Four co-operatives have been honoured at the annual UK Social Enterprise Awards.
Each year, Social Enterprise UK host the ceremony as a celebration of British social enterprises, recognising the successes of enterprises in many different categories. This year’s event took place at the UnderGlobe on London’s South Bank and was presented by the comedian and actor Susan Calman.
The Phone Co-op – Britain’s only customer-owned phone and internet provider – was recognised as Best Consumer Facing Social Enterprise. Vivian Woodell, CEO of the Phone Co-op, said: “We are completely delighted. This is a huge tribute to our customer service teams and to everyone else in The Phone Co-op who works tirelessly to keep improving the experience of our customers. It bears out the results of our own surveys which show a very high level of customer satisfaction, that most in our industry would give their right arm for.”
Another co-operative award-winner was Zaytoun which claimed the prize for International Impact. The enterprise was set up in 2004 to support Palestinian farmers under Israeli occupation by fairly trading their olive oil. They have now expanded to other artisan produce from Palestine.
Cathi Pawson of Zaytoun said: “You’re giving something beautiful and of value to a loved one [at Christmas] but you’re also benefiting the producer or supplier of that product. Why would you not want to do that? For us, [the award] really belongs to all of the customers who have been with us since we started and absolutely to all the farmers who are completely dedicated to what they do.”
Social enterprises are on the rise in the UK. They aim to tackle social problems and improve communities, people’s life chances, or the environment by selling goods and services, but reinvesting the profits back into the business or local community. There are more than 70,000 social enterprises in the UK alone, which contribute £24bn to the economy each year.
On the increase, Ms Pawson, of Zaytoun, said: “I think it’s just a sign that people are tired of the traditional way of doing things, they’re tired of being passive and they’re getting out there and understanding that they can shape the world they live in as well through social enterprise.”
The Health and Social Care Social Enterprise of the Year award went to Leading Lives, an employee-owned co-operative which provides care and support for adults with learning difficulties in Suffolk.
Tony Carr, Leading Lives managing director said: “This award is a tribute to all our staff who have worked so hard to create a new social enterprise and employee owned co-op. I am delighted that all our hard work in building a new social business has been recognised.”
The final co-op winner was Merthyr Valleys Homes, who were awarded the Buy Social Market Builder prize. The organisation own and manage around 4,300 homes in Merthyr Tydfil and have created contracting frameworks to encourage ‘buying social’.
Paul Allen, director of assets at Merthyr Valleys Homes said: “Winning the award is great recognition for the team here at Merthyr Valleys Homes and the locally based Social Enterprises for their hard work to deliver goods and services in our area. Their hard work has created some fantastic opportunities for local people to gain valuable work experience and employment in the area and helped the social enterprises to become more sustainable in the future.”
Summing up the event and the move towards social enterprises, Peter Holbrook, Social Enterprise UK’s chief executive, said: “Social enterprises are needed more than ever to tackle the social and environmental problems facing Britain. Congratulations to the winners – the competition was fierce. Every year the Awards are a celebration of the social enterprise sector, but this year was truly remarkable. It was the largest Awards we’ve hosted to date with more than 400 guests and a wonderful evening for the UK’s social enterprise business community.”