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Shared value and social enterprise: Vanguard Industrial Laundry

2 mins

As a corporate law firm, using our core commercial and legal skills to help create innovative business models is a big part of what we do.

Combining those skills with our Community Investment Program to help build social enterprises – businesses providing a sustainable funding base to enable delivery of societal benefits – is a successful shared value strategy, a strategy that sees us using our programs and talent to work with others to create economic value in ways that also create value for society.

A great example of this approach is the Social Trader's 2016 Capital for Impact award-winning project - the Vanguard Laundry and Career Development Centre in Toowoomba, Queensland. This social enterprise is an initiative of Toowoomba Clubhouse and the social investment advisory firm, Social Ventures Australia (SVA). The centre was opened by Prime Minister, Malcom Turnbull, in January 2017.

Vanguard is a not-for-profit established by Toowoomba Clubhouse after it secured a 9-year contract to deliver outsourced laundry services to St Vincent's Health, a major private hospital in Toowoomba. A key plank of the Vanguard business model was first to identify a project partner (St Vincent's Health) committed to outsourcing based on the principles of social procurement, and then to put in place the appropriate structure and financial commitments. With the support of SVA as financial arranger and 45 other community organisations (including the Westpac Foundation and the Commonwealth Government), Vanguard procured the design and construction, and is now operating, the A$15 million Vanguard Laundry and Career Development Centre.

Working with SVA and Vanguard, MinterEllison assisted Vanguard transition from start-up concept to commercial reality, providing holistic advice in relation to the project structure and contracting arrangements, and developing a structure that was sufficiently flexible to accommodate the needs of all stakeholders (including private impact investors, philanthropic trusts, corporate foundations and government) with these interests then accommodated within a not-for-profit structure. 

The direct impact of Vanguard's service is the creation of a training and industry-linked pathways program with trusted suppliers and local businesses, providing training and job opportunities for 30 people with mental illness every year. The ongoing impact of the project includes estimated savings to government on welfare spending of about A$10 million over 5 years, whilst data shows that social enterprises that provide supported employment opportunities for people with mental illness are up to 4 times more effective than traditional government services in getting such people back into long-term employment.

Vanguard is demonstrating that, with an enterprise-driven approach and cross-sector collaboration, marginalised citizens can be empowered to make the transition from welfare dependency to sustainable employment.

This project is a blueprint for the expansion of social enterprise in Australia, and we are proud to be at the forefront of this highly innovative business model. It demonstrates how we can innovate, collaborate and inspire through our firm’s Community Investment Program.

In June 2017, MinterEllison received a Good Design Selection in the Social Innovation Project of the Year category at the Good Design Australia Awards for our role in the Vanguard Laundry and Career Development Centre.

The social enterprise created training and employment pathways for people living with mental illness and is demonstrating that, with an enterprise-driven approach and cross-sector collaboration, marginalised citizens can be empowered to make the transition from welfare dependency to sustainable employment.