A social enterprise is what the name suggests; it’s a free market enterprise that trades in order to make a profit, but unlike traditional free market enterprises, its profits are used to tackle social problems or protect the environment. According to the FASES report, there are approximately 20,000 social enterprises operating within Australia.
These for-profit purpose-driven businesses have emerged as useful tools to address social and environmental problems, whether they’re aiming to reduce food waste, looking to donate a portion of profits to sanitation projects in the developing world or seeking to employ economically disadvantaged or marginalised members of our community.
But for start-up social entrepreneurs, launching a business while trying to change the world is tough. With 60% of small businesses closing within the first three years of operation, the odds aren’t stacked in their favour. Having a heart of gold and being passionate about their social mission just doesn’t cut the mustard in an ever-changing, competitive business landscape.
Thankfully ING is contributing to the all-important social entrepreneurial ecosystem through its Dreamstarter initiative. This program is designed to help launch and grow Australian social businesses in a number of ways:
- by encouraging people to pledge support to social enterprises through crowdfunding
- by providing marketing assistance to help raise the social enterprises’ profile within the community so that they may have greater positive impact
- by offering scholarships to training and educational programs to improve knowledge that will help to build financially sustainable businesses
- through Grants for Growth to help social businesses ‘scale up’ and build capacity.
Since its launch in 2013, Dreamstarter has helped 80 Australian social enterprises, empowered support from 7,787 financial pledges and contributed $1.8 million to helping them create positive change.
Big businesses like ING are helping social enterprises do good, but in order to thrive, these enterprises also need support from conscious shoppers like you.
Vote with your wallet; shop with a social enterprise
Showing your support to a social enterprise by purchasing a product from them is a good way to vote for the kind of world you want and make a difference, particularly if you have to purchase the item anyway, for example, for a birthday gift. Here are a few incredible social businesses, supported by ING Dreamstarter, whose products we’re coveting and social missions we’re loving:
We’ve featured ethical hat label Will & Bear on EWP before as we adore their vintage-inspired, healthy outdoor lifestyle brand, so we’re thrilled to learn that they’re alumni of the ING Dreamstarter initiative. This Australian brand produces stylish high-quality hats for both men and women that are made from 100% Australian wool and are ethically and expertly handcrafted by milliners in Mongolia.
Will & Bear have also partnered with trees.org to develop their Plant a Forest Project which helps to fight desertification, improve biodiversity, encourage species return and provides jobs. For every Will & Bear hat sold, trees.org plants ten trees in Senegal, West Africa. So far the brand has planted a total of 41,680 trees (equivalent to 27 football fields). Not bad for a brand that’s just two years old!
Another brand we absolutely adore and have featured on the site before, The Social Outfit is a Sydney-based ethical and sustainable fashion label that sells distinctive, colourful high-quality pieces made from donated fabric remnants. This brand is the epitome of slow fashion; all garments are meticulously produced by hand and are limited edition.
The Social Outfit isn’t just challenging fast fashion’s unsustainable production model either. The boutique label also makes a difference in the lives of refugees and new migrants by providing training and employment, improving their confidence and helping them settle in. The brand runs a retail store, manufactures its garments onsite and runs a sewing school in Newtown. By embracing the cultural and traditional strengths of their diverse participants, The Social Outfit is not only helping to build lasting skills, but helping to strengthen their community too. All profits made from retail sales are put back into delivering training programs.
An estimated 1,580kg is dumped in Australia’s oceans every hour but lucky for us, Clean Coast Collective launched as a solution to the plastic pollution plaguing our beaches. The founders travelled around the entire coastline of Australia and were appalled at the scale of the problem; discovering plastic in remote beaches far from the main cities. Realising that the best solution is to encourage people to reduce single-use disposable plastic consumption, the brand set about producing stylish alternatives to common single-use plastic disposables. They sell metal straws, bamboo toothbrushes and handmade shampoo bars through their online store. All profits made from product sales are then used to fund Clean Coast Collective’s ‘Trash Tribe’ beach clean-up expeditions across Australia.
This sustainable swimwear brand was founded in 2014 by Steph Gabriel, an ocean conservationist and environmental scientist. OceanZen produces bikinis and one-piece bathing suits in a variety of colours and prints, but all are made of recycled yarn derived from plastic bottles and fishing nets that would have otherwise polluted our oceans and caused harm to marine species. By weaving existing waste products into its production, OceanZean is also a part of the circular economy; upcycling, recycling and repurposing plastic so that it doesn’t end up polluting our environment. OceanZen swimwear is also ethically-made by a Balinese family who are paid above fair trade prices.
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation there will be more plastics than fish by weight in our oceans by 2050. It’s also been reported that 100,000 animals are killed by plastic each year in the ocean. By supporting OceanZen, you will literally be helping to stop plastic from suffocating our planet and marine life.
Love what you’ve read? Want to find out more? Visit the ING Dreamstarter website to learn how their crowdfunding campaigns help social enterprises create positive impact.
Disclosure: This post is proudly supported by ING Dreamstarter. For more information about our policies, click here.