Major government-funded rail projects present a golden opportunity for social enterprises.

Major government-funded rail projects present a golden opportunity for social enterprises.

Social Traders is calling on businesses tendering for major infrastructure contracts to help disadvantaged Australians by adopting social procurement policies, after Infrastructure Australia released a $55 billion blueprint for ‘nation-building’ investments to meet Australia’s rapid population growth.

The Infrastructure Priority List [PDF] identifies six high priority projects, six priority projects and 84 initiatives to be built across Australia over the next 15 years. The proposed works include the M80 Ring Road upgrade in Melbourne, Western Sydney Airport and the Brisbane Metro.

With billions of dollars worth of government-funded construction projects in the pipeline, Social Traders’ executive director Mark Daniels has called on contractors and civil engineering firms to create job opportunities for disadvantaged by adding social enterprises to their supply chain.

“The Infrastructure Priority List represents an unprecedented opportunity for the social enterprise sector. It’s [also] a massive opportunity for the commercial sector to give back to the community, without having to make a radical change to the way they do things,” Daniels said.

Social procurement plans that include social enterprises in supply chains are already in place at a number of leading civil engineering and construction firms, including John Holland, Boral and Mirvac.

In late 2016, Mirvac partnered with Mates on the Move, a B2B commercial moving service social enterprise of Prisoners Aid Association of NSW, to collect used coffee cups, paper towels and bin liners and deliver them to a waste recycling facility.

“Buying from social enterprise represents the greatest untapped potential in generating positive, sustainable social impact and change. We estimate that for every $100,000 dollars spent on social procurement, 1.5 jobs are created for those suffering or at risk of disadvantage,” Daniels said.

“These infrastructure projects can potentially have a huge impact on unemployment. We need to help corporate Australia understand what a major impact they could be having – for both themselves as much as disadvantaged Australians.”

A potential model for future major infrastructure projects is the Victorian Government’s Social Enterprise Strategy, which requires 3% of all contracts by the state’s Level Crossing Removal Authority to be sourced from social enterprises.

“The Victorian Government is leading the way in driving awareness of social procurement as a critical step to tackling disadvantage, and the corporate sector needs to follow its lead,” Daniels said.

“They also need to understand there is a groundswell of conscientious consumers out there looking to spend their money with businesses that participate in social trading, which is where the commercial opportunities and benefits for them lie.”

The call comes after Social Traders tightened its focus down to social procurement as part of a new operating model it implemented late last year.

Under the new model, Social Traders identifies social enterprise supply chain opportunities, links social enterprises to buyers, supports buyers to implement and social enterprises to deliver on the contracts and help them report on the impact of social procurement.