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Birmingham council tells firms: ‘Sign up for social responsibility or you won’t trade with us’

Birmingham council tells firms: ‘Sign up for social responsibility or you won’t trade with us’

🕔23.Jun 2014

Firms wishing to do business with Birmingham City Council are slowly falling into line by agreeing to follow a charter pledging to pay staff the Living Wage and to employ the “highest ethical standards” in all that they do.

The Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility has been awarded to 36 companies and organisations judged to meet the council’s standards of acceptable behavior for the private sector.

As well as imposing conditions about wage levels, the charter also requires firms to help the West Midlands economy by buying supplies locally where possible, and to play an active role in communities with the greatest social need.

Several of the council’s biggest customers have signed up, including Amey and Balfour Beatty.

Capita, which has contracts worth £1 billion with the city council, was awarded its charter certificate last week alongside 11 other organisations.

The aim of the charter, according to cabinet member Stewart Stacey, is to maximise social value and to “set the standard for ethical business practices in this city”.

But businesses wishing to trade with Britain’s largest public body have little option other than to adopt the charter’s principles. Failure to do so will mean they cannot win contracts with the council in future.

Any organisation tendering for council business from September last year must have adopted the charter. The document is based on provisions in the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, which imposes a duty on the local authorities to consider how procurement might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the area in which a contract is delivered.

Firms that have contracts with the council signed before 2013 are being encouraged to follow the charter, but cannot be forced to do so.

The Charter has been the subject of some concern to a number of organisations in the city which do business with the Council. The adoption of the Living Wage, as well as the wider point of not adding to red tape when the economic recovery is only just starting, have been point highlighted by a number of firms as well as not-for-profit organisations.

The main principles of the charter are:

Local Employment – Charter signatories will create employment and training opportunities for local people especially in target areas.
Buy Birmingham First – Charter signatories will take account of the social and economic impacts of buying locally when commissioning and contracting, thereby reducing unemployment and raising the skill level of the local workforce.
Partners in Communities – Charter signatories will play an active role in the local community and community support organisations, especially in those areas and communities with the greatest need.
– Good Employer – Charter signatories will support staff development and welfare and adopt the Birmingham Living Wage.
Green and Sustainable – Charter signatories will commit to protecting the environment, minimising waste and energy consumption and using other resources efficiently.
Ethical Procurement – Charter signatories will commit to employing the highest ethical standards in their own operations and those within their supply chain.

Cllr Stacey, cabinet member for commissioning, contracting and improvement, said: “I am delighted we have reached the stage where we can recognise another wave of organisations that are setting the standard for ethical business practices in this city.

“The Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility is a standard for organisations to aspire to. When obtained, it confirms to the wider community that the firm in question conducts itself in the right way as far as its own employees, suppliers and the environment is treated.

“We spend approximately £1 billion annually so want to get as much extra value as possible for our citizens and the charter will help do this. It is a status on offer to all organisations, regardless of if they currently supply services to the council, and I look forward to many more signatories being announced in the coming months.”

The charter, once adopted, becomes a contractual term. Failure to follow the principles could see firms stripped of their contract, Cllr Stacey added.

The first 12 organisations awarded the charter are:

1st Planner Ltd – supplier of temporary staff in the field of construction consultancy

Balfour Beatty – firm carrying out work on Midland Metro extension and improvements to Golden Square in the Jewellery Quarter

Barclays Bank – provider of banking services to the city council

Capita – firm specialising in business process management and outsourcing solutions

CDS – provider of the council’s print management services

Core Assets – provider of Children in Care services

Educational Interiors – provider of educational furniture to schools, academies and colleges

Liberata UK Ltd – online advertising experts, managing advertising space on the city council’s website

Lloyds Bank – one of the nation’s main “High Street” banks

PwC – multinational professional service network, which offers financial consultancy to other businesses

Warrior Doors– producers of doors for commercial and large residential buildings

Wesleyan Assurance Society– a mutual organisation that has developed a highly successful business model providing tailored financial advice and products to select professional groups, notably GPs, hospital doctors, dentists, teachers and lawyers.


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