Contributing to Birmingham Business Charter for Localising Prosperity

What were LWM trying to do?

In February 2014, Birmingham City Council launched the Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility which aims to ‘boost the local economy through support to the local supply chain, creation of job opportunities and ensuring employees are paid a fair wage’.

The Charter is set of principles to which Birmingham City Council is inviting its suppliers to commit but, overtime, will become a contractual obligation for any business wishing to win work with the council. The charter enables businesses and social enterprises to consider the contribution that they can and do make to the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of the city and to have this contribution formally recognised through the Business Charter.

The Charter principles describe a range of different ways in which signatories to the charter can and should maximise the benefits of their work for the Birmingham community, these being:

  • Supporting local employment.
  • Implement a Buy Birmingham First policy.
  • Act as partners in the local community.
  • Pay a fair living wage.
  • Be green and sustainable.
  • Apply ethical procurement principals.

As an initiative clearly developed in-line with the principals of MCED, LWM offered support to help maximise its impact.

What have we learned?

  1. LWM’s work on the Birmingham Business Charter reinforced a number of the findings the MCED research has already started to identify, these being:-
    • While there is a willingness amongst some key large public sector organisations to act on the principals of MCED some help is still required as to “how” to achieve it.
    • Even a well thought through MCED approach still needs tailoring to fit different audiences.
    • Progress in moving from a commitment to MCED to action is highly dependent on a few key individuals who need supporting.
  2. The success of the Birmingham Business Charter approach demonstrates that businesses of the supply side (of all sizes) are open to MCED ideas.
  3. Even where there is willingness from all parties involved to adopt MCED there is still a role for an external organisation (who understands the different language, different priorities, different needs etc.) to facilitate the required partnerships.
  4. That an MCED approach does not have to overdesigned or over prescriptive at the start. Part of Birmingham’s success has been in remaining open to businesses defining their own measures and targets for each of the six main objectives.

What have we achieved?

  1. Contributed to the original content of the charter.
  2. Helped to increase the reach and understanding of the charter, particularly in the non-profit sector, using the communications tools of Localising Prosperity and our contacts.
  3. Advised on how to ‘sell’ the benefits of the Charter’s local economic impact to businesses.
  4. Ran three workshops with local procurement initiative FindItInBirmingham to help social enterprise organisations understand how they can use the charter both to secure business with Birmingham but also to maximise the local benefit of their own business operation.
  5. Provide important feedback to the council as it became apparent through the workshops that some of the targets within the Charter, while they might work for “big business”, were problematic for small organisations and enterprises that were already founded on socially responsible principals.
  6. Overall, the above five achievements means a specific sector of Birmingham’s economy has been engaged on the charter process which otherwise might have been left out.

What will we do next?

  • Offer one-to-one support to organisations requesting help in achieving charter status.
  • Develop a set of measures and targets as a menu of options SMEs can work from in making a charter application.
  • Continue to liaise with the BCC team to see if future workshops are required.
  • Continue to monitor the impact of the charter so it can be developed as a both a case study and a source of evidence to demonstrate MCED impact.

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