Social Enterprise UK founded the 'Buy Social Corporate Challenge', where a group of high-profile businesses are challenged to spend £1 billion on social enterprises. Many of these businesses have opened up their supply chains to social enterprises. This is not about asking these businesses to spend more but instead asking them to spend their money in a way which betters society. According to Social Enterprise UK, this boost in income has allowed the social enterprises to reinvest £2.98 million into their social missions and create 329 jobs. This is all thanks to the corporations making that simple switch of purchasing from normal businesses to purchasing from social enterprises. The best thing about this challenge is that the concept of making more socially-conscious purchases can apply to all businesses large and small and is an effortless and affordable first step to making your company more socially conscious. I have put together a guide of typical purchases your company is likely to make this Christmas and socially-conscious alternatives you can purchase instead.
Christmas cards were once a great marketing tool for businesses to gently remind customers that their service is still available and to demonstrate to valuable clients that they have been thought of. However, receiving masses of cards over Christmas can mean your card is easily lost in the pile. Furthermore, one billion Christmas cards end up in the bin when they could be recycled at Christmas, according to housebeautiful.com, hardly making this a socially-conscious option. According to BM magazine, sending emails instead of Christmas cards can suggest that the company could not be bothered to write Christmas cards or do not want to spare the expense. We have found a socially-conscious alternative that will make your company's cards a conversation point. Wildflower Favours make plantable cards with seeds embedded inside which, when watered, will grow into wildflowers loved by bees. Once you have written your card you can add a message at the bottom saying ‘let us know what you think of our plantable cards’. This helps to build your relationship with your employees and clients.
Employee and Client Gifts
Christmas gifts are an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to employees and clients that not only have you made a thoughtful gesture but also that you have shared values. According to Bonini and Görner (2011), 93% of employees want to work for a company that cares about sustainability and 67% of business clients have sustainability as a core mission or value. By choosing a socially-conscious gift you are demonstrating that you also care about being more socially-conscious (you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t!) Gift cards are not a socially-conscious choice, they often lead to unnecessary spending and therefore excessive waste. According to groundsure.com, the negative environmental impact of sending excessive volumes of waste to be recycled is far greater than the impact caused by cutting down on waste altogether. It is important that your gift is memorable with an impactful story which contributes to a social cause. The Social Stories Club has just launched the perfect gift for Christmas - socially-conscious giftboxes, telling the stories of social change in an exciting and colourful way. The products in the box are not only of the highest quality, but each product has a unique story supporting different social causes. One example is a delicious chocolate bar with beautiful packaging designed by artists with disabilities. The receivers will try lots of different exciting products such as teas, biscuits, candles and many other goods which all contribute to social change. This gift is one which is designed to start conversations, as the gift box contains a storybook with the fascinating stories of the social good that has been brought about by your purchase. This gift box will be packaged by individuals with disabilities. You can find these boxes at KaleidoBox.
If you usually have your office Christmas party at a local bar or restaurant why not look for a socially-conscious enterprise to host you? For example, in Edinburgh, Harry’s Southside is a bar whose profits are used to train and develop employment skills in those who need it most. If your business hosts the office Christmas party in the office, consider booking catering with a social enterprise. Spoon Cafes in Glasgow employs citizens facing exclusion, such as people with disabilities or mental health issues. With every office party providing alcohol, choosing a socially-conscious option couldn’t be more straightforward. Toast brew their beer from surplus bread, which would otherwise go to waste. At your office party, avoid buying single-use plastics such as disposable forks and straws and instead, either bring in reusable ones, or purchase more sustainable alternatives such as disposable cutlery made from vegware, starch, or wood.
Other ways to become more socially conscious this Christmas
If you have a plastic Christmas tree festering in the back of your office cupboard, the most environmentally friendly option is to carry on using this. However, don’t be tricked into thinking that plastic trees are the more eco-friendly option due to their re-usability. In fact, more and more plastic trees are imported from China. Not only are fossil fuels burned in order to transport your tree but also pollution is generated in the production and disposal process. Therefore, if you do not already have a plastic tree, purchase a real tree from a farm that sources sustainably. A 2009 study by Montreal consulting firm Ellipsos claims that you will have to use a plastic tree for more than twenty years for it to be more sustainable than purchasing a real tree every year, taking into account fertilizers.
If you are are a retail business which uses plastic bags, consider swapping these for biodegradable options from less than 3p per bag.