Asda uses carrier bag charge to fund social enterprise scheme

Asda has used money it has generated from the carrier bag charge to fund a ground-breaking new scheme in Scotland which aims to increase the availability of supermarket products that have a positive social or environmental impact.

The company, which operates 61 stores across Scotland, has partnered with Social Investment Scotland (SIS) to launch the UK’s first Social Enterprise Supplier Development Academy.

The Academy will help up to eight Scottish social enterprises strengthen their understanding of supermarket retail and refine their commercial and marketing skills, building on the success of Asda’s existing supplier development academy to support Scottish SMEs.

It is funded through the proceeds from Asda’s carrier bag charge in Scotland, totalling around £750,000.

“Investing in social entrepreneurs is an innovative way for Asda to ensure that our customers’ money, raised through the carrier bag charge, is continually reinvested in communities and delivers long-term positive benefits for Scotland,” said Asda’s senior director for Scotland Allan Miller.

“The potential benefits are multiple – customers get more choice and social enterprises get the support they need to move from small to medium to large business, which in turn could create more jobs, increase investment in local producers and build positive social impact.”

‘Huge milestone’

Product-based social enterprises now have until 4 March to apply for a place within the new Academy. Following a shortlisting process carried out by both Asda and SIS, selected social enterprises will take part in a Dragon’s Den-style pitch for the final eight places.

The successful social enterprises will receive grant funding to cover their participation, specially developed training modules, mentoring from Asda’s senior team and finance from social investment loans from SIS. But there are no guarantees that Academy participants will receive a listing with Asda.

SIS chief executive Alastair Davis said: “Asda’s commitment to investing in Scotland’s social entrepreneurs is a huge milestone in the development of the social enterprise sector.

“By promoting social enterprise products as viable alternatives to their commercial counterparts, we have a fantastic opportunity to significantly increase the revenues raised by the sector and, in turn, create much more sustainable and long term social impacts for our communities up and down the country.”

Depending on the success of the Scottish programme, SIS and Asda hope to roll out the Academy across England and Wales in the coming months.

The two worlds of supermarkets and social enterprises were brought closer together in 2014 with the launch of the UK’s first ‘social supermarket’ which offers shoppers on the verge of food poverty the chance to buy surplus food from the likes of Asda, Tesco and M&S at heavily discounted prices. The social supermarket concept has since been rolled out in London, Manchester and Cornwall.

Luke Nicholls

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