A new landscaping company says its business model can be an example for contractors looking to put something back into the community.
Jericho Landscape, a social enterprise, runs along commercial lines, but was set up to help provide training, work experience and employment opportunities for people who find it difficult to get into work.
And the housing association that helped set it up says if the experiment is a success, it will be rolling out more social enterprises for
Set up by the Jericho Foundation in partnership with the Trident Housing Association, the landscaping company is one of a growing number of social enterprises operating in the Birmingham area. The owners say its goal is social benefits rather than the generation of personal wealth.
The Jericho Foundation is looking for ways to provide real work experience opportunities for disadvantaged individuals in a supportive environment. Managers at the charity set up the landscape firm after talking to the housing association about ways the disabled, the homeless and other vulnerable people could get involved in the workforce.
Jericho Landscape manager Pete Smallwood said: “We want to offer a variety of opportunities for work experience – some of which need no training and some of which involve the development of skills. We split the staff into teams to carry out the different tasks.”
He added: “I sometimes get the impression that the words ‘charity’ and ‘social enterprise’ are associated with low quality,” he says. “We will be striving for excellence in the same way as any commercial operation, whilst working to meet our social and environmental objectives.
“Otherwise we would not be providing a true service to our customers or for our volunteers and trainees.”
In addition to grounds maintenance, Jericho Landscape does hard and soft landscaping, tree surgery and land clearing services.
It currently has a team of five staff working with the trainees and casual labour is also brought in when needed.
The firm started trading just a few months ago, and has already secured contracts in the Birmingham and Solihull areas it serves. These include work for Trident Housing, Birmingham City Council, Groundwork UK, a number of community organisations as well as a domestic project. They are looking for further contracts as the company aims to grow and secure its long term viability.
The landscaping business is the latest Jericho firm to be launched as a social enterprise – not-for-profit companies run on commercial lines that put all their profit back into the company and operate with a social goal in mind.
It already has successful branches working in the construction, catering and cleaning industries.
Dominic Bradley, head of care and support at Trident, said: “We feel that this initiative fits in particularly well with the current policy objective for Housing Associations to become ‘Community Anchors’ offering more than just affordable housing.
“We have grounds that need to be maintained and are delighted to have found a means of doing so that can involve and benefit the tenants.
“We are actively seeking their support and approval, wherever Jericho Landscape is working, as well as offering them a range of opportunities, from volunteering to part time paid employment, with the organisation.”
He said that by setting up and working with Jericho Landscape, Trident was looking to meet five objectives: value for money; good quality work; tenant participation and satisfaction; employment and training opportunities; care for and improvements to the environment.
He added: “The employees have high support needs, so the success of the venture will be a particularly special achievement.
“But, if the model is successful – and we have high hopes that it will be - we will certainly be looking to use it with other contractors.”
The Trident Housing Association offers accommodation, care and support services for vulnerable people, including those with learning disabilities, people classed as vulnerable or who are homeless.