Everyday Enviro with Elise: social enterprises tackling environmental issues and social change

Everyday Enviro with Elise: social enterprises tackling environmental issues and social change

By Elise Catterall  February 1st, 2024

From waste upcycling to tackling ocean pollution, Elise talks about various Aussie social enterprises that you can support to make a meaningful impact on the environment and society.


Over the years that I have been writing this column, I have highlighted many businesses that fall into the category of social enterprise - businesses that blend profit-driven strategies with a deep commitment to social and environmental causes, weaving positive impact into the very fabric of their operations.

Australia boasts a thriving social enterprise scene, with over 12,000 enterprises contributing a staggering $21.3 billion to the economy. This translates to over 206,000 jobs, highlighting their significant impact on both the economy and society.

Unlike traditional businesses, social enterprises prioritise social and/or environmental impact over solely maximising profit. They operate with a clear social mission, reinvesting a significant portion of their profits back into achieving this mission. This could involve anything from providing employment opportunities for disadvantaged groups to promoting sustainable practices - or even both. These are the companies and brands we need to support with our wallets and our feet.

Social enterprises that are tackling environmental challenges include businesses like:

  • Save Board: Upcycles waste into building materials, diverting waste from landfill and promoting circularity.

  • Pacific Bio: Develops and implements sustainable water management solutions, addressing water scarcity issues

  • Seabin Project: Tackles ocean plastic pollution with its ingenious bin-like devices.

  • ZEN Energy: Provides clean and affordable solar power to communities.

  • Green Collect: Works with organisations & communities to enable circularity, reuse and the best environmental outcome for all kinds of items.

  • Banish’s BRAD: Collects plastic waste that can't be collected in kerbside recycling and uses that plastic to make new products like pens, and more.

These are just a few examples – countless social enterprises are working on renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, waste reduction, and other critical environmental issues. By supporting them, we directly contribute to solving these challenges.  

Social enterprises often also address a wide range of social issues, including:

  • The Big Issue: Provides employment opportunities for homeless people, fostering social inclusion and financial independence.

  • Thank You: Diverts plastic waste from landfill by creating innovative consumer products.

  • Social Traders: Empowers individuals and communities through training, mentoring, and grant funding, creating a more equitable society.

  • The Bread and Butter Project: Equips young people and refugees with hospitality and bakery skills, and employment experience and opportunities.

  • CareerTrackers: Supports pre-professional Indigenous university students and links them with employers.

Some are clever enough to do both:

  • Addi Road Food Pantry: Saves food from landfill, provides free food for disadvantaged people and affordable food for the general public

  • The Sewing Basket: Saves fabric and haberdashery from landfill and provides employment for people with disability, giving them valuable workplace experience and connection

  • OzHarvest: Australia’s leading food rescue organisation, saving food from landfill - in huge amounts - and using it to feed the homeless and disadvantaged.

By supporting social enterprises, we contribute to a strong and diverse economy, ensure employment for hundreds of thousands of Australians, encourage innovation in other businesses to help find solutions to social and environmental challenges, empower individuals who may otherwise have not been empowered, support communities, and provide ethical, conscientious and constructive ways for consumers to align their purchasing decisions with their values.

There's a social enterprise addressing almost every cause imaginable! Explore resources like Social Traders' Social Enterprise Finder to discover businesses aligned with your values. Remember, every dollar we spend can be a vote for the kind of world we want to live in.


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Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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