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How your business can benefit the greater good

If you want your business to do more to help people or the planet — or you run a social enterprise — help is at hand. Try these tips, and tap into government support.

Good for business

Running your own business is a great opportunity to bring your values into your working life. Not only can this benefit the greater good, it can make sense for your bottom line.

Be open about how you’re trying to make a difference. More and more customers choose to spend their money with businesses that share their values.

Likewise, employees want to feel good about going to work. They increasingly look for positions at organisations with a wider purpose. Hiring people who share your values will make for a happier and more productive workplace. It can help you hold onto workers for longer too.

To recognise the important role socially conscious businesses play, the Government has set up the Social Enterprise Sector Development Programme, a partnership between the Department of Internal Affairs and the Ākina Foundation. This programme has already produced New Zealand’s first online social procurement marketplace, and more initiatives are on the way.

Steps to boost social good

Social enterprises typically use a portion of their profits for good causes. But other elements of social enterprise can be added to any business.

Rethink your supply chain

Think carefully about which businesses you buy from. Who are they and what do they stand for? By rethinking where you spend your money, you can make an impact.

This could mean businesses that:

  • pay their workers a living wage, eg cleaners or warehouse staff
  • use sustainable energy, eg to power their premises or vehicles
  • use sustainable or recycled materials to make their products
  • donate part of your profits to a charity you believe in.

Suppliers might include this information on their website or sales material. Or you can join the new social procurement website for business-to-business sales — see Resources available for details.

Weigh up your impact — good and bad

This is part of business planning. Take time out from your day-to-day tasks to ask yourself big questions:

  • Why do you do what you do?
  • Does your organisation help make a positive difference to people or the planet? If not, can you team up with other organisations who do?
  • Can you find ways to keep an eye on your impact, both positive and negative and think of ways to improve the positive and decrease the negative?
New Zealand businesses spent more than $561bn in 2017, including buying products and services from other businesses.

New Zealand businesses spent more than $561bn in 2017, including buying products and services from other businesses.

Resources available

These websites can help any business keen to be more socially conscious — not just social enterprises.

Fwd:, the social procurement website
This online business-to-business marketplace links buyers to socially conscious suppliers.

You need to join fwd: to be able to buy or sell through the website — and sellers must first be certified as being socially conscious or social enterprises.

How to join (external link)

Impact Initiative
The platform to engage with the Social Enterprise Sector Development Programme, which is one year into its three-year time frame.

As well as updates on the programme, it features:

  • stories about other socially conscious businesses in New Zealand
  • programme research
  • details of events around the country.

Impact Initiative (external link)

Whare Āki
This website has tips and online tools tailored for important business milestones, including starting a social enterprise, growing your business, and how to get funding.

Business journey resources (external link)

What is a social enterprise?

Social enterprise is a way of using business to tackle the big issues we are facing. Issues like homelessness, climate change and income inequality can feel big and unwieldy as individuals, but businesses can make change on a larger scale.

Some businesses are socially conscious. Others go a step further and use the social enterprise model.

For the Ākina Foundation, the government’s partner in developing the social enterprise sector, being a social enterprise means:

  • business goals include a social and/or environmental impact that benefits the public or community
  • income earned mostly from selling goods or services
  • the majority of expenditure or profit is spent on the main social or environmental goal.

Unlike a charity, social enterprises exist to make a profit. Unlike a traditional business, profit is generally reinvested in the area the business is trying to help. “You might say they have the mind of a business and the heart of a charity,” says Louise Aitken of the Ākina Foundation.

Do you have more questions about social enterprise?

Do you have more questions about social enterprise?

Check out the Impact Initiative website (external link) or email the Ākina Foundation at info@akina.org.nz.

Engage with us (external link) — Impact Initiative

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