Turning buying into giving - UK consumers get a new choice

Life Changing Retailers Launch Major New ‘Big Society’ Initiative

UK Consumers get a radically new choice across a whole range of goods and services from Tuesday 24th May 2011. An enterprising group of over 180 companies covering the length and breadth of the UK are launching a major new retail initiative - Just Buy.

The unique aspect of Just Buy is that every supplier is in business for good. The Just Buy directory is made up of social enterprises that predominantly employ staff who have a disability, sensory impairment, mental health problem or face some other serious disadvantage when it comes to getting a job.

Just Buy will be formally launched at an event at one of their member charities HQ – Clarity Employment for Blind People, 276 York Way LONDON at 11.00am on Tuesday 24th May 2011.

Sara McGinley of Social Firms UK who developed Just Buy said, ‘This is a retail revolution. People can buy a whole range of products from cup cakes to garden gates knowing that their money is not just buying a product, but is literally helping to change people’s lives. Social Firms are independent social enterprises which raise their money from selling everyday goods and services and then plough that money back so that they can create more jobs. Without the Social Firms that make up Just Buy, many of the people they employ would be left at home on benefits and suffering from all the effects of social exclusion’.

An employee of Hillcrest Branch in Exeter suffered a serious episode of clinical depression that led to him being made redundant at a previous job. Since being employed at Hillcrest Branch he says: “I have friends and an open and questioning mind. I have a willingness to learn and try new things and to develop as a person. I love to be outside. I love my work. I was fortunate to be offered supported employment with Hillcrest Branch after my training placement ended. I am trusted to work alone or in a team and sometimes to be the site supervisor. I have ideas which are welcomed. I wish every person faced with any mental health issue had access to Hillcrest Branch and had a chance to maybe benefit in the way I have. Idealistic perhaps but Hillcrest Branch gives me optimism.

The Just Buy initiative was launched by Social Firms UK when their annual Social Expenditure Report revealed that their third sector spend has risen to an incredible 70% over the last two years - and now stands at 54% of non-pay spend. In keeping with their values, Social Firms UK always tries to buy from the Social Firm sector. Where this has not been possible, spend has been placed with social enterprises, then within the third sector as a whole. Social Firms UK launched the Just Buy campaign to encourage other third sector organisations, businesses and individuals to do the same.

Sally Reynolds, Head of Social Firms UK said, ‘This initiative represents a whole new way forward for many charities and social enterprises. This is ‘Big Society’ in action. Social Firms are growing and generating jobs for some of the hardest people to place in employment. Everyone wins – the Government wins as more people are taken off benefits, the employees win because they get the fulfilment that meaningful employment brings and the consumer wins because they get a service or product that they would buy anyway knowing that they have helped to change someone’s life for the better.'

Jeremy Robinson CEO of CLARITY, who operate a central London factory where 70% of the workforce are disabled, said, ‘To be part of the Social Firm revolution is fantastic. We make products people use every day and all anyone has to do to support our mission is buy their soaps, toiletries & cleaning products from us. We’ve been in business a long time and it’s great that there’s now a whole raft of companies coming together to create an industry where opportunities for disadvantaged people is the prime goal ’.

There are now some 2000 jobs in Social Firms, and 50% of these are held by people facing major barriers when they try to get employment. Social Firms shatter the myth that people with learning disabilities, visual impairments or mental health problems can’t work. They are real businesses that compete by producing quality goods and services, without Government subsidy. Social Firms UK is a charitable organisation, founded in 1999, that helps new Social Firms to start up and promotes them so they can grow and create more jobs for people that most other employers won’t even consider. For more info see www.socialfirmsuk.co.uk


  1. There will be a host of representatives from member companies at the launch with opportunities to interview and film people who have had their lives ‘turned around’ by this initiative.
  2. Social Firms UK is the national support agency for one type of social enterprise committed to employing people at greatest disadvantage in the labour market. At least 25% of a Social Firm’s workforce is severely disadvantaged because, for example, they have a learning disability, mental health problem, a prison record or a history of homelessness or drug or alcohol misuse.
  3. Social Firms are market-led companies that generate at least 50% of their income through trade, reinvesting profits to create more jobs. Social Firms operate in a wide range of commercial sectors; see www.justbuy.org.uk for details. Since 1999 the number of Social Firms has increased from 5 to over 180 and collectively they now employ over 2000 people, 51% of whom face major labour market disadvantage.
  4. Social Firms UK has estimated that the sector helps to save over £40m a year in welfare benefits and around £8m in health care costs.
  5. The Just Buy website has been designed by PlussConnect a specialist team from the largest Social Firm in the UK and "Star Social Firm" Pluss. Visit www.plussconnect.org.uk for details.