The social benefits delivered through landscapes

The social benefits delivered through landscapes
The social benefits delivered through landscapes

The past ten years has seen the rise and acknowledgement of businesses driven by purpose as much as profit. It has also seen the establishment of enterprises driven to address social, economic or environmental causes, and growth in government seeking to procure through these businesses. This is the next logical step as business and governments are measuring their triple bottom line and delivering projects to operate sustainably and deliver social outcomes.

The development industry has the opportunity to adopt these principles and generate social benefits through its approach to delivering landscapes. The core premise of social procurement is using business to address issues of social, economic and environmental concern by providing employment for affected people and delivering funds to support programs that address them. 

Social enterprises derive most of their income from trading and deliver the majority of their profits to support their cause. The Victorian State government has an ambitious program for making social procurement a routine part of its operations. Through its Social Procurement Framework, it has set procurement targets for all projects to engage social enterprises, aboriginal business and social benefit suppliers such as disability enterprises. In the Victorian construction industry, we are seeing the rise of Aboriginal businesses and the use of social enterprises to provide a wide variety of services. Within the social enterprise sector there are several supplying landscaping products and services and it is a leader in the provision of services to the construction sector.  Within the construction space, landscaping is seen as a good fit with social enterprises as:

  • People have a natural affinity to work with plants 
  • Capacity from several social enterprise providers
  • The work is relatively labour intensive 
  • A significant amount of the value is generated in nurseries, which are controlled sites away from the risk of construction sites
  • Maintenance activities are conducted over several years, post-completion and require significant labour inputs.

Recognising the role of social procurement and a desire to give back to the community, Ecodynamics transitioned its Nursery to a social enterprise model in 2018. The nursery supplies over 1 million indigenous, wetland and Ozbreed plants per year to the Victorian infrastructure market. 

Long committed to environmental causes, the business has partnered with Greening the West to support their urban greening program that is offsetting urban heat island impacts. Greening the West has the vision to transform the west of Melbourne through tree planting and has successfully planted over 1 million trees since 2015.

The land development industry is a significant player in the landscaping industry, building new landscapes and public spaces across its portfolio of work. The development industry is also committed to building vibrant communities and regularly supports community development and environmental activities. The landscape works on land development projects provide an opportunity to extend community development through social procurement practices.

There are several ways the social procurement can be approached. The simplest is to include social procurement requirements in tender packages and let the market respond. It is likely this will result in plants being procured from social enterprise nurseries. Under this model the developer has limited control over the social outcomes supported and limited visibility of the impact. An alternative is to engage in long term arrangements with social enterprises to provide products and services over the long term. This has the advantage of allowing the developer to identify and engage with a social enterprise that aligns with their corporate goals and develop a relationship over the long term. Multi-stage developments have long term delivery programs and would be well suited to the following long-term arrangements:

  • Plant supply – developers know their plant supply requirements years in advance and could commit to long term plant supply contracts with social enterprise nurseries. This would give certainty to both parties and significantly reduce plant supply risks to projects.
  • Maintenance – landscapes in developments are maintained for several years post construction. The work is low risk and labour intensive and well suited to disadvantaged workers that many social enterprises engage.

Social procurement is a growing service delivery sector and provides an opportunity for all businesses to extend the impact of their buying.  The landscaping industry is suited to social enterprises and has several mature players in Victoria.  I would encourage all developers to investigate how they can deliver works using social procurement.

Lead image credit: Ecodynamics.com.au

Nick Somes

Nick Somes

As a Director of the Ecodynamics Group, Nick is involved in a number of strategic and future proofing projects for the business. Nick has led the rebranding of the Ecodynamics Group of companies, the acquisition of several businesses and the development of the into a nursery social enterprise. With a near 30 year career in the environmental and landscape industries, Nick is passionate about creating Greener futures and creating opportunities for our loyal employees and customers.

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