There is plenty of opportunity for it, but you can't accuse Soft Landing's national operations manager Bill Dibley of sleeping on the job; in five years the enterprise's $1.2 million annual turnover has grown to 8.5 million dollars.
Soft Landing is a social enterprise that repurposes discarded mattresses to prevent them entering landfill.
"We can get up to 90 percent of that mattress broken down, and refurbish or put back into the environment, so the steel goes to BlueScope, foam goes to carpet underlay through Dunlop foams, we actually have a punching bag business where we can take the textile and put them into punching bags."
Bill Dibley is Soft Landing's National Operations Manager. Source: SBS
The business has 85 contracts and operates in four locations across the country.
"This is a self-sustaining business, the fees we charge government and all the different contracts to bring the mattresses in, sustains the business so we call it profit for purpose."
The purpose is two-fold; in addition to sustainability, the company also contributes to the community.
"80 per cent of our staff come from either long-term unemployed, aboriginal employment, mental health barriers, or throughout the corrective services they've had a criminal record or a charge against them so they've got some barriers but to us we call them diamonds in the rough and we like to work with them and they are the absolute lifeblood about what we're about."
1.2 million mattresses enter landfill in Australia every year. Source: SBS
"And then we have the transitional staff, they want to come in build some skills, build some further training, get their truck licence and they go out to the main skill employment and that's a great outcome for us. One of the greatest outcomes we find is when our competitors poach our staff because it means we've done a really good thing," Bill says.
"We actually encourage it because that shows because we've trained these guys to a really strong calibre and people will want them, and once again, that's all about building capacity in people and bringing out the best for them."
Josephine Barraket of Swinburne University says there are about 20, 000 such social enterprises in Australia, which employ about 300, 000 people.
One of Soft Landing's aims is to provide work for the longterm unemployed. Source: SBS
"They tend to not be recognised as legitimate businesses, or not understood by the wider public or business consumers of their goods and services so that can be a challenge, and then the other main challenge is in their operations so finding that balance between mission and market making sure that they are financially viable as well as making sure they are not drifting away from their own social purpose."
Researchers at Swinburne say the phenomenon goes beyond the feel-good factor and in many cases, can lift a business' bottom line.
Materials from mattresses are repurposed for use across industries. Source: SBS
"This is probably part of the reason why quite a lot of private for-profit businesses are increasingly looking to their social and environmental performance. We're seeing at the moment, a generational cry for meaning, and purpose in work and also an opportunity to apply creative skills to our work and social enterprise is one vehicle that offers those opportunities."
See the original story by SBS World News
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