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Director's Blog: What Has The Not-for-profit Sector Ever Done For Business?

20 June 2014

A few years ago I embarked on a series of 25 chamber of commerce business breakfasts, selling the message that businesses could get the edge in public sector procurement, if they sub-contracted with charities and social enterprises when tendering for contracts. Yes, knobbly croissants and public sector procurement before 8 a.m. Zowie! 

Curiously amid this indigestible mixture, my business audience ended gobbling up the subcontracting bit at least. Why? Because the not-for-profit sector has they told me, a priceless asset:  the power of local - local knowledge, local networks and local clients and customers just round the corner. This is the stuff of social as opposed to financial capital, which somehow rarely figures on not-for-profit balance sheets. Yet in a world of globalised, anonymous arms-length suppliers and virtual online businesses, it is surely about time this asset was assessed and rerated. That it has remained unpriced and uncounted for so long, is due I believe, to a traditional vast divergence of language and culture  - with about as much overlap as local LETS currencies have on London’s foreign currency market.  

Fast forward to 2014 and our own very special Ethical Property Foundation  which has rather uniquely, managed to package up all the local learning from a decade of advising and training charity clients on property issues, and in partnership with some far sighted organisations, is about to take a new product to market - to the private sector. I refer to our soon to be launched fairplace award - our ethical workplace standard which recognises commitment to people – staff inside and the local community outside - as well as to the planet. This is a unique and innovative combo (More) which I believe can only have emerged from the blood and guts knowledge bank of a battle hardened charity. Obtaining a fairplace award, signals to your shareholders, customers, employees and the locals who walk past your office door, that in a world of hellhole rotten offices, your building is a fair place to work: a stick of local dynamite on a world wide web. What a message and what an edge on the competition!

So next year once fairplace up and running I’ll be back on the business breakfast trail – explaining to businesses just what the not for profit sector has done for them. Before that though, I need fairplace applicants and commercial supporters to help me scale it up and take it to market. Croissants anyone?    

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