Advertisement
Opinion

John Bird: When you buy, leave a trail of good behind you

Social enterprise is about doing good business – commerce where every pound spent improves someone’s life

I came to Brighton to speak at the Spark Social Enterprise innovation conference, a social enterprise beano. The enthusiasm amongst devotees of business with a social purpose is intoxicating. But step outside its narrow circle and you have people looking at you when you mention social enterprise bemused, as if it was an untried novelty.

Brighton is Gordon and Anita Roddick to me. It’s the peppermint foot lotion, marmalade shampoo, carrot body butter revolution to me. It’s their little shop called The Body Shop next door to an undertaker’s – who were understandably miffed at their new neighbour’s name.

And how the Roddicks supported social business, like The Big Issue, with Gordon actually coming up with the concept of a London street paper.

Picture framing for disabled people? Down in Bognor a social business that employs the disabled to make picture frames seemed to be the quintessential thing I am aiming at: to get businesses going and supported where that thing you were going to buy you buy from a business with a social echo.

The day before I was in the House of Lords for the swearing in of the new parliament after the almost regime-changing election. There was May and Corbyn and the Cabinet and Opposition crammed together.

Unfortunately they did not turn to each other and say “probably similar to 1940 we are in a terrible political and geographical pickle, so why not find a way of putting REPAIR UK, or some such term, foremost above sectional interests?”

Advertisement
Advertisement

Of course even though they were scrunched together physically for the parliamentary ceremony they were not going to embrace and create a unity.

And it would be foolish to even suggest that political enemies could ever do such a thing.

Making pictures frames with a social echo – you get what you want while giving somebody in need support

But I sat and looked over and wished there was a dropping of political postures over poverty, with about 70 per cent of both houses’ time spent on it.

But this is not going to happpen fast, and is liquidation of beliefs into a giant ‘smoothie’ of agreement a good thing?

No, but you could get some traction over Prevention. And The Big Issue and our campaign in parliament got all the political leaders to agree post-election to find ways of putting Prevention at the very centre of their thinking.

How for instance can we stop the £19bn bill for Type 2 diabetes occurring when it is largely lifestyle – sugar and exercise issues – that cause it?

How can we support parents to support their children into full lives and not being defeated by consumerism and gadgetry?

How can we end the 35 per cent of children who fail at school and are then condemned to an eternity of poor jobs and poor living?

How can we stop government from exacerbating poverty rather than exiting people out of it?

When are we going to convert social security into social opportunity, a trampoline and springboard to an improving life?

Making pictures frames with a social echo – you get what you want while giving somebody in need support – is as I said quintessentially what my work is about.

Create a trail of good behind you.

Anita alas is not with us any more but the work of social echoing has only just begun. The thing she kickstarted is gathering momentum as more and more people want to buy with a social echo.

As usual Brighton was full of sun and fun, but also the wretched who in droves seem to be returning to the streets. There are big issues around dismantling poverty. But we need to fight to make them small.

Find out more about picture framing with a social echo at frameofmind.uk.com

Advertisement

Bigger Issues need bigger solutions

Big Issue Group is creating new solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunities for the 14.5 million people living in poverty to earn, learn and thrive. Big Issue Group brings together our media and investment initiatives as well as a diverse and pioneering range of new solutions, all of which aim to dismantle poverty by creating opportunity. Learn how you can change lives today.

Recommended for you

Read All
The loss of humanities courses like English literature will leave education in a poorer place
Paul McNamee

The loss of humanities courses like English literature will leave education in a poorer place

'We need to bust the myths that too often exist around children who wait longest to be adopted'
Opinion

'We need to bust the myths that too often exist around children who wait longest to be adopted'

Roe v Wade: men benefit from abortion rights too – and should speak about them more
Abortion rights

Roe v Wade: men benefit from abortion rights too – and should speak about them more

The government is trying to keep us sweet with its 'right to buy' scheme for benefits claimants
Opinion

The government is trying to keep us sweet with its 'right to buy' scheme for benefits claimants

Most Popular

Read All
Exclusive: BT call centre sets up 'food bank' for its own staff
1.

Exclusive: BT call centre sets up 'food bank' for its own staff

Prince William: 'Why I wanted to work with The Big Issue'
2.

Prince William: 'Why I wanted to work with The Big Issue'

Rainn Wilson emailed Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to say Harry Mudd would 'fit right in'
3.

Rainn Wilson emailed Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to say Harry Mudd would 'fit right in'

The UK approach to replacing the Human Rights Act is just as worrying as the replacement itself
4.

The UK approach to replacing the Human Rights Act is just as worrying as the replacement itself

Keep up to date with The Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.