Allan Miller photo quote

With an ever-changing retail market, the need for differentiation - both on and off shelf - has never been more important.

With over 50 years in the business, we understand it’s imperative to refine and adapt our customer offer to meet the needs and preferences of our shoppers. Through continual data crunching, we know our shoppers are becoming more conscious of their purchasing habits, with almost half (48%) telling us they would rather spend their hard earned income on products that make a difference.

In 2014, just after the carrier bag charge was introduced in Scotland and Wales, we formed a partnership with Social Investment Scotland with the joint aim of helping social enterprises, which reinvest profit into tackling social or environmental problems, grow. Two years on and not only are we the only retailer in the UK to support such an initiative, but we have invested over £1.1m in social enterprises across Scotland and Wales.

However, while financial investment is critical, our support is much broader. As a retail business, we understand our experience can prove invaluable - whether we’re acting as a sounding board, a commercial partner, or simply sharing knowledge. So, in June 2016, we launched the first Social Enterprise Supplier Development Academy. Over four days, the event provided workshops, advice and mentoring to over 15 businesses with a social purpose - all helping them to achieve their goals of growing their businesses, regardless of whether that goal involves a listing with a large retailer like Asda.

Following the success of our inaugural event, we’re thrilled to be welcoming the first graduate of the Social Enterprise Supplier Development Academy into our stores.

Available in 229 stores across the UK, Brewgooder’s Clean Water Lager is a new craft beer that offers customers a drinking experience with a cleaner conscience. The profits from each purchase are donated to clean water charities with the aim of providing one million people in the developing world with access to clean water.

On an average weekend alone we sell approximately 2.7 million litres of beer, so if just 1% of our sales were of Brewgooder’s Clean Water Lager, that’s 1,000 people who are able to drink water that is clean and safe.

We have seen a significant amount of customer interest and demand for products that not only profit, but also make a positive difference to the world.

By investing financially and sharing expertise with social entrepreneurs, we believe we can create a virtuous loop that allows us to meet our customers’ needs while helping social enterprises not just grow in scale but also grow in terms of their social impact.

However, we are just one business of many with the potential to encourage the growth of the social enterprise market.

The call to the retail industry is now louder than ever. We must do more in this space to support suppliers that place social good at the heart of their business and fulfil the changing needs of customers.

Allan Miller is senior director for Asda Scotland