Social enterprises strive to provide social outcomes over profit, leveraging business operations to fund projects. Yet many are not effectively run, meaning that opportunities to support social outcomes are missed. In a bid to provide corporates with a means to support charity work, while providing social enterprises with business acumen within their core operations, the Social Business Trust was formed in 2010. The Trust facilitates connections between businesses and social enterprises, and both Bain & Company and EY partnered up with the Trust, providing employees that donated their time to support social enterprises to develop.
A social enterprise has as its goal the improvement of one or more social, environmental or community practices, where profit is seen as a means, not the end, of the enterprise. The enterprise itself is classed as a not-for-profit organisation. Social enterprises however, like many businesses, are not necessarily well run. The philanthropic aims and idealism of charity workers sometimes comes in the way of ethical business approaches. Social enterprises tend to be less likely to invest in themselves, as they are entirely focused on making sure everything possible reaches the front-line and their beneficiaries.
To support social enterprises with high-growth potential to scale up, the Social Business Trust (SBT) was formed in 2010 by Adele Blakebrough and Damon Buffini, founder of the global investment firm Permira, with a number of partnering organisations. SBT developed out of Breakthrough, a Permira initiative, which established the model now used by the charity. The aim of SBT is to leverage the high level of business development skills made available by SBT’s partners, for a range of social enterprise clients seeking to improve their operations. SBT further facilitates financial investments between SBT’s business partners and the needs of various social enterprise clients.
One of the key features of SBT’s approach is to develop the internal capacities of clients in such a way that it unlocks the long term growth potential of the organisation in question – without needing continued external support. This aim is in line with the concept behind social enterprises, which often seek to leave the need to apply for externally supporting grants (for at least their normal operations). For this, SBT targets the core operations of the social enterprise with expertise supplied by its partner organisations.
Over the past year 2014/2015, SBT has committed £4 million of cash and in-kind support to social enterprises, affecting 426,000 beneficiaries through 13 supported social enterprises. SBT has reviewed the operation of 250 enterprises, while facilitating more than 3,000 hours of volunteer support for the respective organisations. During the year, SBT received £1.4 million worth of professional expertise provided by business partners, as well as £962,000 in cash donations. Expenditure saw around £2 million in charitable activities and investment in projects, with around £81 thousand going to governance costs. SBT has grown rapidly since 2010 in terms of annual portfolio of direct beneficiaries.
SBT’s main partners include EY, Bain & Company, Credit Suisse, Clifford Chance, Thomson Reuters and Permira. These organisations provide various kinds of support, from direct grants to volunteering staff. Aaron Collins, Consultant at Bain & Company, for instance, spent three months developing a marketing strategy for Challenge Partners, helping them expand the reach of their service that improves attainment of children on free school meals. While Daniel Montgomery, a Senior Consultant at EY, spent three months on secondment to The Challenge. During this time, he project-managed the launch of the new Step Forward programme, which gives school leavers from diverse backgrounds a year of work experience and skills development. Besides providing the organisations with critical business skills, the secondments often also fulfil the desires of professional services staff seeking to give something back to the community.
In addition to Collins, Bain employees that were seconded or volunteered their services include Harriette Foster, Heider Ridha, James Hadley, Junna Hashimoto, Luba Mandzy-Herring, Mark Hardwick, Mikaela Hedin, Mike Garstka, Paul Rogers, Tom Whiteley and Torsten Lichtenau. Besides Montgomery, EY employees include Adiva Kalms, Emma Howcutt, Gunjan Tripathi, Jaiya Bhandari, Jonathan Chidley and Phil Davies.
“Quite simply, SBT has impact,” comments Paul Rogers, Partner at Bain & Company. “In fact it has a multiplier effect, because it helps not-for-profit organisations which have proved they can make a difference to grow and therefore to benefit more people in more places faster than they could alone.” Rogers currently serves as the head of the firm’s global Organisation practice, and formerly was Managing Partner of Bain UK.
Steve Varley, Chairman and Managing Partner UK & Ireland, as well as one of the most influential Londoners and a top-30 LGBT ally in the UK, remarks: “SBT provides an opportunity to use my skills, and the skills of all of EY, alongside other companies to make a huge positive impact on the UK’s highest potential social enterprises.”
According to SBT itself, “The model is working: by bringing together the best of business with the best of social enterprise, we are helping to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every year.”