scale up and meet procurement requirements. This could include training on quality standards, compliance, and business management. Encourage knowledge exchange, joint ventures, or partnerships among their suppliers, enabling social enterprises to learn from each other and from more established companies. Plus by providing access to networks and markets you can significantly enhance the growth potential of social enterprises.


Leverage technology for accessibility

Utiliisng technology can make procurement processes more accessible to social enterprises. For example, online platforms for submitting bids, tracking applications, and receiving feedback can make the process more transparent and efficient. Virtual meetings and digital training resources can reduce the geographical and financial barriers that social enterprises face.


Foster a culture of social responsibility

But really it’s only with a corporate culture that values social responsibility and inclusive procurement that an organisation can change. Encourage all staff to look at different approaches to employment, help them see the benefits of social impact, and integrate social enterprise engagement with the company’s core values.