CBI Director Generaltold a fringe meeting at the Tory Conference that big firms do not feel welcome when they try to engage with the Big Society but social entrepreneur Robert Ashton says their involvement is vital.
Addressing a fringe event in Manchester about the role of businesses in the Big Society John Cridland said: "It seems business is very welcome to the table as long as it is a small business, a social enterprise or a mutual.
"If you’re a large company, I’m not sure any political parties at the moment are saying you’re welcome."
Parliamentary social enterprise advisor Robert Ashton says that the CBI has it all wrong and the success of the Big Society is dependent on the involvement of large companies.
“Big business buying into the social enterprise model is the way forward for everyone,” said Mr Ashton, who is also a successful social entrepreneur.
“Businesses of all sizes actually add value to their products by introducing a social enterprise model to their trading. Look at the number of spring water retailers who are including donations to third world irrigation schemes as part of the sales campaigning. If the public have a choice they chose the product with added meaning,” he said.
Mr Ashton went on to say that he was currently working with EOS Energy - one of the UK’s fastest growing solar power installers - to add value to their services by donating 4% of the installation costs of photovoltaic arrays to the charities who have them installed on their buildings.
“EOS Energy install the panels for free and the not-for-profit organisations benefit from free electricity. The company pays for the funding of the installation with the government’s feed-in-tariff but they also make the 4% donation,” said Mr Ashton.
At the Tory Party fringe event Civil Society Minister Nick Hurd, who has consulted Robert Ashton, said that other large businesses were working within the Big Society plan.
"My message to businesses is to go and look at what some of the best businesses in the country are doing," he said.
Mr Hurd said that Sainsbury’s, Asda, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte were all working with communities, charities and not-for-profit organisations.
"Before you start saying, come on, aren’t you supposed to be a Conservative, I’ll say this is good for business. Let’s not think this is some woolly, foggy agenda," he said.