Case Studies News

The Retail Academy – Leveraging Collective Impact To Forge Routes To Market For Social Products

Social Investment Scotland, Asda, Rachael Brown and the Scottish Government leverage collective impact to forge routes to market for social products.

Can Do Collective speak with Lindsay Wake, Head of Impact, Social Investment Scotland (SIS) to find out more about why the collective impact approach was so important for the successful delivery of the Retail

The SIS Retail Academy is designed to provide the very best training, guidance and support for social
entrepreneurs. It aims to inspire, offer practical insight and knowledge and the opportunity to meet with retail and corporate buyers who will provide expert feedback and may wish to develop a future buyer-supplier relationship.


SIS Retail Academy, 30/05/2019:
Rachael Brown, SIS associate.
Photography for Social Investment Scotland from: Colin Hattersley Photography – – – 07974 957 388.

The project is based on the premise that there is demand from consumers for ethical and social products, however many of these products are not readily available to purchase from major stockists. The academy was built around Asda’s existing supplier development academy but has now been further developed to deliver something specifically for social enterprises.

Funded by the Scottish Government, and by Asda, and curated by SIS’s social entrepreneur in residence, Rachael Brown, The Retail Academy is a three-day event bringing together a carefully curated selection of volunteer experts with several social enterprise peers, supporting them to develop their business strategies and learn more about their routes to market.

The three-day programme is a platform for experts to share their knowledge around emerging market trends and personal business experiences. It also includes a trip to an Asda warehouse and store, as well as masterclass and peer dinners where extended support organisations are invited. It culminates in a pitching session to buyers, with the intention that some social enterprises then go on to secure placement on the shelves of major stockists.

Last year the academy worked with Edinburgh University (a SIS funder) and Historic Environment Scotland who attended as a buyer, offering an important new route to market as well as sharing their industry expertise. Several successful social enterprises including Brewgooder, Hey Girl, Shetland Soap Company, Scottish Design Exchange, and Locavore also attended, to share their own experiences.


With this type of programme, it is difficult to express the full outcomes and impact, which are future-focused and likely to be experienced over some time. However, there are strong indications that the programme will have deep and ongoing impacts on individuals and their organisations. In the next 12 months, SIS will conduct a detailed research piece to find out the longer-term impacts of each of the academies. It’s as much about understanding customers and routes to market, which may not actually be via retail, as it is about securing sales and shelf space.

Highlights from the 2019 Retail Academy include:

  • Encouraging responses from all buyers and procurement professionals who attended the academy and who continue to be supporters of the enterprises, through mentoring, advice, introductions and moving towards supplier relationships
  • 29 separate introductions between the social enterprises and buyer teams took place
  • 4 opportunities being actively developed between social enterprises and buyers
  • 3 social enterprises have also benefited from invitation-only training offers from specialist support organisations Zero Waste Scotland and Food and Drink Scotland
  • Feedback from delegates has been overwhelmingly positive with 100% of delegates recommending the Retail Academy for others.
SIS Retail Academy, 30/05/2019:
Alan Mahon, Brewgooder, in panel discussion.
Photography for Social Investment Scotland from: Colin Hattersley Photography – – – 07974 957 388.

Over the last three years, The Retail Academy has supported 46 social entrepreneurs including Brewgooder who attended the first event. Since then, they have gone on to be stocked in Asda, Tesco, The Co-Operative (90 branches) and Aldi (78 Scottish branches) with all donations from each sale going towards helping to deliver clean water projects. Since their establishment, Brewgooder has helped fund 60 projects for over 33k people in Malawi and continue to work towards their mission to sponsor clean water charities in developing countries and impact one million people.

With regards to the wider implications, the project bears on Scotland, The social enterprise sector generally supports principles of wellbeing and inclusive economies bringing important social benefits to Scotland, as well as supporting economic outputs such as creating and sustaining jobs. The latest projections reveal that social enterprises support over 88,000 jobs and generated close to £2.3 billion gross value to the country’s economy in 2019.

Lindsay Wake concludes,

“Without the Retail Academy, this journey for a social enterprise could take years and might not even happen but collectively bringing together that whole room of curated support is powerful. Propelling these social enterprises on their journey, with all of these different organisations around them, coming in at the right stages, keeps them on that track and able to get there. If each element was separate, the outcome wouldn’t be the same.”

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About Social Investment Scotland

SIS (Social Investment Scotland), is a social enterprise and charity. We offer loan funding and business support for other social enterprises, charities, and community groups looking to make a positive impact on people’s lives, society, or the environment. Our vision is for an Impact Economy; where social entrepreneurs, businesses, consumers, investors, and government are aligned and focused on delivering impactful actions and meaningful outcomes.

SIS was established in 2001 to provide a new finance model for Scotland’s charities and social enterprises. Since then it has invested over £80m across Scotland. Loan finance via Social Investment Scotland is available from £10,000 to £1.6M and is aimed at community enterprises and social businesses that might find access to finance from mainstream providers difficult. Social Investment Scotland also helps to manage funds on behalf of third parties with any profits being re-invested into social business development in Scotland. Social Investment Scotland currently manages the largest social enterprise fund in Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government.