Social enterprises in Australia will be able to receive national certification for the first time, with the launch of a new certification scheme.
Australia’s leading social enterprise development organisation, Social Traders, launched a certification mark for Australian social enterprises on Monday.
This certification is designed to provide social enterprises with brand credibility, and enhance their prospects of winning commercial procurement contracts with business and government buyers.
“Overall, Social Traders certification is designed to create a more well-defined social enterprise sector and greatly enhance opportunities for growth,” Social Traders managing director David Brookes said.
“Until now, the social enterprise sector has been loosely identified with no single definition. For us, social purpose is the primary criteria and as such recognition via Social Traders certification makes it easier for business and government to buy from these social enterprises.
“We are certifying enterprises that meet a definition, which closely aligns with international standards. We aim to provide credibility, and share the awareness and trust that lies in the reputation of Social Traders.”
— Social Traders (@SocialTradersAU) 23 April 2018
While social enterprise certification had been tested in some other parts of the world like the UK, this is the first time it is available for the approximately 20,000 social enterprises operating in the Australian marketplace.
Brookes explained to Pro Bono News that Social Traders’ certification criteria ensured certified organisations invested the majority of their profit into supporting their mission.
“The certification process requires enterprises to provide financial information and supporting documents around their organisation,” Brookes said.
“It can take around a week and through that process, we will check the organisation against those criteria before they can receive our certification mark.”
This comes as Social Traders recently announced it was focusing exclusively on job creation through social enterprise procurement.
The organisation estimated that for every $100,000 spent on social procurement, 1.5 jobs would be created for disadvantaged Australians.
Brookes said this certification scheme would help Social Traders reach their target to create 1,500 jobs over the next four years, through facilitating $105 million in social procurement.
“I think the market opportunity for social enterprise is growing and is really exciting. I think it is being driven by changes in the policy environment and in the procurement environment,” he said.
“We are seeing increasing demand for social enterprises from government and from private sector buyers. We are on a very positive trajectory and I’m confident that Social Traders’ targets will be met.
“Certification is absolutely critical and I think that our certification will become increasingly important for social enterprises to be recognised and to actually win and deliver on these emerging contract and procurement opportunities.”
Scott Buckland is the general manager of Yarra View Nursey – a social enterprise employing people with intellectual disability – which won a $500,000 contract with the Victorian government Level Crossing Removal Authority.
He said a constant challenge for social enterprises was establishing commercial credibility with buyers, but that Social Traders’ certification would help to break down these stigmas.
“Like any business tendering for commercial contracts we’re required to meet strict criteria – we certainly do that, and don’t expect any special treatment, but sometimes the battle can be to overcome stigmas or doubts about our ability to deliver, because we’re a social enterprise,” Buckland said.
“That attitude is gradually changing, but given the sector is still not that well understood, carrying an independent certification mark that demonstrates Social Traders’ credentials will make a big difference for a lot of social enterprises looking to generate business.
“Certainly, in my time at Yarra View Nursery, Social Traders have opened a lot of doors for us and their role in growing the social enterprise sector is critical. Sharing in that credibility will make a big difference.”
Cat Harding, the co-founder of social enterprise PonyUp For Good, added that certification would made a critical difference to business growth.
“Official certification by Social Traders adds a greater degree of credibility and provides new and potential clients with confidence that our model and credentials have been reviewed and certified,” Harding said.
“To carry that validation full time is really important and we’re confident it will help us grow by opening vital doors for us.”
Social enterprises can apply for certification on the Social Traders’ website.