Buy Social Europe B2B

Buy Social Europe B2B

Scaling up Buy Social B2B Markets
across Europe

The Movement

The Buy Social Europe B2B consortium is one of the approved EU-funded projects operating from May 2023 to October 2024, with 23 partners across 17 markets in Europe, also the largest international project and initiative in scale. 

SAP, having been leading and funding global social enterprise and social procurement initiatives for over a decade, selects the Buy Social Europe B2B consortium to cooperate with and becomes the first co-funder of the Buy Social Europe B2B consortium and initiative and joins the advisory board.

In November 2022, DG GROW launches the call for applications SMP-COSME-2022-BUYSOCIALB2BMARKET-01: Boosting awareness raising for Mainstream Enterprises to work with Social Enterprises (working towards a ‘buy social’ business to business market) to identify best practices and partnerships that can be scaled to improve the functioning of Buy Social B2B markets.

In November 2022, the EC launched the Transition Pathway for the Proximity and Social Economy, identifying social economy organisations as playing a key role in the EU’s response to today’s economic, environmental and social crises. They are pinpointed as key enablers to deliver on the EC vision to develop a more ‘smart, digital, inclusive and sustainable’ society and economy in the next few years.

The recent DG GROW initiative, “Transition Pathway for the Proximity and Social Economy,” recognises that “companies’ sustainable purchasing policies (called ‘private procurement’) could boost new business partnerships [...] for example when such policies integrate social and circular objectives. Similarly to public procurement, such purchasing behaviours need to be stimulated to open up potential new markets for social economy entrepreneurs. A first step is to create incentives, provide technical assistance or guidance and disseminate best practices.”

The EC Staff Working Document accompanying the SEAP mentions scenarios towards co-creation of a transition pathway for a more resilient, sustainable and digital proximity and Social Economy industrial ecosystem,” highlighting  that there is a “lack of incentives for private procurement from social enterprises” and a “need for strategic support and joint action to support access to markets and new sectoral value chains, especially at local and regional level.” 

During 2022, associated partner Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) published the “Year Six Impact Report on the “Buy Social Corporate Challenge” (BSCC), where Mainstream Enterprises buy from Social Enterprises. The results of this highly successful initiative clearly show that when consistent and knowledgeable matchmaking and (non-)financial support actions are taken, sales from Social Enterprises to Mainstream Enterprises can rise substantially and quickly. 

In just six years, income for Social Enterprises rose to £255 million and 2,700 jobs were created. The final year of the initiative saw accelerated growth, reaching a procurement spend of £91 million in that year alone. The number of Social Enterprise suppliers involved grew to 600, and contracts of 7-figures worth £1 million or more increasingly were closed.

In December 2021, the European Commissions’ DG EMPL launches the EU Social Economy Action Plan (SEAP).

The SEAP  highlights concrete steps and EU funding programmes to improve access to finance and markets for social enterprises and their support organisations, focusing on three key areas to reach its goals: 

  1. creating the right frameworks
  2. opening up opportunities for development
  3. enhancing the recognition and potential for the social economy. 

SE UK, Euclid Network and SEWF collaborate to launch Buy Social Europe.

In March 2021, the Social Enterprise World Forum launched its global Social Procurement Community of Practice at its Policy Forum, and partnered with Euclid Network to combine the engagement of Mainstream Enterprises, Governments, Social Enterprises and support organisations to learn from each other.

In January 2021, the World Economic Forum Global Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs Corporate Access Cluster and Agenda was announced. The first agenda point was social procurement. The cluster was led by Social Enterprise support organisations Yunus Social Business, Acumen, SEWF and Euclid Network - the European Social Enterprise Network, together with SAP and IKEA Social Enterprises.  

In November 2020, the official launch of the Euclid Network European Social Procurement Community of Practice at its Annual General Meeting.

2020 saw the launch of DG GROW’s report on Socially Responsible Public Procurement (SRPP) reaffirming the principles of aligning public procurement with positive social outcomes, stressing that “By purchasing wisely, public buyers can promote employment opportunities, decent work, social inclusion, accessibility, design for all, ethical trade, and seek to achieve wider compliance with social standards.” 

In 2019, the EC published the SBI follow-up report. This study investigated the different patterns of corporations and explored 16 specifics aspects in greater detail. Moreover, it identified best practices in different EU countries and at an enterprise level.

In 2017, it was estimated that there are 2.8 million social economy enterprises in the EU, representing 10% of all businesses and employing around 19.1 million people (6.3% of the total paid workforce in Europe) according to the European, Economic and Social Council report (2017) and in The British Council's Social Enterprise report on "Comon Global State of Social Enterprise" written in the same year, they estimate that 11 million social enterprises exist.

The European Commission (EC) identified Social Enterprises as pioneers in fighting social exclusion, delivering high-quality welfare services, solving environmental challenges and delivering practices and products that are regenerative, circular and innovative. 

In 2016, the Expert group on social economy and social enterprises (GECES) published 13 recommendations for how policy-makers could support the development of Social Enterprises. In particular, the lack of or poor access to finance and markets was identified as a significant barrier to the creation and growth of social enterprises. 

2014 saw the EU’s Public Procurement Directive establish purchasing procedures for public buyers and included the use of social and environmental clauses as one of the possible criteria. 

In 2012, Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) launched the ‘Buy Social’ campaign in the United Kingdom. The campaign set the path for a global Social Enterprise movement to unite under the Buy Social brand. The past decade, a growing number of leading intermediaries supporting and representing social entrepreneurs have built local, regional, national and international Buy Social markets, such as Social Enterprise NL with Buy Social NL, SEND Germany with Buy Social Deutschland, and so on.

The European Commission 2011 Social Business Initiative (SBI), presented as part of the Responsible Business Package, was among the first comprehensive EU-level policy initiatives for social entrepreneurship. The SBI contained an Action Plan to create a favourable ecosystem for social enterprises and focused on three priority areas: 

  1. Funding
  2. Visibility 
  3. Legal Environment

The global annual SEWF2010 was hosted in Canada. Best practice examples on social procurement were featured, including the procurement practices at the Winter Olympics in Canada. SEWF became the leading convener at its events taking place around the world to feature social procurement best practices and learnings around the world.