Tag Archives: social enterprises

Social Enterprise Creating Oases in Food Deserts

The concept of food deserts is nothing new. However, it’s presenting ongoing opportunities for social enterprises to make a real difference.

Food Desert Store

Food deserts are not a modern phenomenon – the concept has existed for the better part of 20 years. However, efforts to eradicate these deserts have stalled somewhat, and there are now calls for more work to be done to eliminate them entirely.

The food desert concept was first introduced by the UK Department of Health in 1999. They defined it as, “areas of relative exclusion where people experience physical and economic barriers to accessing healthy foods.”

Put simply, these deserts exist where access to affordable, healthy food is either restricted or non-existent for consumers. This would be due to the lack of stores or supermarkets in the area, within convenient travelling distance.

A report by the US Department of Agriculture in 2009 estimated that 2.3 million people in the USA were living in food deserts. This is the equivalent of 2.2 per cent of the entire population. However, it’s difficult to fully gauge the impact of food deserts, as global figures are less well documented.

Measuring Food Deserts

Food deserts have traditionally been measures as the distance from households to their nearest supermarket. The original measure, still used by the US Department of Agriculture, is for low income households living more than 1 mile (urban), or 10 miles (rural), away from their nearest supermarket.

The map below shows how that looks across the USA today:

Food Deserts in the USA Based on Traditional Measures (Source: USDA Economic Research Service)
Food Deserts in the USA – Source USDA Economic Research Service

However, there is little consensus on which measures should be used to define food deserts. Some studies have used the measures of the type and quality of food available to purchase, while others have focused on the ability or inability of consumers to purchase them.

Other issues lie in the categorisation of stores. In parts of the USA, small retail outlets that sell food are classed in the same category as larger supermarkets. This is done even when the retail outlet in question sells limited, or predominantly junk, food. This has led to concerns that some food deserts are being missed entirely.

Access Only Part of Problem

Controversy also surrounds the simplification of food deserts as an issue over access to low-cost, healthy foods. Critics have argued that proximity alone would suggest that nearly all of rural America would be classed as a food desert.

In one study in Flint, Michigan, even when a local grocery store was introduced to a food desert, community attitudes and practices didn’t change. In fact, the amount of prepared and fast foods consumed during the 17 month study period actually increased.

Other factors that experts have argued for the inclusion of include poverty (it’s widely acknowledged that low income and poor nutrition are directly attributable), and education or attitude to foods (the fact it’s often cheaper to buy chocolate than an apple).

In the UK particularly, there is still a perception that healthy foods are more expensive. There are also concerns that as confidence and skills in creating meals from scratch decrease, junk food habits will rise further.

Social Enterprise Solutions

Definitions aside, it’s clear action needs to be taken in order to combat the issue of poor nutrition.

There are a number of small businesses and social enterprises in both the UK and USA helping to bring affordable, healthy food to communities.

Fresh Range

Bristol, in the UK, is one place affected by food deserts. Although the city has been awarded a silver ‘Sustainable Food City‘ award, there are still areas suffering from a lack of access to healthy food.

In light of this, in 2015, small company called Fresh Range was formed. Fresh Range sources directly from producers, enabling them to charge lower prices for fruit, veg, and meat. It even offers doorstep delivery for £1 on orders over £20.

On top of this the produce is all locally sourced, meets sustainability and the highest animal welfare standards. The company also re-uses and recycles packaging in order to keep running costs down.

Fare & Square

In the USA, the baton for combatting food deserts has been picked up by social enterprises. The two which have received the most support and airtime are Fare & Square in Chester, Pennsylvania, and The Food District in Columbus, Ohio.

Both are non-profit organisations, however they offer slightly different services.

Fare & Square is a crowd-funded grocery store operating in a food desert. It has committed to charge 8-10 per cent less for produce than other stores. It also offers a further 7 per cent discount for customers meeting poverty guidelines.

The Food District also offers access to affordable healthy food. As well as creating jobs and ensuring that produce is sourced locally, the Food District offers community education and training programmes to overcome all the causes of food deserts.

Time for Action

There are plenty more social enterprises around the world helping to tackle the problem of food deserts. However, the issue of food deserts is still on the rise. And it’s clear that more needs to be done to help everyone in the world have access to healthy, affordable food.

Why not have a look into what’s happening in your local area? You could help out with, or donate to, your local food bank. Or help local charities who are delivering food to people who can’t get out themselves.

If you have a social enterprise in your area, contact them and see what you, or your company, could do to help? If we all take action now, collectively we stand more chance of eradicating food deserts for good.

Why the Entire Procurement Profession Needs to Get Social

Tania Seary tells delegates at the Asia-Pacific CPO Forum that procurement needs to get social to drive the profession forward. 

Tania Seary - Get Social

Procurement professionals need to claim their rightful place on the Internet, and get social, by actively participating in social media and blogs for the benefit of the broader industry, the founder of Procurious told a conference in Melbourne yesterday.

Tania Seary, who founded Procurious to connect, promote and support procurement professionals across the globe, told the 9th Asia-Pacific CPO Forum that online visibility has several benefits, but that it’s everyone’s responsibility.

Large portions of the procurement profession are working in isolation, unaware that there is a whole universe of knowledge available to help them do their jobs better and learn, Seary told the audience.

In fact, there are more than 2.5 million procurement professionals in the world, but probably less than 500,000 that the industry can readily connect with, she says.

Share, Share, Share

Procurious was launched two years ago as the world’s first online business community dedicated to procurement and supply chain professionals.

“The procurement profession must share, share and share online to build our collective muscle, amplify attention to our impact, and tackle our thorniest issues together,” Seary says.

This can start by simply sharing your social media profile, your business photo, and by broadcasting your everyday successes.

“Think about what it would mean if a newly-minted company CEO who wants to understand what we do, takes the time to Google ‘procurement’ and sees overwhelmingly positive language in their search results. That CEO can’t help but be inspired and energised by the hype and positivity around procurement,” Seary says.

She also urged all procurement professionals to ask questions and share what they don’t know, saying that without sharing the things you’re concerned about, no action can be built, and there can be no moving forward. Giving back to enrich the wider community, by understanding that everyone has something valuable to share is important too, she says.

Big Ideas 2016

The highlights of Procurious’ Big Ideas Summit, held last month in London, were also shared to the 50-strong audience of procurement leaders. Keynote speakers included IBM, Coupa, ISM, Facebook and The Economist.

“What happened in the conference in London was only a small part of the story. What makes Big Ideas truly unique is that it is a digital conference that is amplified to procurement professionals around the globe.”

For example, the #BigIdeas2016 hashtag was tweeted 1,500 times, reaching a potential audience of 4.3 million individuals, all around the world, in just over 24 hours.

“Let me tell you that the message in the room was clear. Procurement needs to think the unthinkable and certainly rethink the possible,” she told the audience.

The UK is now auditing Supply Chain Purity in the fight against slavery, while Social Procurement is on the agenda in Australia.

Get Social Enterprises on Board

Social Enterprise UK CEO, Peter Holbrook, announced at the Big Ideas Summit the ‘Buy Social Corporate Challenge‘, which will see a group of high profile businesses aim to spent £1 billion with social enterprises by 2020.

The founding partners include heavy hitters like Johnson & Johnson, PwC and Zurich.

J&J are taking action and supporting people often termed ‘furthest from employment’, with the ‘Social Impact through Procurement‘ initiative aiming to create at least 150 jobs for these people by 2020.

“Here in Australia, Social Procurement has been a concept we have been talking about, trialling, but the big ideas summit confirmed that this is now firmly on all major corporation’s agenda.

“Not only is this the right thing to do, but this is the sort of thing that the C-level, annual reports and what Procurement could be famous for. So where are we with Social Procurement in Australia? I will be interested to hear.”

Advancing the Social Value Cause

How can procurement help to advance the social value cause? Our thought leaders in the first Big Ideas panel tell us how.

social value cause

In the first panel of the day, our delegates grilled our social value and sustainable procurement experts on how procurement can advance the social value cause, and help to bust some myths around social enterprises.

Timo Worrall, Senior Category Manager FM EMEA, introduced the work that Johnson & Johnson are doing with their Social Value through Procurement. The organisation is aiming to spend 3 per cent of its total spend in the UK with social enterprises by 2020, as well as creating 150 jobs for people who are furthest from the job market today.

Peter Holbrook, CEO of Social Enterprise UK, talked more about his organisation’s announcement of the ‘Buy Social Corporate Challenge’. 10 major global organisations, including RBS, Santander and J&J, will commit to spending £1 billion social enterprises by 2020.

Lucy Siegle, journalist and broadcast, expanded on her keynote around the true cost of supply chains, and how we can change our consumer behaviour to help make greater, global change.

  • Do we think there is a shifting social attitude for social and sustainable procurement? – Tom Derry, ISM

Timo – Don’t assume that businesses aren’t interested in social value. We’re not involved to sell more products, it’s more about how we choose as an organisation to engage with our customers. The social value cause is larger than just a single programme, it’s part of a greater movement. I just hope that in 10 years we’re not talking about this as something new, but how we are all spending our money with social enterprises.

Peter – There is a new generation of products that people are getting involved with. I have a Fairphone – it’s the first smartphone in the world that is free from conflict minerals. It has a better spec than the iPhone, and it’s also half the price. The social value cause will also help organisations with recruitment and retention. Companies are realising that they need to make commitments, and make CSR part of their DNA, or millennials will go somewhere else to work.

Lucy – There is some aspirational research out there. Environmental and social value isn’t far off the idea of social consumers, but now there is more willingness to engage with brands. Companies can’t second guess the consumer wants, they need to be authentic and decide on their own values.

  • In the procurement world, measurement is based on cost reduction. Social value is not incentivised in corporate procurement – are companies changing their measurements to account for social value? – Gabe Perez, Coupa

Timo – Procurement are second guessing their corporate stakeholders, and what their stakeholders want. We have much more engagement around social enterprises at J&J, and are opening up new conversations with business stakeholders. Cost is still paramount, but we’re conscious that there still needs to be social value.

Peter – There is a rapidly growing industry around integrated reporting, particularly in the accountancy profession. They realise that this reporting will have voluntary or mandatory adoption in the coming years. Public procurement is beginning to adopt the social value cause. If we can encourage public procurement to take this on, then we can change practices in the rest of the organisations around the world. The change just needs to be faster.

Lucy – We all have our parts to play. Taking something like how stock is traded, how do people have the time to understand the wider impact of the businesses involved in the trades, when everything happens in under 10 seconds.

  • We work for a fundamentally corrupt profession. When we look at procurement across the globe, 30-40% of spend is lost through fraud and corruption. Where do you see the agenda going from fraud and corruption, to the social value agenda? – Chris Browne, The World Bank

Peter – There is a Social Value Innovation Unit at the World Bank, just so you know! One component of the change is transparency –  businesses need to be rewarded for transparency, for airing their dirty linen, as well as the glossy CSR agenda. The fraud economy is bringing together an alliance of organisations, all of whom want to get transparency into supply chains. We’re not moving fast enough though.

Fortune will favour the bold and the brave in this – you will attract the best talent, and win more business by leading this agenda.

  • There is a myth to bust that social enterprises cost more. How can we bust this? – Helen Mackenzie

Peter – Evidence has demonstrated that social enterprises out-innovate private sector, and are cheaper than them too, in 52 per cent of cases. The social value products are using materials that would have otherwise been discarded. Even my underwear is made by a social enterprise (Pants to Poverty)!

  • What Big Ideas are there to introduce authenticity and accountability into the social value process? Alex Kleiner, Coupa 

Timo – We use accreditation from the experts at Social Enterprise UK. You shouldn’t let it become a barrier to working with social enterprises – the story is much stronger than this.

Peter – Transparency, transparency, transparency is the key, we have to build it into the process. This is a road and journey that will be filled with challenges, but the future depends on it. Procurement are the new superheroes in this – they are the people who can deliver the sustainable procurement goals, and bring redundant materials into the supply chain.

Lucy – There will be mis-steps along the way. There needs to be more of a holistic view, right throughout the the supply chain. There is a lot more communication in the brand and the supply chain now.

Certainly an enlightening panel, with some very thought-provoking thinking from our experts (as well as finding out what kind of underwear our leaders wear…). Stay tuned for more from our experts, and more panel discussions, as the Big Ideas Summit 2016 progresses.