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SEC: Meet the speakers – Sue Boyce

August 7, 2018

Last updated on August 7, 2018

Sue Boyce Ability Works

We spent 5 minutes with Sue Boyce, one of the speakers at this year’s Social Enterprise Conference, to learn a little bit more about her background and insight into social enterprise and social procurement.


Who is Sue Boyce, CEO – Ability Works Australia?

Ability Works Australia CEO Sue Boyce, has a track record building commercial and not for profit organisations. Prior to Ability Works Australia Sue was General Manager, Fundraising and Community Engagement at beyondblue, and on the beyondblue Executive Management team.  She led the beyondblue fundraising team to grow revenue at 36% per annum over 4 years.

Sue’s experience spans 25 years with commercial organisations such as Nestle, Primo Moraitis Fresh, Merck and The Micromarketing Group (TMG) in business development and business management functions. She was joint Managing Director, of TMG, a marketing services firm, built from a green fields operation to $20 million with 75 staff at head office and 1200 in the field. Earlier in her career she was a nutritionist / dietitian working in hospitals in Sydney and Melbourne and for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) working with Afghan Refugees in Baluchistan Province, Pakistan.

Sue has a Master of Public Health, from the University of Sydney; a Postgraduate Diploma in Business Administration, from Swinburne; a Postgraduate Diploma in Nutrition and Dietetics, from Flinders University and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Melbourne.


ST: Sue, what are the greatest challenges facing the growth of social procurement in Australia?

SB: I think there are a number of challenges. Firstly, there are a range of existing misconceptions around providing people at disadvantage with employment. For example there’s a belief that they take more days off, more sick leave and won’t stay long in a job as well as the idea that they cost more to employ and have low productivity. Research shows this is not the case

I think there’s also the perception that Social Enterprises require more ‘coaching’ or investment of time from business and businesses often have insurance prerequisites that lock out small social enterprises, which in some circumstances may not be accurate.

Most social enterprises are small, with fewer than 20 employees and an average turnover of just over $1 million and will not be able to deliver at scale. So it’s important that we develop mechanisms by which smaller organisations can be enabled to participate in procurement opportunities through supply chain relationships and potentially building collective capacity to respond.

There’s also a role that governments play in setting specific measurable targets and establish a plan nationally to meet them. Governments need to show leadership by doing within the public service what they are requesting of business. For example, employing more people with a disability within the Australian Public Service. It’s been shown that diversity in workplaces helps to break down stereotypes and negative perceptions people have about ability or capability.

ST: What are the greatest opportunities for social procurement in Australia?

SB: It’s exciting to see the emergence of strategic procurement with organisations now focusing on factors other than just price and quality. There’s also the concept of Shared Value: what’s good for society is good for business! Companies are realising they can create competitive advantage by having a positive social path. This concept has been promoted by leading business strategists Michael Porter and Mark Kramer who developed the concept of ‘shared value’.

On the consumer side there’s growing interest and increased awareness in the community to purchase from minority suppliers (such as minority ethnic groups), Fair Trade suppliers and social enterprises.

It’s also great to see the Government beginning to play an enabling role. This is shown through the Victorian Government and Level Crossing Removals project with 3% social procurement targets. There was an initial government focus on indigenous communities, but it’s now expanding to disability and other areas.

The new international standard – ISO 20400, provides Sustainable Procurement Guidelines which should encourage more organisations to consider social procurement.

ST: What inspires you the most about social procurement?

SB: What is occurring in Victoria with social procurement! Social Traders acting as an intermediary between buyers and suppliers is a brilliant concept and exactly what the sector needs.

The impact that government can have on social enterprises by creating social procurement targets and creating opportunities for social enterprise is inspiring and hearing stories about procurement managers in a large corporate who might have initially felt negatively towards social procurement, participated because they had to and ended up really enjoying the impact they are creating and the difference they are making to society. This leads to stories about how a socially disadvantaged person’s life has been changed because of being able to gain employment and social connections through a social enterprise.

ST: Why are you participating in the Social Enterprise Conference 2018?

SB: I believe Social Traders have their finger on the pulse, hence I’m keen to attend anything ST organise. I’m also looking forward to learning more about what’s happening with Social Procurement in Victoria and nationally and networking with buyers and other social enterprises.

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