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Opinion: Business for good: what’s in store for 2023?

4 min read

Let’s think big for a second. Because isn’t that the best way to kick off a new year? 

Imagine a world where every business used its working capital to create social or environmental impact. Imagine if businesses that existed only to create returns for shareholders were the anomalies. We’d have conversations about the ‘olden days’ when businesses were set up just to make money. We’d have the same looks on our faces as my niece when I tell her we didn’t have iPads when I was growing up. 

That reality is not as far-reaching as it sounds, because we’re already taking strides in that direction. 

As a child, when I first became aware that opportunities weren’t equal for everyone, I’d often say ‘that’s not fair’. The most common response I got back then was – ‘sometimes life just isn’t fair’. Years later I heard Joan Kirner give a speech. Her response when her granddaughter said ‘that’s not fair’ was – ‘what are you going to do about it?’. 

For me, embedding purpose in business is what we can do about it. 

The social enterprise model is one of the keys to unlocking a more equitable Australia. Social enterprises use 13 different models for delivering purpose using business. Through social procurement, they enable traditional businesses to turn an expense into an asset (an impact outcome). 

At a time when businesses are grappling with the challenge of creating purpose beyond profit, social enterprises have been doing it for decades. And it’s time the whole economy learnt from them and shifted in that direction. 

That’s why I stepped into the CEO role at Social Traders with optimism. And why I’m excited about the year ahead. We have an opportunity to push the next frontier – to break business as usual and move towards a new normal. 

2022 was a year we raised the bar 

The social enterprise sector ended 2022 a leap ahead from where we started it. 

We saw new ground-breaking data on the contribution of social enterprise. We celebrated some of the fastest social procurement growth globally. Spend with certified social enterprises accelerated. The government and philanthropy partnered with the social enterprise sector in new ways. There was a new wave of collaboration. 

So what can we look forward to in 2023? 

At Social Traders we’re building a culture that’s bold, optimistic and creative. Where we start with imagination and talk openly with curiosity – where ideas can intercept and influence each other. Where we can be collaboratively ambitious. 

We’re here as an intermediary to connect the dots. We take an ecosystem perspective and look at what we can do to grow the sector as a collective. 

Our focus is unlocking business for good. 

This year we’ll be putting our energy into three things, all underpinned by our heart-set of collaboration: 

  1. Growing social enterprise 
  2. Taking social procurement to the next level 
  3. Supporting businesses to learn from social enterprise for their ESG strategies.


1. Growing the social enterprise sector

We want more social enterprises certified so they can be recognised, connect with businesses and benefit from government grants. We’ll be working with the state social enterprise networks and our partners to certify more social enterprises. 

We hope to build our Pace data into a live digital platform as a resource for the whole sector, to promote its impact. And we’ll be running more awareness campaigns, off the back of the Catch On campaign.

We’ll be trialling a new version of our Grow program for social enterprise development, with deeper support for social enterprises ready to move to the next level.

2. Taking social procurement to the next level

As our longest-standing business members mature in their social procurement journey, they’re looking for what’s next. We’ll be partnering with them on bespoke projects where we can go deep in social procurement on a project or location. 

We’re progressing with new conversations with state and Federal governments about the potential of social procurement. We’ve kick-started conversations about social procurement in the Victorian Commonwealth Games and Queensland Olympics. 

We’ll be launching a new Champions program, and new trends and insights reports for our members. Our Trailblazer awards will be back to celebrate the game-changers leading the way.

3. Supporting businesses to learn from social enterprises for ESG strategies

The corporate world is facing a transitional moment where the conversation about ethical and sustainable business is beginning to shift from ‘why’ to ‘how’. Customers want it. Employees are excited about it. Investors are backing it. And the world needs it. 

Big companies are even making the switch to social enterprise models. Patagonia is now a social enterprise after announcing that “Earth is our only shareholder” and that they are in business to “save our home planet”. Danone become the first listed company in France to adopt the ‘Entreprise à Mission’ model that embeds purpose in its articles of association. Mologic technology companies in the UK shifted to a social enterprise model as an alternative to “relentless profiteering” in the medical industry. 

This year we’ll be launching ESG training and advisory services to our business member community. We’ll be offering knowledge transfer in reverse – from the social enterprise sector back into the business community. So traditional businesses can borrow from the 13 ways social enterprises have proven you can embed purpose in business. 

We invite businesses across all sectors to join the social enterprise peers in their industries changing how (and why) business is done. 

  1. Collaboration and shared energy

There’s not only refreshed energy in the social enterprise sector, there’s new shared energy. There’s acknowledgement that if we want to make social enterprise business as usual, the only way is together.

The different impact organisations across the economy are coming together in new ways. New opportunities for collaboration are emerging all the time. There’s drive to collectively create a well-being economy, one that values people and the planet. There’s shared agreement that more purposeful business is possible. Especially if we team up.

We’re looking forward to working more closely with our peers. Through joint campaigning and events, shared service delivery and new partnerships. 

Catch on – it’s time to change the game. 

The people working at this frontier – businesses, governments, philanthropists and social enterprises – are pioneers. There is no shortage of energy, passion, bold thinking and willingness to rebuild things differently. To unlearn and relearn. 

Embedding purpose in business – through social procurement, ESG, or as a social enterprise – will become the new normal. We can’t afford not to do this. 

My question to you for 2023 is – what are you going to do about it? How are you going to get involved, and change the game? 

Let’s get out there and achieve the big impossible things. Let’s be bold in our pursuit of business where purpose and profit go hand in hand. Because if we harness our collective energy, everything is possible. 

Related: Social Traders appoints Tara Anderson as Chief Executive Officer

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Tara is passionate about blending business and purpose, and is energised by working with talented people who challenge business as usual.

She has spent her career in the for-purpose sector, exploring different models for building a fairer and more equitable world. As CEO, leading the Social Traders team she’s building a thriving social enterprise sector while also supporting traditional businesses to build purpose into their operations through social procurement and ESG.

She has international experience across social enterprise, charities, social innovation and for-purpose intermediaries in the UK, Europe and Australia. Her career has spanned strategy, business development, innovation, marketing, impact and cross-sector collaboration at executive and Board level. She has led large scale collaborations, designed and implemented organisational-wide strategies for growth and diversification, and repositioned brands for increased impact.

Tara has an MBA from Bayes Business School in the UK where she specialised in social enterprise business models, a Master's in Social Innovation from Danube University in Austria where she specialised in collective impact.


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