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Why Social Traders wants you to get to know social enterprise

Sam McKeith

David Brookes is passionate about the ability of business to have a positive impact on society.

That’s why, for the fourth consecutive year, the Social Traders managing director is gearing up for the Social Enterprise Awards – a gala evening set to honour a select group of Australian firms committed to improving society.

Brookes says there are around 20,000 social enterprises operating across Australia but the sector still has a relatively low local profile compared to its standing in many other nations, especially in Europe.

But Brookes is confident that’s going to change, with this year’s awards a big step in the right direction.

“Social enterprise is relatively not well understood and recognised,” Brookes says.

“While the concept isn’t new, the term is quite new in Australia. But I think social enterprise is increasingly being recognised as a model to address a whole host of pressing social, cultural and environmental issues.

“We believe they’ve got greater roles to play and that social enterprise is not achieving its full potential in terms of economic and social impact in the Australian economy.”

Brookes said social enterprises have three core characteristics – they were led by a social mission, they derived most of their income through trading in goods or services, and most profit was redirected back into achieving social aims.

“The outlook is very positive for social enterprise, it’s part of a growing movement nationally and internationally.”

Some of the social enterprises making a mark around the nation included Sydney’s Fair Trade Coffee Company, Melbourne affordable housing supplier Urban Communities and the Yackandandah Community Development Company in rural Victoria.

“The awards is a way of raising recognition and awareness of what they’re doing, and by doing that hopefully over time we’ll generate greater interest from government, investors and consumers,” Brooks added.

The big night is slated to be held in late November and will recognise social enterprise excellence across 8 categories.

Among the major gongs to be awarded are Social Enterprise of the Year (small), Social Enterprise of the Year (large), One to Watch Award, Social Enterprise Innovation Award, and Social Enterprise Champion.

More about the 2016 event can be read here.

Brooks said he hopes this year’s awards will boost the profile of the sector, which is already assisting many Aussies in tough circumstances.

“It’s providing innovative employment and access to services for disadvantaged Australians,” he said.

“The outlook is very positive for social enterprise, it’s part of a growing movement nationally and internationally.”

“But we also have some major challenges … we’ve got to continually raise awareness, we’ve got the challenge of having it recognised by both the public and private sector, and we want private companies to integrate social enterprise into their supply chains.”

Sam McKeith

Sam McKeith is Sydney-based media professional. He has contributed to many leading publications including The Huffington Post, The Australian Financial Review, The Australian and BRW Magazine. He was previously a senior reporter at the Australian Associated Press where he covered national affairs. 

Image: CoDesign Studio Facebook page 

If you’re interested in social enterprise, you can check out what others are doing here; from drinking water retailers to art cafés, they’re springing up all over. Or, if you simply want to incorporate some social responsibility into your business, read up on some great initiatives through