Predictions for 2019: Social Enterprise
31 January 2019 at 8:38 am
David Brookes, managing director of Social Traders, looks at what’s in store for social enterprise this year, as part of a series of 2019 predictions from leading experts across the social sector.
Last year, I predicted that social enterprise would continue its journey toward becoming part of the mainstream economy. Pleasingly, 2018 saw some significant progress in terms of recognition of social enterprise in Australia, particularly from a government policy perspective.
I’m confident that positive progress will continue in 2019. However, more needs to be done to realise the full potential of what social enterprise can contribute to both our economy and the communities in which we live.
Here are my predictions for the year ahead.
1. Easier identification of social enterprise
For as long as I can recall, there has always been debate about social enterprise definition – that is, exactly what is and what is not “social enterprise”.
In the absence of a legal definition or structure for social enterprise in Australia, the FASES Research Project by Social Traders and QUT in 2010 has provided a definition based on clear criteria in relation to organisational mission, trading revenue and profit reinvestment. This approach aligns closely with international standards and has been broadly accepted locally by governments, funders and most importantly practitioners.
A national certification program for social enterprises in Australia was launched by Social Traders in early 2017 to enable easier identification and improved access to social procurement opportunities. The ST Certified mark provides business-to-business buyers, consumers, funders and investors with increased confidence that suppliers have met our social enterprise definition.
At the same time, an ST Certified mark also provides suppliers with the market advantage that comes with Social Traders validation. To date, over 250 businesses have obtained ST certification around Australia.
What has always remained critical to Social Traders in defining social enterprise is the primacy of social purpose over other motivations. As such, in recent months, we have revisited our certification framework to ensure that standard is maintained, and to cater for the diversity of social enterprise models. This means that we will soon upgrade our certification process to better link indicators of impact to inform an organisation’s social enterprise status.
In introducing this enhanced process, we have drawn on expert independent financial and legal advice, consulted with social enterprises, reviewed other processes in Europe and North America and leveraged a decade of knowledge built through Social Traders work with social enterprises.
I’m confident that we are implementing one of the most rigorous, but at the same time inclusive, social enterprise certification frameworks around the world. I predict identification of social enterprise will be significantly easier and more transparent as we aim to increase the number of ST certified enterprises around Australia over the next 12 months, enhancing social procurement opportunities with government and business buyers.
2. Further progress on the policy front
Victoria continues to lead the nation in providing a conducive policy environment for the development and growth of social enterprise. The Victorian government’s Social Procurement Framework launched in September 2018 will provide expanded market opportunities for social enterprise with the government’s 270 departments and agencies. Significantly, the government reaffirmed its support for social enterprise and social procurement as part of its policy platform in the lead-up to the recent state election.
Queensland will be the next “cab off the rank”. A new state-wide social enterprise strategy is likely to emerge in 2019 that will provide a range of measures and new funding to support social enterprise development in the Sunshine State. The Queensland government recognises the positive contribution social enterprise plays in providing local jobs for those isolated from employment in the mainstream labour market. Social Traders recently announced an exciting collaboration with the Queensland Social Enterprise Council (QSEC) to jointly advance social enterprise and social procurement in Queensland.
I am confident that the positive developments in Victoria and Queensland might be the harbinger for some progressive social enterprise and social procurement policies in NSW and nationally, in the lead-up to the upcoming state and federal elections in the first half of 2019.
Reflecting the commitment to date, Social Traders currently has 40 buyer members, from 21 last year, with a strong pipeline of businesses and governments looking for us to support them in integrating social enterprise into their supply chain.
3. Growing contribution to global SDG’s
The drivers and motivation of social enterprise are closely aligned with the objectives of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), which sets a global agenda for sustainable development to 2030. Social enterprise and social procurement are recognised as tangible ways to support inclusive economic growth policies of governments around the world.
Companies are moving towards more sustainable business practices and many are using the SDG’s as a framework for evaluating their performance and planning for the future.
The Australian SDG website, developed by the Global Compact Network of Australia (GCNA), showcases action being taken to advance the SDG’s in the Australian context.
Australia Post, one of Social Traders active buyer members, highlights how it is leveraging its procurement spend to create jobs and opportunities in support of SDG 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth and SDG 10 Reduced Inequality.
The social enterprise sector is raising attention to this global sustainability agenda. At the most recent Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) in Edinburgh, one of the conference sessions was dedicated to how social enterprise is addressing the SDG’s through international engagement.
While not necessarily measuring themselves against the goals per se, all social enterprises will be positively contributing towards at least one, but in most cases, multiple SDG’s.
Of the 17 SDG’s, ST Certified enterprises from my perspective will be aligned to one or more of nine of them – Decent Work and Economic Growth (Goal 8), Reduced Inequality (Goal 9), Sustainable Production and Consumption (Goal 12), Affordable and Clean Energy (Goal 6), Climate Action (Goal 3), Good Health and Wellbeing (Goal 3), Gender Equality (Goal 6) and Clean Water and Sanitation (Goal 6).
I predict the SDG’s will provide a growing opportunity to channel more investment into businesses that deliver on them. Such businesses include social enterprise; and buying from social enterprises is one of the strongest contributions that the private sector and governments can make to achieve the SDG’s by 2030.
About the author: David Brookes is managing director of Social Traders and an executive director on Social Traders’ board. He has responsibility for executing the organisation strategy, staff recruitment and external stakeholder engagement. Previously, Brookes held senior executive roles with Amcor, Toyota and Rio Tinto across government, media and community relations portfolios.
Social Traders is Australia’s leading social enterprise development organisation that connects certified enterprises to business and government buyers.