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13 March 2019

Minister visits King's to improve society through social enterprise

The Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office, Oliver Dowden visited King’s earlier this week to announce a shake-up of the way government contracts are awarded to ensure their social impact and social value.

A group of speakers to the Social Values conference stand in front of portraits within the boardroom at King's.
Group shot for Social Value conference

Speaking at the Social Value Conference organised by Social Enterprise UK and co-hosted by King’s, the Minister unveiled guidance as part of the government’s vision to create a thriving and move inclusive economy, tackling issues including modern slavery, and climate change.

Social value is intrinsic to King’s strategic Vision 2029. Service is the term adopted to describe King’s commitment to society beyond the traditional roles of education and research. This commitment is reflected in the way in which King’s procures goods and services and carries out construction works.

Professor Jonathan Grant, vice president & vice principal of Service at King’s described his the approach to incorporate service and social impact within the university’s ways of working, saying, ‘King’s recently became a member of SEUK and we are delighted to host Social Enterprise UK’s 6th annual Social Value Summit. We made a brave decision at King’s to put service alongside education and research as our core academic mission, which we deliver both on local scale with communities in London and globally’.

King’s has demonstrated its commitment to Social Value in practice for some time. In 2017, King’s achieved Fairtrade University status, aiming to continuously increase the number of Fairtrade products sold on campus and promoting Fairtrade campaigns. As a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, the university’s catering team also work on sourcing local and seasonal food, serving responsibly sourced fish and meat, and supporting the community.

Other examples of this commitment from King’s include:

  • Accredited with the Living Wage Foundation in 2018 – the 32nd university to do so
  • Introduction of ‘Service time’ for any member of staff who wishes to take a day out of their work schedules to volunteer for a social purpose activity
  • Establishment of King’s Legal clinic offering free advice for social enterprises and start-ups, giving students rich practical learning experiences as they advise members of the local community.

Speaking to an audience of leaders from business, education and the social sector, the Minister said:

“Every year, the government spends £49 billion with external organisation and it is morally right that we make sure none of that money goes to any organisations who profit from the evil practices of modern slavery.

“Similarly, it is right that we demand that the organisations we work with meet the high standards we need to protect our environment and employ workforces which represent our diverse society, including people with disabilities and those from ethnic minorities.

“By making sure that these social values are reflected not just across the government, but through all the companies we work with, we will take a major step towards our goal of creating an economy that works for everyone.”

Professor Grant continued: ‘Now more than ever, the higher education sector needs to adapt with the times, and re-affirm our public purpose. One way of doing that is to focus on our social value and to think of ourselves as a group of social enterprises.’