Whether you’re a Londoner, visitor or tourist, the UK’s capital has something for everyone. But, did you know it’s possible to do many of these things (eat, drink, shop…) while doing good at the same time? What’s more, the experience and quality offered by London’s social enterprises will surpass many of the alternatives…
Social Enterprise UK, the national membership body for social enterprise based in London, is doing some amazing work promoting social enterprise across the country, including through its #BuySocial campaign and Social Saturday. It also recently released a YouTube “Buy Social in London” guide, which is definitely worth a watch.
Read on to find out more about some of the social enterprises featured in the video and others worth checking out…
Unseen Tours is a non-profit social enterprise that offers an alternative walking tour of London. As well as covering history, culture and points of interest, the homeless or formerly homeless guides also take you to parts of the city you may not normally see and cover issues surrounding homelessness. Tours are co-designed with the guides who earn an income from ticket sales (60% of ticket revenue is paid directly to the guide with the remaining 40% being reinvested back into the organisation to cover running costs and the recruitment and training of new guides).
There are currently six tours on offer: Brick Lane, Camden, Covent Garden, London Bridge and Shoreditch. Whether you’re a tourist, visitor or living in London, Unseen Tours is definitely worth checking out (see its 5-star rating on TripAdvisor, if you need any more convincing!).
Bikeworks is a non-profit social enterprise based in Bethnal Green. Established in 2006, its mission is to “change lives using the power of the bicycle”. Bikeworks’ programs and services include bike shops, cycle training, bicycle reuse, maintenance courses, an employment program, an inclusive cycling program “All Ability Cycling”, mobile bike maintenance and corporate team-building programs.
Alive and Kicking is a social enterprise that makes sports balls in Africa to help children play, create jobs for adults and promote health education through sport. As well as its shop in London, it runs three social enterprises in Kenya, Zambia and Ghana. Each ball is hand-stitched and made from African leather. They are built to last in tough terrain and are individually screen-printed so that they can be used as educational tools with customised designs. Balls are sold and donated across Africa and around the world with local ball sales used to cover running costs and revenues reinvested in ball donations and health awareness work.
One – “when you drink One, the world drinks too“
One Drinks supports sustainable water projects in the world’s poorest communities. Sales of its products One Water, Juiced Water and Flavoured Water have raised over £14 million, giving clean water to over 3 million people in need. Stockists of One drinks include Starbucks, World Duty Free, Holland & Barrett and coffee shops and restaurants nationwide or online at Ocado.com. As well as being approved by the Sustainable Restaurant Association, One is a Carbon Neutral Company, signatory to the UN Global Compact and a Certified B Corps. All bottles are fully recyclable, PVC & BPA free and made of 25%+ recycled PET.
The Big Issue was launched in the UK in London in 1991. It is one of the founding members of INSP (the International Network of Street Papers) – a global network of over 100 independent street papers and magazines that operate on a social enterprise model in around 40 countries.
A national weekly magazine, The Big Issue has a circulation of around 125,000 and currently works with around 2,000 vendors across the UK. It is a social enterprise and a “street paper” – an independent magazine or newspaper that is bought at a percentage of the cover price by homeless, marginalised or disadvantaged people who become micro-entrepreneurs selling the magazine on and keeping the profits.
The Big Issue also runs The Big Issue Invest – the social investment arm of The Big Issue. The Big Issue Invest helps to scale-up social enterprises and charities by providing finance (not grants) from unsecured loans to equity investment. One of the enterprises The Big Issue Invest has supported is Change Please (see below).
Change Please empowers homeless people with the skills, equipment and speciality beans they need to become fully-fledged baristas. By providing professional training and support with housing and bank accounts, Change Please gives those in need an opportunity to turn their lives around. The mobile coffee vans are popping up across London and are also available for hire for corporate events, festivals etc.
The coffee used by Change Please is produced by Old Spike Roastery in Peckham – the group’s original social enterprise (see more below).
Old Spike Roastery is a London-based social enterprise that provides expert training, jobs and housing support for people experiencing homelessness. Established in 2015, its speciality coffee is sourced from beans from around the world before being roasted locally at its site in Peckham, where it also has a café.
Paper & Cup is a non-profit social enterprise café in Shoreditch. It was established by local charity The Spitalfields Crypt Trust which also runs the social enterprise Restoration Station – a vintage furniture shop that restores and sells furniture. Both social enterprises support people through recovery from addiction by providing much-needed routine and structure to their lives, as well as providing opportunities to gain new skills and experience.
Brewbird is the social enterprise arm of the award-winning St Giles Trust, a charity that works with a wide range of socially excluded people including ex-offenders and young people at risk of involvement with the criminal justice system. Established in 2014, Brewbird’s main focus is to give ex-offenders a second chance and reduce reoffending. Brewbird employees receive training in barista and baking skills, as well as customer service and management, all in a judgement-free environment.
Mazi Mas is a roaming restaurant serving global home cooking while supporting women from migrant and refugee communities. The food is inspired by the country and culture of the chefs and the ingredients are locally sourced from farms around London. Mazi Mas provides opportunities for women to gain paid work experience, develop their skills, tell their stories and connect with the wider public.
Fat Macy’s showcases the culinary efforts of a group of young Londoners living in hostel accommodation and provides a pathway for independent living by inviting them to organise, create and curate culinary pop-up events across London. Fat Macy’s supper clubs include a three-course meal, drink on arrival and opportunity to hear the young chef’s stories, share their recipes and support their plans for the future.
The project’s profits are used to create a specified housing deposit scheme and with every pop-up event, each chef can make an independent and progressive step in saving securely for their future. Alongside increasing personal savings, Fat Macy’s resident chefs are trained in vital skills for independent living, including understanding food hygiene, cooking, financial planning and practical work experience.
Another Big Issue Invest supported enterprise is Brigade – a social enterprise restaurant housed in the social enterprise hub in The Fire Station on Tooley Street in South East London. Brigade serves seasonal and sustainably sourced dishes while providing apprenticeships to help homeless people develop skills and motivation to find employment. It is part of Beyond Food Community Interest Company (CIC) which inspires people who are at risk of or have experienced homelessness to gain meaningful employment.
Two Fingers Brewing Co. is “the only beer brand that gives back to the men that drink it”. Established in 2012, all profits from Two Fingers Brewing Co go to Prostate Cancer UK. They claim that their beer is “not only better tasting, but better for men everywhere”.
The Soap Co. is a social enterprise that creates and manufactures soap products. Launched in 2015, Soap Co. creates employment for people who are blind or otherwise disabled or disadvantaged. Its mission is to “provide a stepping stone into other employment for those who can achieve it, whilst providing a long-term job for those for whom this goal is less likely”. Its parent company CLARITY – Employment for Blind People is a registered UK charity that has been employing, training and supporting people with disabilities since 1854!