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Buy Local, Buy Social: Supporting small, local businesses

As a social enterprise continuing to operate largely ‘business as usual’ during the COVID-19 pandemic, we understand how lucky we’ve been where other organisations haven’t been. We’ve all seen on the national news how many businesses are struggling, big and small. Some have been struggling for a long while, and enforced closure during lockdown has magnified and possibly expedited some of the difficulties these organisations face.

In Salisbury, where our head office is based, the closures of several stores have been announced, or happened prior to the lockdown, including Debenhams, Fabric Land, Oasis and Whittard. Of course, this isn’t a pattern or a story affecting just Salisbury. It’s a national problem, and at Five Rivers, we’re encouraging our children, staff and foster carers to support their local high streets, and continue to support our small, local businesses during this difficult time, and after the lockdown is eased.

In 2020, it often feels like there is a priority placed on convenience, and to get things with some immediacy, using large organisations to meet their needs, rather than turning to our smaller, local suppliers with whom every purchase can make a real difference. COVID-19 has meant that every business has had to adapt, work differently, find a ‘new normal’. Many have had to temporarily close, furloughing staff, whilst others have adapted to changes, and found a way to stay open, for example, our village pubs are now offering takeaways where they were unable to, or didn’t have the need to, before.

The definition of a social enterprise, as defined by Social Enterprise UK, is a “a company primarily driven by social objectives and whose surplus is reinvested into the organisation or community rather than creating profit.”

At Five Rivers, we re-invest a percentage of our surplus with the sole aim of achieving the best outcomes for the children in our care. This includes a significant investment in our research and training programmes, practice development teams and human resources. We’ve also launched our new befriending scheme for Five Rivers Care Leavers aged 18-25 to offer advice, guidance and support to them.

However, our commitment doesn’t end there, our commitment includes using local suppliers, and other social enterprises. This year, we’re encouraging our staff, suppliers, children and foster carers to ‘Buy Local, Buy Social’.

More than that, we’re encouraging you all to spread the word about ‘Buy Local, Buy Social’, and create a meaningful change. We want you all to help us increase and spread our social footprint, not only by supporting your local high streets, small or independent businesses and social enterprises, but by encouraging your friends, family, neighbours and colleagues to do the same. We ask you all to consider “do I need that item tomorrow” or “is there somewhere local that I can get this rather than buying it online?” And as we move out of lockdown, and back to ‘normality’, we can all help these businesses not just to survive, but to thrive.

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