Reducing social exclusion

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Does your business reduce social exclusion?


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GOOD Answers

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OKAY Answers

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Social exclusion is a process as well as a state that can affect individuals, families and whole communities, leading to an inability or difficulty in engaging in society and its institutions. It is context dependent, multifaceted and consists of mutually reinforcing factors which affect people differently, going beyond just economic factors to include concerns such as self esteem, social networks, and access to resources. Therefore fostering social inclusion requires nuanced, sensitive and context specific responses.

Potential risk factors of exclusion include:
● Long-term health problems, or disability
● Mental health conditions
● Criminal record
● Substance misuse
● Educational status and skill level
● Homelessness, poor or unstable living conditions
● Caring responsibilities
● Age
● Poverty
● Care-leavers
● Lack of access to public and private services
● Chronic or long term unemployment
● Culture, ethnicity, traditions, religious belief
● Sexual orientation
● Indigenous communities
● Language
● Refugee and/or migrant status
● Social class
● Geographic region, e.g. rural or economically deprived
● Gender.

Social exclusion has a negative impact on individuals and society, as well as business. However, businesses can play an important role in mitigating social exclusion, and benefit from its reduction in many ways. For example:

● Access to more talent in the employment pool
● Identifying potential markets and customers
● Raising the profile and reputation of the company
● Building a more thriving community in which to conduct business
● Building employee and customer loyalty (amongst affected groups and more widely)
● Improved productivity through increased skills and motivation.
This can be achieved by both removing the barriers to social inclusion and focusing on prevention.

Business has a large impact through providing employment, which not only provides an income but can also improve social inclusion through conferring social identity, improving confidence, increasing skills and developing social ties and networks. Unemployment is viewed as one of the primary contributing factors to social exclusion, reinforcing other factors such as low quality housing, fuel poverty, and poor health.

Recruitment practices can remove some barriers, for through example specifically targeting excluded groups, such as ex-offenders or the homeless, especially those who maybe more difficult to reach, or are who face multiple exclusion factors. For example, Timpsons have are running programs with prisons to train inmates during their sentence and provide experience of working in their shops during day release. This has provided jobs and reduced reoffending rates. Additionally, recruitment criteria may be artificially excluding potential employees. For example, those from lower economic background/deprived or excluded background are less likely to get to top tier universities, or attend higher education at all, so recruitment efforts focused solely on these institutions for recruitment will exclude entire groups and reinforce exclusion. By providing training to new hires, businesses can remove some of the barriers to entering the workforce.

However, employment alone may not be the answer for every individual. In the UK, of those in poverty, 55% are in working families. It is important therefore for jobs to offer quality employment, continual skills development and working conditions that promote social exclusion and target working poverty. This can range from paying the living wage to providing childcare facilities to providing training opportunities across the organisation. Additionally, insecure or informal work, which is more prevalent in more frequently vulnerable groups such as women, young people and ethnic minorities, is less likely to reduce social exclusion, and, since it is more difficult to transfer to formal or permanent work, can deepen it.

Where a business locates its activities can also have a huge impact on individuals and communities, both positively and negatively. For instance, when moving into a new area, a business could hire trained staff from other businesses in the area, or could train low-skilled individuals, thereby boosting the local skilled talent pool. Similarly, when closing plants of branches, individuals can be supported to find new jobs in the area or to re-skill.

New construction or operations of any kind can have significant impacts on a community, such as large scale developments such as mining and commercial farming. This can be particularly acute in countries where there are issues around governance, regulation and human or minority rights or where there is ambiguity about customary property rights. Consulting local communities and leaders can help in reaching solutions that support those excluded and prevent further exclusion as a result of these projects.

A business can use its position to influence others in several ways. Harmful business practices include cancelling orders after production, undercutting local independent competitors, or negotiating with local councils to reduce the amount of social housing in new developments. On the other hand, businesses can commit to paying suppliers a fair price and compensating them for cancelled orders, or consider social exclusion in investment or procurement decisions. So by focusing on how they do business with other organisations, a business can influence whether it has a positive or negative impact on exclusion.

Charitable or philanthropic activities can also support social inclusion and can take many forms. A business can support local charities, organisations and communities through:

● Donating time, resources, expertise or money
● Work experience opportunities for school children or potentially excluded groups, e.g. recent migrants
● Training or educational opportunities, such as digital literacy workshops, scholarships for higher education
● Financial resources, such as grants for local businesses and start-ups
● Sponsoring sports teams, day trips for clubs etc.

More broadly, the products and services businesses provide can have a wider impact. For example, accessibility can be built in to products. Developers can build houses that can be adapted to changing needs, such as age or disability, and transport providers ensuring rural areas or adequately served to allow residents to access services easily. Alternatively, a business can perpetuate deprivation and exclusion. For example, companies like rent-to-own specialist BrightHouse has come under fire for selling household goods to socially excluded customers which have ended up costing three times more than a regular purchase once interest is factored in. These repayment arrangements predominantly target low income customers who do not have the option to shop around for a better deal. Companies in these markets frequently respond to accusations that they exploit vulnerable people by claiming that they are serving market segments which other businesses ignore.

In developed countries making sure goods and services are accessible to lower income groups can also be an issue. In the UK and USA the issue of “food deserts” highlights that supermarkets often avoided low income areas making it harder for local people to access affordable, healthy food. This is an example of the “poverty premium”, where people in poverty pay more for equivalent goods and services than those with higher incomes. For example those on low incomes often lack access to ‘enabling goods’, such as access to the internet which enables them to shop around and find the lowest price. Similarly, they simply end up paying more because they lack the money to buy products outright and instead rely on hire purchase type consumption with monthly repayment plans which, in the long term, make purchases many times more expensive than the recommended retail price.

With technological advances comes the opportunity for digital technology to reduce inequalities and tackle exclusion. However, digitisation is not an automatic solution, and could increase inequalities if not implemented with consideration to customer needs. If a service is only provided online, those who are not digitally literate will not be able to access this service. This can be addressed through increasing digital literacy, or ensuring services can be accessed in more than one way.

It is up to each business, depending on its particular operations and resources, to identify the best way of promoting social inclusion.

Adverse incorporation

When individuals are socially included yet still disadvantaged. For example, many impoverished and exploited people are in fact employed, but on adverse terms.


A 'community' in this context refers to a geographically restricted area in which the company also has operations. There is no defined radius for a community: it could be a town, a section of a city or neighbouring villages and towns. For example, a rural region may consider a wide geographic area to be a community. Another community might be identified by shared culture or ethnicity.

Digital divide

A 'digital divide' is the inequality with regard to access to, use of, or impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) between individuals, households, businesses, or geographic areas. The gap can also be global, between developing and developed countries.


'Discrimination' is defined by the United Nations as any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life. Although not all forms of social exclusion derive from discrimination, all forms of discrimination lead to exclusionary behaviour.

Food desert

A 'food desert' is an area with limited access to affordable and nutritious food, especially one with low-income and minority residents, characterised by a lack of supermarkets which decreases residents’ access to fruits, vegetables and other whole foods.

Fuel poverty

Where a household cannot be adequately heat their home at a reasonable cost. It can be caused by a mixture of high energy prices, low incomes, and energy-inefficient homes.

Poverty premium

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation defines the 'poverty premium' as 'a situation in which people in poverty pay more for equivalent goods and services than those with higher incomes. For example, people on a low income may be required by a supplier to pay for energy through more expensive prepayment meters, or find themselves paying more because they lack banking facilities for direct debit payments, or pay higher fixed costs because of low consumption.' However, this situation is often multidimensional, and does not affect all those in poverty, or only those in poverty.

Social Exclusion

'Social exclusion' relates to the alienation or disenfranchisement of people from mainstream society . It involves the lack or denial of resources, rights, goods and services, and the inability to participate in the normal relationships and activities, available to the majority of people in a society. Social exclusion is a complex and multi-dimensional process that could be a result of a number of factors and can have an adverse impact on his or her access to life opportunities.

Social Inclusion

'Social inclusion' is a process and a goal. It includes the positive actions taken to provide people with access to those cultural, social, economic, educational, recreational and health services and opportunities that most citizens may take for granted. It can also refer to actions promoting wider participation; for instance, steps taken to include all sectors of society in planning and other decision-making through community consultation exercises.

Working poverty

'Working poverty' happens when the income from employment is not enough to meet the costs of a decent standard of living.

Answering YES

All Businesses MUST

Detail any policies and practices related to preventing social exclusion in the workplace

Describe any activities to promote social inclusion beyond the workplace

Explain if and how these policies are monitored and objectives measured

Describe if and how they influence others to support or increase social inclusion

State any philosophy or key values which govern or influence their approach to social inclusion across the workforce

All Businesses MAY

Explain how staff are engaged in social inclusion policies and procedures

Describe how promoting social inclusion is addressed through corporate culture

Detail what data is collected on social inclusion within and outside the workforce, and how it is used

Detail any trends they may have identified during monitoring

Provide examples of specific policies that protect against direct or indirect social exclusion

Provide any other relevant information

Large and Multinational Corporations (MNCs) MUST

Explain how their approach to this issue differs from one country to another

Justify these differences, if any

Answering NO

All Businesses MUST

Explain why they do not or cannot answer YES to this question and list the business reasons, any mitigating circumstance or any other reasons that apply

All Businesses MAY

List any practices that are relevant, but not sufficient to answer YES

Provide any other relevant information

DON'T KNOW is not a permissible answer to this question

NOT APPLICABLE is not a permissible answer to this question

Version 1

To receive a score of 'Excellent'

Promoting social inclusion is fundamental to business. The issue is treated holistically with policies and practices seeking to prevent and alleviate multidimensional exclusion

Examples of policies and practices which may support an EXCELLENT statement (not all must be observed, enough should be evidenced to give comfort that the statement is the best of the four for the business being scored):

  1. Statement of philosophy or values on increasing social inclusion as an integral part of business practices
  2. Actively encourages applications from commonly excluded groups, e.g. ex-offenders, long-term unemployed, homeless shelters
  3. Uses hiring criteria that do not disadvantage excluded individuals or groups, e.g failing to consider applicants with long career breaks
  4. Provides relevant training to new hires
  5. Runs training schemes specifically for excluded groups or individuals, e.g. vocational training for early school leavers, apprenticeships, with employment opportunities on completion
  6. Partners with local institutions or organisations that run training schemes
  7. Provides training to all staff on skills that support their long term career development and increases local talent pool
  8. Actively encourages continual personal and professional development to employees and provides support to take up training
  9. Considers changing economic and technological landscape and provides support for employees to retrain if necessary
  10. Provides opportunities and pathways for progression, from entry level positions into management, or higher paid roles
  11. Works with education institutions to promote development of relevant skills for the labour market
  12. Helps employees achieve their out-of-work pursuits, such as providing education loans
  13. Provide grants/funding to enable local students to pursue higher education
  14. Actively engaged in promoting workplace diversity and inclusion
  15. Pays living wage or higher to all staff
  16. Working benefits are extended to all employees, regardless of contract type
  17. Employee benefits support continued employment, e.g. childcare, season ticket loans, savings plans
  18. Working policies promote good work-life balance and wellbeing
  19. Encourages staff to discuss any concerns that might affect their work with the business.e.g. family bereavement, financial concerns, anxiety, and business works with employee to reach solutions to such problems
  20. Avoids redundancies where possible, or provides support for those affected when unavoidable
  21. Engages in outreach programs within and/or outside the organisation to support excluded groups or those at risk of exclusion
  22. Runs mentoring schemes within the organisation and/or in partnership with the community
  23. Training given to staff on promoting social inclusion within the organisation and in the wider community
  24. Staff are encouraged to volunteer on relevant issues
  25. Business practices are designed to allow for flexibility to avoid arbitrary decisions or arrangements that could lead to exclusion, for both employees and customers
  26. Policies and practices are measured and regularly reported on to ensure effectiveness and relevance including through input of employees and management
  27. Facilitates social interaction among staff and local communities
  28. Accessibility is built in to products and services, e.g low cost options available, facilities available for customers with disabilities
  29. Support available for vulnerable customers in communicating with business, e.g. explanation of complaints procedures, non-digital communication available for those with no internet access, multiple languages and formats available
  30. Business develops partnerships with organisations to reduce social exclusion, e.g. charities, Local Authorities, other businesses
  31. Business consults stakeholders including local communities about the impact of its activities
  32. Influences supply chain to support social inclusion, e.g joint training schemes
  33. Impact on social inclusion is considered in the company’s procurement process
  34. Supports external projects to increase social inclusion, e.g. sponsoring local sports team, grants to support start-up businesses, scholarships
  35. Used as an exemplar by other companies and makes efforts to promote best practice
  36. Takes a bespoke and holistic approach to efforts to reduce social exclusion that are context dependent and understand the multidimensional nature of social exclusion
  37. Supports influencing or lobbying activities to improve policies or industry practice
  38. Consults and acts on local community and local government input when choosing and developing new sites
To receive a score of 'Good'

Business demonstrates a commitment to reducing social exclusion with clear practices and policies in place to address multiple factors

Examples of policies and practices which may support a GOOD statement (not all must be observed, enough should be evidenced to give comfort that the statement is the best of the four for the business being scored):

  1. Supporting social inclusion is part of CSR strategy or similar commitment
  2. Hiring practices seek to reduce barriers to employment for excluded groups and individuals
  3. Provides opportunities for training for individuals or groups that are commonly excluded from labour market or their industry, e.g. apprenticeships, work experience
  4. Has effective diversity and inclusion policies in place
  5. Training is promoted to staff to support career development
  6. Practices are regularly monitored and improved
  7. Employees on different contracts have the same access to working benefits
  8. Working practices support individual needs and situations of employees e.g. caring responsibilities, financial difficulties
  9. Facilitates employees achieving their out-of-work pursuits, such as additional time off for volunteering or training
  10. Creates activities and systems designed to foster social networks within the business and the community
  11. Supporting social inclusion is considered in product and service design and implementation
  12. Support is available to vulnerable individuals when interacting with the business or its services
  13. Works with other organisations to promote social inclusion, including along the supply chain
  14. Supports charitable activities to promote social inclusion, e.g. donations, staff volunteering
  15. Engages with stakeholders to assess success of inclusion efforts and adjust them if necessary
  16. Recognises that social exclusion is multidimensional, but focuses activities on a few targeted factors
  17. Business activities are targeted at either preventing social exclusion or solving existing exclusion
  18. Aims to mitigate any unavoidable negative impacts, e.g. retraining for staff made redundant through increased automation
  19. Supports influencing or lobbying activities to improve policies or industry practice
To receive a score of 'Okay'

Business supports efforts regarding social inclusion on an ad hoc basis OR can demonstrate issue is not material

Examples of policies and practices which may support an OKAY statement (not all must be observed, enough should be evidenced to give comfort that the statement is the best of the four for the business being scored):

  1. Considers aspects of diversity in the process of recruitment, training and management
  2. Complies with legal minimums relating to issues of social inclusion, diversity etc
  3. Introduces policies to target social exclusion but little measurement or monitoring in place
  4. Some effort to reduce barriers to employment for excluded groups or individuals
  5. Some training available, but may not be fully accessible to all, e.g. located in area difficult to access for rural communities, or outside working hours
  6. Some working policies and practices available to support differing needs or situations, e.g working from home
  7. Some outreach to marginalised communities or individuals, e.g. donations to charities, volunteering
  8. Policies and practices are ad hoc and do not fully address multidimensional nature of social exclusion
  9. Takes ad hoc steps to promote social inclusion within the business, market and community
  10. Some products and services available that reduce social exclusion, but this is not explicitly addressed, or consistent
  11. Some attempts to increase social inclusion among customer base, but attempts may be poorly thought through - e.g. moving all services online and removing other ways of engaging with business
  12. Commitment to reducing social exclusion among customers or communities where activities are located may appear to be lip service
  13. Statement of future intent to improve
To receive a score of 'Poor'

The business acknowledges performance is below expectations OR markets products and services which deepen or perpetuate social exclusion OR there is no evidence of consideration of the issue

Examples of policies and practices which may support a POOR statement (not all must be observed, enough should be evidenced to give comfort that the statement is the best of the four for the business being scored):

  1. Little or no action on social inclusion apparent across business
  2. Hiring practices fail to address social exclusion, whether deliberately or not
  3. When moving into new area business fails to contribute to local skills economy, e.g. the company seeks to ‘poach’ already trained staff from other businesses,
  4. Relies on employment contracts that fail to provide living wage or stable income for staff, e.g. exploiting ‘gig economy’, agency staff can’t access same benefits as full employees
  5. Multilocational companies parachute in skilled workers to new operations instead of investing in staff training
  6. Jobs fail to provide decent work or are detrimental to employee dignity or well-being
  7. If a company downsizes or relocates from an area where it is a significant employer, no support is made available for employees made redundant, or to local community
  8. No effort to measure or monitor effect on social exclusion
  9. Products and services actively contribute to social exclusion, e.g. high interest loans for those with poor credit history, high transaction or service charges, sudden increase in cost of service
  10. Products and services increase ‘poverty premium’ e.g. products more expensive when bought on credit instead of outright
  11. Aggressive marketing or price-wars that negatively impact other businesses, communities or industries
  12. Evidence of practices which intentionally exclude vulnerable communities from employment opportunities and/or provision of goods and services