The supply chain
Mission-led businesses should examine supplier relationships and procurement processes to ensure ethical and social objectives are truly being met. Here, businesses are free to set objectives but the public sector has already started to integrate social impact assessments into some tender processes.
For example, the Public Services (Social Value) Act states that public service commissioners must consider the social, economic and environmental benefits of a tender for services. Any business that is interested in winning these contracts must outline the social value of its own proposition. This can range from the number of apprentices taken on and availability of training to ensuring products are sourced locally and minimising the environmental impact. Mission-led businesses can (and should) include these criteria in contracting to embed social value throughout a supplier chain.
Transparency and reporting
At the heart of the mission-led ethos is delivering consistency to both stakeholders and shareholders. Communicating the progress of the social mission in the form of a transparency report is important and should be seen not only by shareholders, but customers and employees too. Businesses need to be held to account over social commitment and an annual report restating purpose, outcomes and highlighting future plans is important for wider engagement. This can be used as the foundation for meaningful consultation with customers and employees to allow for greater accountability, and for deeper trust and loyalty to be built.
The future of mission-led businesses
While great developments have been made to ensure the UK is a fertile ground for mission-led businesses to grow, it’s important that momentum increases in order to reach and extend the potential for a mission-based economy. This is where further government influence could help.
First, smaller businesses must be afforded greater opportunities to bid for public sector contracts than is usually considered. Therefore, the public sector, when letting out contracts, needs to do so intelligently and proportionately to avoid the creation of unmanageable risks. Recent studies on the “diseconomies of scale” show how much additional value can be created through such a balanced approach to commissioning. And at the moment only bids for public sector service contracts are required to be measured for their social value. This should be widened to goods and works to ensure that the mission-led philosophy is one that grows.
For socially-conscious businesses looking to gain a competitive edge, formal commitment to a social purpose can drive significant benefits, including employee fulfilment, productivity and the attraction of new business. Firms should act now to implement processes and protocols that ensure these values are ingrained throughout the organisation and effectively communicated with employees, shareholders and potential customers.
Peter Hubbard is senior partner at mission-led law firm Anthony Collins Solicitors.
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