Why ‘buying social’ is much more than just a nice thing to do

At Australia Post the work we do is all about helping communities connect; helping make them stronger and more inclusive. And more than a ‘nice thing to do’, this community-minded ethos is integral to our business being successful.

The opportunities that exist for Australian businesses and social enterprises to work together to return social dividends to the community, just by carrying out normal business activity, is immense. Australia Post has a presence in every community around Australia – whether via Post Offices or the mail contractors whom we engage.

Our community involvement is part of the fabric of who we are as an organisation. We currently engage around 16 social enterprises in our supply chain, with these businesses providing services as varied as mail delivery to catering. For example, we engage Bindi Lifestyle Solutions, who provide employment for people with a disability, for mail delivery to 17 rural and remote Indigenous town camps in the Northern Territory.

In 2015, for the third Christmas running, we worked with The Big Issue Women’s Subscription Enterprise to sort and process the thousands of letters to Santa sent in by children around the country. This project provides employment for homeless women.

We are aided in our commitment to social procurement by our national community partner Social Traders, an organisation that certifies social enterprises and works to leverage the procurement dollars spent by government and business to grow the market for B2B social enterprises. Australia Post recently lent support to the launch of Social Traders’ Connect service – Australia’s first dedicated service linking social enterprise to corporate and government contracts. By accessing Connect’s services businesses can be assured suppliers are certified social enterprises. Social Traders, via Connect, also provides valuable support to businesses wanting to engage social enterprises.

I’m fairly new to Australia Post and since I started, I’ve often been asked what drew me to the opportunity. One of the key factors in my consideration was the positive connection that Australia Post pursues and nurtures with all Australian communities. By Australia Post taking a leadership role in this space we hope to show how social procurement isn’t just a nice thing to do – it can also help businesses achieve their own strategic objectives, just as it has with us.

Our continued community presence has greatly contributed to our brand being recognised as one of the most trusted in Australia. We’ve shown that Australians can trust us to do the right thing by awarding grants to community groups, participating in sponsorships and running a host of programs with our six National Community Partners.

As our business transforms from a traditional mail and parcel delivery business into one that also delivers better, smarter and safer online solutions for Australians, our sustained connection to communities is even more important.

But our commitment goes wider than a formal corporate social responsibility program. For example, by ‘buying social’ – directing procurement dollars towards social enterprises – we can aid commercially viable businesses who exist primarily to benefit the public by delivering social, environmental and cultural benefits to the community. This may be by employing the disadvantaged and disabled, or directing profits back in to community services.

Social procurement helps to show the wider community that we are truly committed to returning a social benefit to Australians – whether that’s rural and regional communities, new Australians, or the vulnerable. The thousands of fantastic people who work for us at Australia Post also like knowing that we will continue to keep our diverse communities front of mind and continue to recognise our responsibility to them as our business evolves.

Read about Social Traders and its Connect service.

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