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Service Links Social Enterprises to Corps & Govts

2 December 2015 at 10:02 am
Ellie Cooper
Australia’s first service dedicated to linking social enterprises with corporate and government contracts has launched.

Ellie Cooper | 2 December 2015 at 10:02 am


Service Links Social Enterprises to Corps & Govts
2 December 2015 at 10:02 am

Australia’s first service dedicated to linking social enterprises with corporate and government contracts has launched.

The Connect program is run by Social Traders with support from some of the country's leading  corporations, with the expectation of securing more than 50 commercial and government members and over $100 million in social enterprise contracts by 2020.

Social Trader’s Head of Market and Sector Development, Mark Daniels, told Pro Bono Australia News that Connect would fill an identified gap in the market.

“They both actually want to work together – social enterprises want to sell to corporates and governments, and corporates and governments actually want to buy from social enterprises, but they really haven’t had an enabler that has made it easy for that to occur, that’s what we’re creating with Connect,” Daniels said.

“And I guess on a higher level, it really is about unlocking all of this billions and billions of dollars of procurement money to deliver social impact.

“So it’s about creating an enabler for social change to occur using money that traditionally wasn’t used to deliver social impact.”  

Social Traders Managing Director, David Brookes, said that, although it's often viewed as a niche area, social enterprise contributes almost 3 per cent to Australia’s GDP and had the potential to achieve greater impact.

“By opening up new contract opportunities for social enterprise, this new service will enable more jobs for disadvantaged Australians,” Brookes said.

“By encouraging the market to purchase from social enterprise we are unlocking the greatest untapped opportunity for positive social impact in Australia.”

Connect was developed following a 2013 survey of 31 Australian businesses with a collective market capital of $221 billion. The research found that over $905 million was being directed to social procurement through 11 businesses, with another 18 businesses soon to commence.

However, the research also found that an intermediary body linking social enterprises with buyers was needed to scale the growth of social procurement.   

Daniels said that small to medium enterprises missed out on significant contracts from large organisations because they previously couldn’t “compete on a level playing field”.  

Connect was established with foundation members that include Australia Post, Westpac, Lendlease, Mirvac, GPT, PwC and NAB, as well as the Victorian State Government and the Municipal Association of Victoria.

“Strengthening Australian communities by buying from social enterprise is a tremendous opportunity for all organisations to make a difference. Australia Post is passionate about playing a leadership role in Connect”, Australia Post Group Executive of Business Services, Laz Cotsios, said.

Daniels said buyers could purchase membership and in return Connect would work with them to identify areas for engagement with social enterprises.

“Sometimes they want a straight up procurement relationship where they give us tenders and opportunities and we go out and find social enterprises who can deliver on those and provide us with information on the capability of those social enterprises,” he said.

“And sometimes it’s quite tailored in a sense, so they can actually tell us what they want. It might not be pure procurement, so they might want to replicate a relationship that they have, which is what Lendlease is doing.

“They have a relationship with a social enterprise in WA, which is Sprout, and they want to take that relationship to other states and find organisations that are interested in replicating the Sprout model.

“With Mirvac we’ve been looking at how we can get social enterprises into commercial tenancies. With Westpac we’re talking to them about incubating social enterprises.

“And then.. we run events and we bring together buyers and suppliers so they can meet each other and understand the capabilities of social enterprises.”

Read more Pro Bono Australia News features about the Sprout and Lendlease partnership, and Mirvac’s sustainability goals.

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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