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The Power of Social Enterprise Supply Chains

The CEO of Fuse Events, Matt Wilson, shares some of the ways corporate event organisers can benefit from including social enterprise in their supply chains.

A hands-down highlight of the social enterprise calendar and held in the spectacular surroundings of London Guildhall, the Social Enterprise UK Awards celebrates and rewards some of the most inspiring social entrepreneurs around. Needless to say, the Page & Bloom team were thrilled to contribute to the glittering affair’s most recent edition at the invitation of Matt Wilson, CEO of Fuse Events.

Specialised in delivering socially responsible events, Fuse has been overseeing the SEUK Awards since 2013, drawing on a supply chain made up entirely of social enterprises. Spanning everything from catering to printing, and of course, floristry, the approach underlines not just the range of socially minded businesses out there, but also their professionalism and value.

Matt explains why social enterprise supply chains are the future, and how the landscape has changed in recent years.

First things first - please introduce yourself!

I’ve been in the events industry for 25 years now. With a previous agency I worked on projects with Social Enterprise UK, Co-operatives UK and a few charities. The experience made me realise two things: One, there is another way to do business; and two, live events can be a really powerful force for positive social change.

I set up Fuse with the idea of producing events that change the world for the better. We provide exceptional event management services to corporate clients - usually sales conferences, incentive travel trips and awards ceremonies - and we use the profits to run our own educational events all related to creating social good. We’ve also set up a trusted supply chain of social enterprises to help us deliver these events. So we’re a one-stop shop for sustainable, positive impact events.

In terms of supply chains, what does it mean to buy social, and why should companies do this?

Simply put, when we buy social we choose to spend our money with a business that is doing something special with their profits, rather than lining the pockets of their shareholders. These businesses might be fighting climate change, helping homelessness or creating employment for marginalised groups, but by creating a supply chain we know the social impact of every event we run is magnified.

That feel-good factor isn’t only enjoyed by our staff, but also our clients, some of whom initially have no idea what a social enterprise is. Companies are realising social value helps with staff retention, recruitment, sales and marketing - every element of their business. It’s a win-win.

When it comes to procurement, companies naturally prioritise quality and value - how do social enterprises compete?

If our organisation - and sector as a whole - is going to compete, we have to offer products and services that are as good, or better than our competitors’. That doesn’t necessarily mean being the cheapest, but certainly at Fuse we focus first on our service, and delivering world-class events. The fact we’re having a positive social impact to most of our commercial clients is an added bonus. We always say in events that we live and die by our suppliers, so to be a part of our supply chain, organisations have to deliver to the highest standards, or it reflects negatively on the event Fuse delivers. But certainly, from a procurement perspective, it does give us that much-needed USP in a competitive industry.

Tell me about Fuse’s social enterprise supply chain for the SEUK awards Fuse has had wonderful support from Social Enterprise UK from the moment we set up seven years ago. Working closely with such a knowledgeable group of people has helped us grow our supply chain pretty quickly. In that time, the quality of social enterprises has really gone up: a decade ago, I’m not sure there were organisations as robust or professional as some of our supply chain today. Take organisations like Clink Events who cater for the SEUK Awards: the quality of their service and product, as well as their competitive pricing is right up there with the best in a very competitive market. We also engage graphic designers like Champion; entertainers and printers; Toast and Brewgooder for beer; Forty Hall for amazing white wine; plus florists, of course. Together, we’ve started to win referred business from events. It’s taken time, but the opportunities are growing for us all.

Any reflections on this year’s SEUK Awards?

This was the biggest awards yet! We’re pushing 500 attendees, up from 230 in 2013, which highlights the great work SEUK are doing to help grow the sector. This was the first year we insisted on providing a 100% vegetarian menu. It was controversial for a handful of meat-loving attendees, but as a sector we must be at the forefront of positive change, and we’re all aware that adopting a plant-based diet is the best thing we can do for the environment. It’s illustrative of how we have to keep pushing the envelope and improving the event, while respecting our business ethics.

Similarly, and because of how incredibly wasteful the events industry is, Fuse are reviewing every element of our business practice and supply chains to be able to deliver carbon neutral events in the near future. Cut flowers are a huge part of event waste, so finding and working with Page & Bloom couldn’t have happened at a better time!

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