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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Social Enterprise Supermarket Sweep

This opinion piece is almost 8 years old

Lorna Baird explains how social enterprises in Scotland are getting the opportunity to pitch to Asda and take their products mainstream

How can one month fly past so quickly? Having joined Social Investment Scotland at the beginning of April, it’s been an action-packed four weeks spent getting our new Asda Social Enterprise Supplier Development Academy up and running.

I’ve met with Asda top executives, been involved with selecting the first cohort on the Scottish programme, helped to appoint and support our Welsh partners, and finally spent time getting to know my new colleagues – we’ve even managed to squeeze in a night out to celebrate a birthday!

So what exactly is the Asda Social Enterprise Supplier Development Academy and why is this programme a ground breaking development for the social enterprise sector?

Lorna Baird

Asda currently has a network of 614 stores UK wide, 175,000 employees and more than 19 million customers per week – that’s a pretty impressive reach by anyone’s standards!

Lorna Baird

The Academy is a partnership between Asda and SIS, funded by the single-use carrier bag levy, which in Scotland alone reached £750,000 by February 2016. The aim of the Academy is to give ambitious social enterprises access to new markets and an opportunity to scale up operations to an extent that’s not yet been possible for this sector.

Just to put the opportunity in context: Asda currently has a network of 614 stores UK wide, 175,000 employees and more than 19 million customers per week – that’s a pretty impressive reach by anyone’s standards!

What all of this means is that social enterprises, by participating in the Academy, will have the potential, should they get a listing, to reach a mass market. Achieving such broad brand visibility will not only help raise awareness of social enterprise generally, but will also help social enterprises to achieve scale and greater profitability.

The Academy – an intensive four day residential programme – builds on Asda’s current supplier development work, covering challenges which are also common to commercial suppliers, and providing access to Asda’s specialist buyer network.

The overall aim for the social enterprises taking part is to fully understand the business changes required in order to supply to retailer of Asda’s magnitude. And of course SIS will be on hand to give specialist investment and business support to help make this happen.

The first 12 social enterprises to gain a place on The Academy have just been announced: COPE Ltd, Calman Trust, MsMissMrs, Impact Arts, Brewgooder, Breadshare, Power a Life, Heroes Drinks, Freedom Bakery, New Caledonian Woodlands, Trade Right International, JTS Ltd.

It won’t be long now until these social enterprises get fully immersed in the inaugural Academy and I, for one, can’t wait to see how they get on. The potential impact on the broader social enterprise movement of any one of these social enterprises receiving a listing with Asda should not be underestimated.

Lorna Baird is programme manager for Social Investment Scotland / ASDA Social Enterprise Supplier Development Academy. Email her at [email protected]