‘All organisations should give back to their communities.’
Paul Threader, finance director at Wates Living Space, says investing in communities is crucial.
Prior to joining Wates Living Space, I worked at several large corporations and took an interest in understanding how the projects we delivered brought benefits to the communities in which we operated. Since joining Wates in 2016 I’ve been able to witness first-hand exactly how businesses can truly engage with the third sector, and how this can bring great value to all parties.
One of the key ways that Wates contributes to neighbourhoods and localities in which we work is through its engagement with social enterprises (SEs), businesses that trade for profit, but reinvest any earnings back into a social or environmental purpose.
Last year, I was privileged to attend one of our Seeing is Believing (SIB) events in East London. These events demonstrate to our customers the importance of working with SEs, by demonstrating that working with such makes both ethical and business sense. I was looking forward to a day of visiting well-meaning organisations that were doing their bit to help those around them. As the day progressed, I realised I’d vastly underestimated the professionalism of these organisations, as well as the wider SE sector.
The day was organised by Sarah Crawley, CEO of SE development organisation iSE and Jennie Assersohn, community investment manager for Wates Living Space. Myself, some colleagues and customers visited a range of organisations across East London that are supporting important local causes.
The tour commenced at Hackney City Farm, which for over 20 years has provided an invaluable service by allowing the local community to experience farming in the heart of the city.
Next, we headed over to Clarity and the Soap Co., which has a focus on employing, training and supporting people with disabilities to create high-quality toiletries, soap and cleaning products. The tour was led by Camilla Marcus-Dew, head of commercial at Clarity. Camilla brought the organisation to life for all the attendees; not only did she explain the fantastic impact Clarity has on social cohesion within Hackney and the surrounding areas, she also demonstrated the commercial awareness that has clearly contributed to the success of the organisation.
A visit to the team at Clarity will eliminate any misconceptions regarding how SE’s operate. Yes, businesses like Clarity are actively committed to making a difference, but they have to be run with a commercial model to ensure continuity. To do this, they need to attract great people in order to compete. Clarity is well-run, led by a very talented team that rivals the the private sector.
It was clear the staff loved their workplace and that their roles have proved invaluable in helping them enjoy full, active lives. Clarity’s staff were truly inspirational, and I hope I’m able to pay them another visit in the future.
Likewise, I enjoyed visiting Calverts, an SE and workers’ co-operative specialising in branding, and it was a treat to tuck into lunch at Canvas Café, which boasts a simple, free-range, ethically sourced menu.
As someone with a background in corporate governance and finance, the SIB tour made me realise exactly why at Wates we are so committed to supporting the SE sector. By integrating organisations such as Clarity into our supply chain, we are receiving quality services and products, while at the same time helping fund valuable initiatives that are tackling some of society’s most pressing issues.
We aim to spend £20m with the SE sector by 2020 as part of Social Enterprise UK’s ‘Buy Social Corporate Challenge’. The challenge has my full support, and I look forward to working with and getting to know many more SEs in the years ahead.
Paul Threader is finance director at Wates Living Space.