Building Birmingham through social enterprise

Wates Construction

As of November 2018, Birmingham is proudly a ‘Social Enterprise City’.

This is, in large part, thanks to the city possessing the largest contingent of social enterprises outside London.

The latest baseline survey of social enterprise activity in the city conducted on behalf of the Birmingham Social Enterprise City steering group and published in July 2019, revealed that there are currently 564 social enterprises successfully operating in Birmingham.

The five most populous trade sectors for social enterprise across the city are: Education and Training (52%), Health, Social Care and Welfare (41%), Community Development and Regeneration (26%), Advice, Counselling and Guidance (18%), Creative, Digital and Media (18%).

Evidently, the social enterprise ecosystem across Birmingham plays a vital role in ensuring the sustainability and prosperity of the entire community.

But for those looking for hard facts, the social enterprise sector contributes over £24bn to the UK economy every year and the goods and services it provides place these purpose-led businesses as valuable partners in our supply chains.

In fact, research commissioned by Wates revealed that expenditure with social enterprises generates 77% more social value – £1.77 for every £1 spent – than when procuring services from commercial businesses.

Here at Wates, we are on track to spend over £20m with social enterprises by next year.

The positive sustainable impact these businesses have on society provides us with an extremely compelling reason to collaborate with them on our building projects.

In Birmingham, we are committed to engaging with these organisations wherever possible to help create better buildings while leaving behind a positive legacy.

One such project is the The Bank – a landmark residential scheme in the heart of Birmingham city centre on Broad Street.

The scheme consists of two towers of luxury apartments that stand at 22 and 33 storeys high and offer panoramic views across the city’s impressive skyline.

As part of Wates’ commitment to the surrounding community during our time on site, a comprehensive community engagement plan was put into action from day one.

This has seen us invest more than £75,000 in social enterprises as part of our construction of The Bank.

Companies engaged include Argonaut Community Enterprise which provides us with cleaning services for our site accommodation and welfare facilities and which uses its profits to create employment and training opportunities for people with physical and mental disabilities.

As well as supporting social enterprises through our supply chain, we also partnered with BBC Radio West Midlands to provide new space for Narthex Foodbank in Sparkhill, which provides food parcels for some of Birmingham’s most deprived families.

Prior to Wates’ involvement, the charity was reliant on volunteers working in freezing conditions during the winter and our team built a large timber framed room, complete with flooring, heating and kitchen and also supplied a significant donation of food and clothing.

Our team at The Bank also refurbished the HQ of the 34th Scout Group in Ward End in Birmingham, installing a recreational climbing wall, carrying out external landscaping works, renovating the gym floor and decorating the entrance.

As a result of these activities and partnerships, The Bank development is positively contributing to the city’s ongoing sustainable regeneration, serving as a great example and benchmark for urban residential schemes that can transform previously unused areas into new socially-sustainable communities.

We’re extremely proud to champion social enterprises and the value they generate for our communities. 

I encourage more businesses to join us in supporting the social mobility agenda. Together we can help to change lives for the better.