To tackle Australia’s economic and social challenges, new approaches to doing business and social change are required. Social enterprise offers a new approach. Social enterprise brings together the best of business and community development. Social enterprises operate for more than profit alone; they exist to break the cycle of disadvantage by creating innovative solutions to social, cultural, economic and environmental issues.

Social enterprise can be found in every industry of the Australian economy, in small communities and large institutions and their efforts are helping to solve a wide variety of social problems. Social enterprise as an idea is on the cusp of emerging from being a niche to becoming a mainstream business model for social change in Australia. Victoria is the leading social enterprise state in Australia.

Australia's Social Enterprise Sector

Already, there are 20,000 social enterprises operating in Australia. The number of enterprises is estimated to have grown at a rate of 37% over the past five years. In 2006, commercial (social enterprise) activity represented over 39% of revenue in the not-for-profit sector. While progress has been made at the mirco-level to support social enterprise development by a range of intermediary organisations, corporates and philanthropic foundations, there has been only fragmented and ad-hoc progress at the macro policy level.

To accelerate their growth, social enterprises in Australia need to have a voice  and be more easily identified, have access to market opportunities, support services and appropriate capital so they can grow to their full capacity and achieve scale appropriate to their businesses and missions. The latest social enterprise census has highlighted gaps in the eco-system related to skills, governance, markets, capital and awareness. Bridging these gaps has the potential to significantly increase the scale and contribution of social enterprise to create a more inclusive society where business is used for good and wealth is shared more fairly.

Social enterprises are also seeking more coordinated advocacy and clearer messages to both governments and the public in relation to the benefits and needs of social enterprise. Governments at all levels are engaging in an ad-hoc way with social enterprise, social procurement and social impact investing with many different approaches and priorities emerging, but interest is increasing. It is clear that if social enterprise is to become part of the mainstream, then social enterprise leadership is required to inform and influence the creation of a more coordinated macro policy agenda at all levels of government.

Given this context, Social Traders believes that there is an opportunity to build on the current momentum and increasing interest in social enterprise and social procurement from government, business, philanthropic and the community sectors. As the leading social enterprise development organisation in Australia, Social Traders’ vision and strategy for social enterprise are designed to build on the progress achieved over the last seven years and capitalise on this momentum to help launch social enterprise into the mainstream by 2025.

Social Traders’ 2025 vision for social enterprise

By 2025 social enterprise will contribute significantly to the Australian economy comprising 3% to 4% of GDP and employing over 500,000 Australians.

Business and government will procure responsibly from sustainable social enterprises and Australian consumers will have the ability to make social enterprise purchases via a national social enterprise certification system.

Australian social enterprise will identify as a new industry sector, speak with a coordinated voice and be recognised for its collective contribution to creating a fairer society and economy.

Championed by Government, a social enterprise strategy will provide a strong enabling environment. This will ensure that gaining access to business skills, appropriate capital and markets is readily available for social enterprise to start or grow.

The number of social enterprises will increase from 20,000 to 30,000, and the economic growth generated by social enterprise will provide a sustained increase in the workforce participation rate.

Rapidly accelerate the importance of social enterprise and social procurement in Australia to government and other partners by demonstrating the potential of social enterprise to create jobs for marginalized groups, increase access to services and strengthen local communities and economies.

Strategic Objectives to 2020

Our three objectives focus on creating a more enabling eco-system where social enterprise can start, grow and generate more impact.

  • Grow the visibility, voice and value of social enterprise
  • Build a pipeline of innovative and viable social enterprises
  • Open new government and corporate markets to social enterprises
Key Outcomes and Impact by 2020
  • Social enterprise recognised as a viable sector by government, business and the community sectors
  • Social enterprise and social procurement is embedded in Government policies and strategies
  • Social enterprise census valuing the sector including scale, jobs, contribution to GDP and diversity
  • Social enterprises identifying as part of their sector
  • Social Traders is the national voice and advocate for social enterprise