Asda has teamed up with Social Investment Scotland (SIS) to launch the UK’s first Social Enterprise Supplier Development Academy, with the aim of increasing the availability of social enterprise products for ethically-minded consumers on supermarket shelves.
Funded through the proceeds from Asda’s carrier bag charge in Scotland totalling around £750,000, SIS will help Asda run the programme whilst continuing to provide small loans through SIS Community Capital, the fund set up in partnership with Asda last year.
The new Academy will support up to eight Scottish social enterprises to strengthen their understanding of supermarket retail and refine their commercial and marketing skills, building on the success of Asda’s existing supplier development academy to support Scottish SMEs.
From today until 12pm on 14th March, product based social enterprises will be able to apply for a coveted place within the pioneering Academy. Following a shortlisting process carried out by both Asda and SIS, a number of social enterprises will be invited for interview by a panel in a Dragon’s Den style pitch format for the final eight places.
The successful social enterprises will benefit from both grant funding to cover their participation and specially developed training modules delivered over three days at Asda House in Leeds to include everything from understanding consumer purchasing to branding and packaging design. Participants will receive access to mentoring provided by Asda’s senior team and to finance through social investment loans from SIS.
Any social enterprises wishing to take part should register their interest at asdaseacademy.strikingly.com where they can also find further information on the Academy and a more detailed Q&A.
Asda’s partnership with Social Investment Scotland represents a significant commitment by the retailer to develop the UK’s social enterprise sector and create a long term sustainable impact within communities across the country. The programme – consisting of both the Academy and SIS Community Capital – will support a growing number of social enterprises to sell products directly to members of the general public. While there are no guarantees that Academy participants will receive a listing with Asda, the skills and support delivered through the Academy will significantly improve their prospects and, more importantly, equip them with the tools to secure deals with other retailers.
Depending on the success of the Scottish programme, SIS and Asda hope to roll out the Academy across England and Wales in the coming months.
Since launching SIS Community Capital last year, the fund has distributed over £300,000 in loans to ten local charities and community projects across Scotland. The most recent organisations to benefit from this investment include the Leith Theatre Trust, the Bay Tree Community Café, Highland Perthshire Media and Venture Mor Ltd.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney, said: “Social enterprises do tremendous work to help the most vulnerable people by improving their confidence and boosting skills, while tackling inequalities in society and growing the economy.
“I am pleased to see that the money raised through the carrier bag charge is being used to launch this Social Enterprise Supplier Development Academy.
“This is an exciting new development for social enterprises in Scotland, the first of its kind, and one which will help the expansion and development of the sector. I commend Asda and Social Investment Scotland for their foresight and work on this important initiative.
“I am keen to hear more about the academy as it develops and look forward to hearing about the work it will do in opening up more opportunities for social enterprises to grow and expand.”
Allan Miller, Asda’s Senior Director for Scotland, said: “At Asda we take great pride in supporting the communities we serve. Our partnership with SIS represents an exciting move beyond traditional grant-making programmes, providing tangible benefits for people across Scotland.
“We provide a lot of support to local suppliers in Scotland to grow their business, many of whom have introduced their products to our stores across the UK. By harnessing the power of our retail experience and expertise, along with our 615-strong store estate and online shopping division, we can help social enterprises to access the large retail market. The potential benefits are multiple – customers get more choice and social enterprises get the support they need to move from small to medium to large business, which in turn could create more jobs, increase investment in local producers and build positive social impact.
“Investing in social entrepreneurs is an innovative way for Asda to ensure that our customers’ money, raised through the carrier bag charge, is continually reinvested in communities and delivers long-term positive benefits for Scotland.”
Nick Kuenssberg, chair, Social Investment Scotland, said: “This current and future undertaking by Asda is a truly significant move. The potential to roll this programme out in England and Wales represents a major development in the size and scope of Social Investment Scotland’s ambition.
Alastair Davis, CEO, Social Investment Scotland, said: “Asda’s commitment to investing in Scotland’s social entrepreneurs is a huge milestone in the development of the social enterprise sector. We’re delighted to be chosen as their sole partner in helping them deliver this goal. Given the breadth of Asda’s footprint across Scotland’s communities, its support in helping to increase the number of social enterprises retailing to the public is a potential game changer. By promoting social enterprise products as viable alternatives to their commercial counterparts, we have a fantastic opportunity to significantly increase the revenues raised by the sector and, in turn, create much more sustainable and long term social impacts for our communities up and down the country.”