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The idea

Idea title: Spendshift

One Sentence description: Spendshift: Driving Ethical Spending

Addressing topic: Social Procurement Challenge

Team members: Jeremy Kirkwood

Provide an overview of your solution and how it solves the problem along with a short description of your inspiration behind the idea:

Imagine a reverse-boycott, where instead of punishing dodgy companies, we can reward ethical companies by increasing consumer spending. Our proposal is to aggregate the dollars of union members, supporters and the community to support social enterprises that have exemplary business and employment practices.

The problem is that there remains low awareness of social enterprises, and the vast majority of social enterprises are not recognised or rewarded by consumers for their positive employment practices.

Unions want to support social enterprises that have exemplary employment practices, achieve greater awareness of existing social enterprises, and expand the pool of social enterprises. We will do this by developing a platform that allows consumers to pledge to purchase from social enterprises.

The platform will resemble our existing digital mobilisation tools, but with a new, consumer focus.

With over 2 million members nationally and 33,000 in the ACT, (as well as many hundreds of thousands of supporters), we have a unique pool of people who are prepared to use their consumer spending to promote values-aligned social enterprise.

This platform uses cutting edge behavioural science to increase spending with social enterprises, and can be expanded to traditional businesses to promote social procurement from social enterprises. In this way, we propose to increase the supply-side of social procurement. Traditional businesses will be provided with a powerful and positive incentive to consider becoming social enterprises, improve their own business practices, and will be encouraged to purchase goods and services from social enterprises.

Our members and supporters are primed and eager to use their consumer power to support ethical, social businesses, as has been demonstrated in recent union-led campaigns to support and promote small businesses that have protected penalty rates in the café and retail sectors. We believe there is a unique opportunity to boost social enterprise and reward businesses that have exemplary employment and business practices.

Describe your solution in detail, providing a high-level business plan addressing how you would implement your solution:

We have taken a lean business plan approach to our proposed solution.

Proof of concept

We will develop a minimum viable product – which will create a basic digital pledge tool designed to encourage consumers to pledge to spend with social enterprises. We have a range of existing mobilisation tools on hand that will reduce costs and risks associated with developing a completely new platform.

Expanding definition of social enterprises

To incentivise traditional businesses choosing social enterprise in procurement decisions, we will expand our platform to promote early-stage participating social enterprises. This will again focus on leveraging consumer power to highlight the benefits of social procurement. As part of this phase, we will work with the social enterprise sector on specific social procurement principles to promote and reward, e.g. employment of disadvantaged people, young workers, people with a disability, or indigenous workers; as well as ethical employment practices for equal opportunity, etc.

Assist Social Enterprises

We propose to work with participating social enterprises, as well as organisations such as Social Traders, to assist social enterprises on ethical employment practices. This is a complicated legislative space in which unions have unique expertise, and we are strongly motivated to educate, work with and support exemplary employers.

Metrics and Schedule

As part of our lean methodology, we focus on success metrics and a schedule.

The key metrics for us are:

  1. Participation by consumers – we are relying on a strategy of consumer-driven spending to promote social enterprise and increase social procurement. Participation is also the key way to drive scale.
  2. Participation by social enterprise – we need existing social enterprises to participate.
  3. Demonstrated uplift in revenue – our objective is to reward ethical businesses and social enterprises. A key metric therefore is that participating organisations have a measurable increase in revenue and ideally profitability/financial sustainability.

Our schedule:

Minimum viable product – within 2 months of commencement

Engagement with social procurement sector – within a month, and ongoing

Launch – after development of MVP

Review feedback from initial participants & incorporate changes/improvements – 6 months & bi-monthly

Expansion and broaden participation – from 8 months and ongoing

Outline the budget required to achieve the ambition of your idea:

The initial $25,000 will go towards development and implementation of the proof of concept platform, and development of education package for participating social enterprises.

Other costs associated with reviewing and monitoring the project, as well as running costs, associated with platform will be taken on by UnionsACT as we consider it to be core business. We will be prepared to adopt the costs associated with assisting and educating businesses in improving their workplace practices.

Partnerships are critical for a stronger idea and delivering a solution. Who are the key stakeholders within your idea? Is your solution the result of a collaborative approach? If not, are you looking to bring other partners along:

Affiliated unions – our member-unions are strongly motivated to ensure that reputable, scrupulous businesses succeed and become profitable, while those who have unethical employment practices to not.

Social Enterprises – the participation of consumer-focused Canberra-based social enterprises will be essential for our early pilot phase. UnionsACT is a member of the ACT Council of Social Services, and we have positive and longstanding relationships with community organisations and the local Canberra Business Chamber.

Social Traders – the support, guidance and leadership of Social Traders and the social enterprise sector will be essential.

To strengthen the likelihood of success, a broad foundation of evidence is critical. What’s the evidence base that points towards your solution being a success? Is your solution addressing an unmet gap in the market:

The idea of leveraging consumer spending as a strategy is a well provide idea, we believe that reclassifying and expanding the definition of what we consider social enterprises and driving awareness and consumer knowledge of ethical traders. Leveraging the large network of union members and partnering with existing social enterprises will drive consumer awareness and spending.

We have conducted extensive public opinion polling, focus groups and other research about these and other related attitudes and behaviours.

For example, the support for Penalty Rates is an appropriate example of reaching a gap in the market. Currently there is over 80% support protecting penalty rates, and UnionsACT is contacted almost daily by members and supporters wanting to know where they can get a list of cafes, restaurants and retailers who have pledged not to cut penalty rates.

Currently, we maintain a list of businesses who have pledged to keep penalty rates, and many businesses have approached us to be added to this list.

From this experience, we know there is dual demand:

Firstly, consumers want to know how to use their consumer spending to support ethical businesses with exemplary employment practices.

Secondly, ethical and scrupulous companies want to be known and rewarded for their good business practices.

What we know is that union members want to align their purchasing power with ethical employers and companies. There is a gap in the market currently to provide a platform and central location of information to promote social enterprise and link them to motivated consumers.

Who are the key beneficiaries of your solution:

Driving ethical spending that benefits the social enterprises, ethical companies and employers, and their employees.

The positive social and economic benefits of ethical business practices are well known, and extend broadly outside of the workplace.

We see three main beneficiaries:

Employees – the employees of social enterprises benefit by working for an exemplary employer that has increased business as a result of their ethical practices

Social enterprises – who have their business promoted and who receive increased revenues and income.

The social enterprises’ beneficiaries – stronger, more visible and more financially sustainable social enterprises will aid the beneficiaries of the social enterprise, e.g. people from disadvantaged backgrounds, etc.

We also believe that this project will improve the ability for social enterprises to compete against unethical companies, who use their unscrupulous businesses practices to win procurement tenders or lower costs. We believe that this could help end the race to the bottom. The benefit of providing a platform and centralised place that consumers can easily access a repository of ethical traders and pledge their consumer spending benefits social enterprise and ethical businesses.

Do you have funding partners interested in your idea:

The ACTU Innovation Fund would consider applications for additional or matched funding if our application is successful.

Describe your most successful experience executing a solution to a problem:

The union movement has huge leverage of people who are prepped and primed ready to spend ethically, and reward businesses who behave ethically. To achieve this our proposal relies on two things: scale, and mobilising people.

The union movement has a long history of mobilising people at scale to create change where we see there is a problem. Since 2014, UnionsACT as an organisation has been growing our capacity and building the strength of the labour movement in Canberra to be able to do just this. We have grown from 400 online supporters to 16,600, and in that same time from having zero regular volunteers to over 200. Scaling and mobilising for a socially driven purpose is something we are good at and we have proven this many times.

Most recently, the Australian union movement and UnionsACT was very active during the 2016 Federal and ACT elections. The problem that we saw was the risk of union members being worse off in both their working and living conditions, due to potential policy changes. To combat this, the solution that we came up with was to build a public campaign against the policies we saw as a risk. This combined talking to union members about the issues that were most important to them, how they were planning on voting, and a mass media campaign on the issues that were important to union members.

We were successful in both election campaigns, due to our scale and our ability to mobilise people. For example, we mobilised our regular volunteers to participate in voter contact activities such as regular street stalls, while our scale allowed us to reach tens of thousands of union members with our message through phone calls, doorknocks, and targeted social media advertising.


Idea Opened: 03:35 PM, Friday 03 November 2017
Idea Closes: 06:00 PM, Friday 03 November 2017
Time to go: Closed


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The context

Idea Opened: 03:11 PM, Friday 03 November 2017
Idea Closes: 06:11 PM, Friday 03 November 2017
Time to go: Closed

Do you want to contribute to this idea?

Idea Activity

Idea Activity


Challenges Support is now contributing to this idea Spendshift


Challenges Support commented on the idea Spendshift

Hi Jeremy Kirkwood, the following comment came in from the research panel 

"Does this campaign make a distinction between procurement and consumer purchasing?"


Matt Perfect is now contributing to this idea Spendshift


Matt Perfect commented on the idea Spendshift

Hi Jeremy. Thanks for sharing your idea. I really like your motivation to help create as much energy for 'Good Procurement' as we have for avoiding bad procurement! Nobody gets out of bed in the morning to 'not do bad things' - we need to SHIFT the way we think about SPEND... love it. Good luck!


Matt Perfect Founder and Impact Spender
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