We’d like to talk to Social Enterprises!

We’d like to talk to Social Enterprises!
David Faith


The Living Wage is an hourly rate of income (currently set at £7.85 for the UK, outside of London) which is defined as the amount of money needed to enjoy a basic, but socially acceptable standard of living. The amount is calculated through independent research using the ‘Minimum Income Standard’ for the UK. Decisions about what to include in this standard are set by the public; so it really is a social consensus about what people need to make ends meet.


Why do we need a Living Wage? Well, for the first time, the majority of people in poverty in Scotland are living in households where at least one person is working. The lowest paid have suffered from a ‘double squeeze’ of stagnating pay and rising costs of living. Living Wage employees have told us that receiving the Living Wage allows them to access the goods and services that most people would consider necessary to participate in society. However, as well as the many social benefits, there is also a business case for the Living Wage. Independent research has shown that the Living Wage improves morale, productivity and the ability to recruit fresh talent whilst at the same time reducing absenteeism and staff turnover.


The Living Wage is therefore one way that the interests of social justice can be aligned with the interests of commerce. Social Enterprises are another (brilliant) example of the way people can operate a successful businesses whilst also contributing to society. As such, we hope that Social Enterprises in Scotland will see the Living Wage Employer movement as a natural ally. Indeed, there are a growing number of Social Enterprises in Scotland who have already become accredited as Living Wage Employers. These organisations represent a varied range of sectors including food & drink, hospitality, advisory services and security. In fact there are only really two things they all have in common; their commitment to the Living Wage and their commitment to the community.


I spoke to a few of our accredited Social Enterprises and they had the following to say about becoming an accredited Living Wage Employer:


“Our aim at GTS is to legitimise the security industry and invest our profits back into the community. That’s why we’re a Social Enterprise in the first place, but getting the badge as an accredited Living Wage Employer has also massively helped us with those goals as it shows everyone we’re committed to our staff and also to the community."


–       Brian Fallon, Operations Manager at GTS Solutions CIC


“Breadshare Community Interest Company is very much part of the local community. From its start of trading in 2012, Breadshare has been keen to contribute to greater social cohesion through community involvement, commitment, support and investment. Over the years we have received a great deal of help from many individuals and the decision to become a Living Wage Employer was not a difficult one. Apart from the moral arguments, it was a way of showing our appreciation to the community who supports us. The direct impact on the business is difficult to quantify but we have received lots of positive comments, from both staff and customers, and we are convinced that we made the right decision in becoming a Living Wage Employer.”


–       Jill Sales, Chairperson and Treasurer – Breadshare Community Baker


“Scarf is proud to be a Living Wage Employer.  Scarf is a social enterprise working primarily in the north east of Scotland working in the fuel poverty and energy efficiency fields, and this year we celebrate our 30th birthday.  Like many third sector organisations we find ourselves operating in difficult economic times.  However, we felt it was vitally important to sign up as a Living Wage Employer and ensure that our workforce receive a decent level of income for the work they do.  After signing up it led to a wage rise for a number of our staff and had a positive impact on their lives.  Being a Living Wage Employer has thrown up some interesting situations.  For example, we sometimes use external cleaners to clean our building and we have had to insist they are paid the Living Wage when they work in our building, which has made us popular with the cleaners during their time with us.  We would encourage others to sign up to be Living Wage Employers and do your bit to ensure people get a decent wage for the work they do.”


–       Thane Lawrie, Chief Executive – SCARF


Accreditation works as a formal recognition scheme. Accredited employers are listed on our website and they also have the right to use the Living Wage Employer mark. They can use the mark wherever they like – marketing, social media, website, recruitment advertising, stationary, email footers etc. By becoming accredited, employers also often receive positive press coverage. Accreditation signals to the world that an employer is part of the Living Wage movement and that’s also vital to the aims of the Accreditation Initiative.


The Scottish Living Wage Accreditation Initiative works to:
1.      Recognise and celebrate employers who already pay the Living Wage.
2.      Encourage and support employers who don’t currently pay the Living Wage to consider doing so.


We would be delighted if more Social Enterprises in Scotland became accredited as Living Wage Employers alongside the diverse range of other Social Enterprises who have already become accredited. I would like to ask all Social Enterprises in Scotland to consider whether accreditation could be right for them. Further details on the accreditation process are available here, or for more information on becoming accredited please feel free to contact me on the details below.


However, even if accreditation isn’t right for your Social Enterprise at the moment, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get in touch as I’m also keen to hear about any particular barriers, or unique problems, that Social Enterprises face when it comes to the Living Wage. I’d also like to hear your ideas and suggestions about further steps that we at the Scottish Living Wage Accreditation Initiative could take to engage with the Social Enterprise movement in Scotland.

You can reach me on 0141 353 0440 or by emailing david,faith@povertyalliance.org