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SA social enterprises offer unique job creation role in COVID-19 recovery

June 4, 2020

Last updated on June 4, 2020

With South Australian unemployment spiking at 7.2% in the wake of COVID-19, a new business initiative designed to create jobs and support for some of the state’s most vulnerable has launched in Adelaide this week.

The Social Traders Marketplace has created more than 700 new jobs in disadvantaged communities over the past two years in Melbourne and Sydney, with Adelaide set to become a crucial new target area.

The Marketplace works by helping social enterprises – businesses that blend profit with a social purpose – unlock business opportunities with private sector and Government bodies.

Social enterprises have a unique capacity to create jobs and support for some of the most vulnerable and doing business with them is the best way to tackle rising unemployment, according to Social Traders Managing Director David Brookes.

“South Australia is home to several hundred social enterprises, many of which hold the key to tackling disadvantage, particularly in the COVID-19 recovery phase,” Mr Brookes said.

“They can make a massive impact when buyers with major buying power do business with them. It’s one of the most effective ways large businesses can contribute to their communities.

“Buying from social enterprise is a double-value spend – businesses buy goods or services they need, and they’re also buying priceless social impact at the same time.

“It not a donation, it isn’t goodwill and it’s not charity – these are legitimate and competitive commercial transactions.

“We know it works – the Social Traders Marketplace has helped social enterprises create more than 700 jobs through $105 million worth of trade with private sector and Government buyers across Australia, in the past 18 months.”

Mr Brookes said that already in 2020 Adelaide University and Adelaide Council have enquired about the services available through South Australian social enterprises, along with large private sector operators such as John Holland, CPB, Lendlease and Laing O’Rourke.

“The South Australian social enterprise sector is growing rapidly, and it’s making a significant contribution to the state’s economy by creating employment pathways for some of the state’s most disadvantaged,” Mr Brookes said.

“Support for the social enterprise sector is needed now more than ever as we recover from COVID-19, given the sector’s unique capacity to provide opportunities for the most vulnerable. There is even greater risk for disadvantaged people now as thousands of people join the employment queues.

“There will also be an increasing expectation that businesses contribute to the community. Buying from social enterprise is the best way to do it.”

Social Traders services includes tailored advice for buyers as to which social enterprises are a good fit for their needs. They also assist social enterprises to develop business and marketing strategies and provide a certification service that verifies their social purpose.

Mr Brookes added that the State Government’s recent announcement of a $120 million infrastructure development pipeline represented a prime opportunity for social enterprise engagement.


Blend Creative is a social enterprise graphic design studio that has been providing real work opportunities to designers living with disability since 1990.

The business currently supports 27 team members who identify as living with disability, following a period of consistent growth driven primarily by contracts with several large public sector clients.

These include the South Australian State Government Department of Premier and Cabinet, The Department of Human Services, as well as local Councils in Sydney and Adelaide, and both Flinders and Melbourne Universities, just to name a few.

Blend has also completed work for a range of private sector clients including Bank SA.

Services include brand development and design, annual report preparation, corporate communication materials and research reports.

Account Director Monique Russell said contracts with Government and private sector clients were critical to business growth and to its social mission.

Ms Russell said that Blend had set a growth target of around 30% over the next 12-15 months, and so attracting further business from clients with significant buying power was important.

“The personal and professional development of our employees is no doubt the most rewarding thing about the work we do,” Ms Russell said.

“We create opportunities that aren’t broadly available in the mainstream employment space, and we see our staff really blossom and contribute in really meaningful ways.

“Another critical factor for us is delivering high quality work to ensure we generate repeat business with our clients. That goes without saying for any business, but a social enterprise can easily be viewed as a goodwill or charity case – that is absolutely not the case.

“We are as competitive as any in the industry and delivering quality products at market rates is the intent.

“We see ourselves making a difference for our clients in multiple ways – we’re a legitimate business that delivers not only a strong product but life changing social impact.”

Blend has been certified with Social Traders for around a year, and Ms Russell said the program has helped the business grow its network substantially, which in the long run would have a positive impact on business growth.

“A strong and diverse network is important for a business like ours that generates positive word of mouth and organic promotion,” Ms Russell said.

“Networking with other social enterprises and Social Traders buyer members opens a lot of doors for us.”



What is the Social Traders marketplace?

Social Traders identified that buying goods and services from the social enterprise sector is one of the most effective means of driving social change, through job creation and other community benefits.

Private sector and Government bodies have the buying power to make the most significant impact.

The marketplace exists to encourage social procurement by bringing business and Government buyers together with social enterprise suppliers.

It is a market mechanism that stimulates job creation in the most challenging employment cohort – that is, people facing barriers to employment, such as the long term unemployed, people with disability, and other disadvantaged groups.

What is Social Traders Certification?

Social Traders Certification makes it easier for buyers to work with social enterprises by verifying that a social enterprise in genuine.

Certification provides assurance that buyers know that they are buying from a supplier who has an approved, legitimate social purpose.

Certification provides social enterprises with brand credibility through third-party endorsement.


For further information, interviews, case studies or images contact:

James Aanensen M: 0410 518 590           E:

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