VicRoads champions for social change

Victoria’s transport sector is leading the way in social responsibility, with staff at the former VicRoads, now Department of Transport, winning the Social Procurement Champions of the Year award at the recent Social Traders Conference in Melbourne.

VicRoads was one of 50 social enterprises, business and government members who entered, and the award was presented to Felicity Roberts, Monica Miloi and Dimi Robinson.

Since launching its Social Procurement Framework last year, the Victorian Government has introduced new requirements on major transport infrastructure projects. Social suppliers are contracted to provide goods and services on Big Build projects.

Between January and June this year, VicRoads spent $2.8 million on buying services from more than 60 suppliers who employ Aboriginal people, people with disabilities and disadvantaged Victorians.

It’s shopping with a social conscience. 

VicRoads works with a grass-cutting company in Geelong that hires young people at risk of unemployment, a car-washing company whose workers have mild intellectual disabilities, and a firm that trains migrants, refugees and disadvantaged young people and then finds them jobs. 

Some of these companies feature in short films which were made by videographers employed by a social enterprise.

In the past year, the VicRoads champion team trained over 1000 people at every office in every region on what social procurement is all about. 

They are now training champions in other government departments and agencies.

Speaking at the Social Enterprise Awards, Assistant Treasurer Hon. Robin Scott said in the past financial year, the Victorian Government spent $17 billion on goods and services and $12 billion on infrastructure and construction.

Scott said the framework empowered government buyers to see how thoughtful procurement could help people, the environment and the economy. “Value isn’t simply about the bottom line,” he said.

Monica Miloi, a senior social procurement specialist, says social suppliers compete for business like everyone else, but the difference is they support social outcomes and reinvest most of their profits in causes they believe in. “It’s not charity,” Miloi says.

She is excited about the opportunities to expand social procurement across the new Department of Transport. She says some social suppliers have been going for over 20 years but with the launch of government social procurement frameworks, the sector is really taking off. 

There are 20,000 social enterprises in Australia, employing about 300,000 people.

Miloi says sustainability, social inclusion, supporting fair trade and ending “modern slavery” of exploitative manufacturing practices in a supply chain, were the next big social procurement goals. 

Ethical Clothing Australia accredits businesses and the former VicRoads had already switched to only buying uniforms from accredited, local suppliers and manufacturers.