Philanthropy is catalysing phenomenal growth in the social enterprise sector

Tara Anderson, CEO, Social Traders Fri, 10 Nov 2023

The social enterprise format – blending mission and money – is the business model of the future, says Social Traders CEO Tara Anderson. Social Traders is a leading intermediary connecting social enterprises with business and government to grow the social procurement sector and offers Australia’s only social enterprise certification. To celebrate Social Enterprise Day on 16 November, Tara outlines how Australia is experiencing the fastest and largest social enterprise procurement growth anywhere in the world – and philanthropy is fuelling the momentum. 

Social Enterprise Day serves as a platform for promoting the remarkable work of social enterprises around the globe. It’s a day dedicated to raising awareness and fostering a deeper understanding of the sector’s transformative power. 

Recent estimates indicate that Australia is home to approximately 12,000 social enterprises, a testament to the growing influence and significance of this sector in our country. 

Social enterprise is business at its best. They are businesses like any other but exist to create social or environmental impact. At a time when traditional businesses are being challenged to create impact beyond just profit, social enterprises have been doing it for decades. 

You’ll find them in every corner of our economy. And yet, they are still a bit of a best kept secret. Social Enterprise Day serves as a reminder of the profound social, cultural and environmental impact social enterprises deliver. 

‘Philanthropy is fuelling social enterprise procurement growth,’ says Social Traders CEO Tara Anderson.

Philanthropy enables social enterprise sector growth in Australia 

Since 2020, philanthropic powerhouses – The Ian Potter Foundation, Gandel Foundation and Helen Macpherson Smith Trust – have backed Social Traders in driving certified social enterprises into the heart of everyday business.  

Social Traders’ Vision 2030 strategy is clear: catalyse $5.5 billion in business and government spend with certified social enterprises nationwide. We see that this will result in: 

  • 44,000 jobs for marginalised individuals  
  • 6 million training hours to support employment pathways 
  • $128 million in services/funds for disadvantaged people.  

Social enterprise procurement is catching on. In the last five years, Social Traders business and government members spent $607 million with certified social enterprises. And that number is growing at an average of 55% year on year. That’s the fastest and largest social enterprise procurement growth anywhere in the world! 

But it’s only the beginning. 

We are on a trajectory to achieving our ambitious Vision 2030. The sector’s recent inclusion in the 2023 Federal budget, coupled with the endorsement it received in the Working Future White Paper and the Local Jobs Program, provides us with added momentum and confidence as we work towards realising our vision. 

As we mark Social Enterprise Day, we acknowledge the crucial partnership of philanthropists, and the growth it has created in the social enterprise sector. 

The road ahead is promising, and with unwavering support, we are well on our way to creating a more inclusive, equitable and prosperous Australia. 

Nundah Community Enterprises Co-operative creates sustainable employment and training opportunities for people with cognitive and/or psycho-social disabilities. It is a certified social enterprise and award winner of the 2020 Social Traders Best (Large) Social Enterprise.

Messages of support from philanthropy 

Debra Morgan, CEO, Helen Macpherson Smith Trust 

“Victoria is a leading example of how social enterprise procurement can support the growth of the sector. We are proud to have provided catalytic funding to build the capacity, sustainability and impact of Victorian social enterprises by scaling social enterprise procurement.”  

Paul Conroy, CEO, The Ian Potter Foundation 

“The Ian Potter Foundation has supported the social enterprise sector for more than a decade, funding dozens of social enterprises. This sector focuses on providing the career start that the most vulnerable in our community need.  

“The work of Social Traders, which supports the growth of social procurement – incentivising corporates and government departments to buy services and goods from social enterprises – will ultimately strengthen the whole sector and the wider community.”  

Vedran Drakulic OAM, CEO, Gandel Foundation 

“We see this partnership with Social Traders as having a multiplier effect, where Gandel Foundation’s support will enable Social Traders to strengthen the social enterprise sector as a whole and hopefully open up new streams of funding to address Australia’s pressing social issues. We encourage other backers of the social enterprise sector to consider carefully how the outcomes of Vision 2030 are aligned with their own strategies for social impact.  

“With more support, Social Traders will have a better chance of fostering and enhancing a strong social enterprise and social procurement ecosystem, which will in turn offer new and different solutions to effect systemic change.”