Job creation for those most disadvantaged represents the biggest opportunity for social change in Australia, writes Mark Hemetsberger, head of marketing at Social Traders, ahead of The Social Enterprise Conference.
According to a recent article in The Age, the jobless are forgotten. Senior writer Matt Wade observed that 730,000 Australians find themselves without work, with 94,000 of those on the unemployed list for two years or more, which is the highest in 18 years.
Procurement (the act of obtaining or buying goods and services) in Australia is valued at approximately $600 billion per annum, and the recent Australian federal government pledge to spend more than $70 billion on nation building infrastructure projects over the next five years, adds to this total considerably. The total figure balloons even further when taking into account state government infrastructure projects.
Social Traders research estimates that for every $100,000 spent by business and government buyers on social procurement (when organisations choose to purchase a social outcome when they buy goods or services from social enterprises, including Indigenous business and disability service organisations) up to 1.5 jobs are created for those suffering or at risk of disadvantage.
If 3 per cent of the planned federal and state government infrastructure spending was dedicated to social procurement, as many as 22,000 jobs for disadvantaged Australians could be created.
Put simply, building vital physical infrastructure represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform and reduce social inequality. To facilitate and enable this opportunity business and government buyers need to be able to readily identify social enterprises that are capable of professionally fulfilling contractual requirements.
One of the barriers to engaging social enterprise in business and government supply chains is the belief that they are unable to provide a competitive quality service.
Geared specifically to bridge the gap between buyer demand and social enterprise, The Social Enterprise Conference – hosted at the Abbotsford convent on August 15 – is the only national event bringing together business and government with social enterprises to provide a networking, knowledge sharing and community building opportunity.
Yarra View Nursery recently won a $500,000 contract with the Victorian Government Level Crossing Removal Authority, which directly created 10 new jobs for people with intellectual disability at the nursery. Speaker at this year’s conference and Yarra View Nursery general manager Scott Buckland provides insight into some of these barriers.
“The challenge for social enterprises is establishing commercial credibility with buyers,” Buckland said.
“Like any business tendering for commercial contracts we’re required to meet strict criteria – we certainly do that, and don’t expect any special treatment, but sometimes the battle can be to overcome stigmas or doubts about our ability to deliver, because we’re a social enterprise.
“That attitude is gradually changing, given the sector is still not that well understood.”
There is also a question of perception of what exactly a social enterprise is in the marketplace. To help build that level of credibility, Social Traders earlier this year introduced a new certification logomark for social enterprises. Social Traders certification is designed to provide social enterprises with brand credibility and enhance their prospects of winning commercial procurement contracts with business and government buyers.
This is a major step toward breaking down barriers and increasing visibility of social enterprise.
Speaker at this year’s conference, Alberto Furlan, senior program manager at The Ian Potter Foundation, suggested that opportunities for social enterprises increase as new markets emerge.
“As awareness of social enterprise increases and translates into demand from business and government buyers, there becomes a tangible opportunity for social enterprise to become mainstream and highly sustainable,” Furlan said.
Every market has buyers and suppliers. By making a small change to the way business and government buy goods and services the impact can be enormous. It’s a no brainer.