What is a social enterprise?
Social enterprises exist to benefit an economic, social, cultural or environmental aspect of the community. Part of the profit they generate is reinvested to help issues such as youth homelessness or domestic violence, and more.
In 2016, there were an estimated 20,000 social enterprises in Australia. Over 90% of these identified social enterprises, were small to medium-sized businesses, predominantly operating within service-based or retail industries.
Whichever issue lies at its heart, social enterprises aim to make a difference by creating meaningful employment opportunities or working towards an innovative solution.
The difference between social enterprises and not-for-profits?
Both social enterprises and not-for-profits (NFPs) exist to reinvest their profits to contribute to a wider social benefit.
NFPs are organisations that are founded and operated for non-personal or gain. Any profit that is generated can only be utilised for operational costs such as wages, infrastructure, and administration. According to Australia’s Corporations Act (2011), NFPs must be registered and if its operations shut down, revenue can be redirected to NFPs of a similar cause.
Social enterprises are not legally defined and can encompass a broad range of commercial activity that passes on the majority of their profit for specific projects and issues.
With creativity and purpose, these three social enterprises use what they love to raise awareness for contemporary issues. Read their stories:
Streetwear label speaks up about gender inequality
Every dollar we spend is a monetary vote, demonstrating demand and indicating what we deem valuable. From plastic bottles to cotton T-shirts – what we choose to consume has short and long-term impacts on the lives of people.
LISNUP is a modern streetwear label that goes beyond the latest trends. Instead, each item gives consumers an opportunity to donate a part of the cost to a charity of their choice.
Adam Khafif, founder of LISNUP, started the streetwear line at age 15 with a vision to rally people to ‘listen up’ and support the issues of the day. Today, his social enterprise inspires a fashion-forward and social media literate generation to pay attention to issues such as human trafficking, youth homelessness, and gender inequality.
LISNUP takes a spin on the social enterprise model – giving consumers the option to select where their money is invested.
“The point of LISNUP is that each person takes away something different, from both the message and the mission. I choose nonprofits that each focus on a different cause to allow for a more personalized experience for the buyer.”
For Adam, the collaboration between a message and a design is an organic process that cannot be forced. In some instances, it can take up to two years to conceptualise the right design to pair with an issue, and every message on a LISNUP collaboration is personal to Adam.
“Usually, a theme, a lyric or a quote will sit in my head for a while before I work on it. I never want to force a message or force a process… Over time I think of different messages and different visuals, and try to pair them up in my head…,” explained Adam.
Hype and street cred are important currencies for fashion designers and streetwear enthusiasts but for Adam, his streetwear designs involve a conversation about complex issues of the day.
“I chose streetwear because I saw fashion as music… It’s a blank canvas, the same as a beat, and it’s up to the designer to write to it.”
A shirt is a track, with endless possibilities. You can sing on it or rap on it, you can choose to put out a meaningful message or you can put out something that just sounds good.
Introducing ‘Career Woman’:
‘Career Woman’ is LISNUP’s most recent collab. On the canvas of a blue Champion crewneck, a pop art image of a crying woman is depicted with the text “what do I need to do to get paid like a man?”
The idea presented itself as Adam witnessed his wife’s ongoing battle for fair wages and realised the breadth and depth of gender inequality.
“I’m married to an incredible journalist/entrepreneur and I’ve seen the Hell that she goes through trying to get paid fairly, so it’s definitely been at top of mind the last few years…” he said.
The career woman line first caught my eye on Instagram for its bold colours and exclusivity, the caption stating “The only way to get access to this new piece is to DM @Adamkhafif on IG for the password.”
So I reached out to him (#fangirl) and here’s what Adam had to say about the Career Woman line:
It’s a full-circle concept…
Champion sweaters, popular in the 90s, made a comeback into pop culture through a series of versatile collaborations with coveted streetwear brands such as Supreme, Vetements, Undefeated and A Bathing Ape. The iconic logo has since been revived, picked up by icons Chance the Rapper and Kylie Jenner.
Adam strategically aligned his message with the Champion brand, recalling his childhood home where his parents’ closet was stocked with Champion sweaters.
“Since pop art gives off a retro feel, using a brand that gives off a similar nostalgia just adds to the full-circle concept,” he said.
With a multi-layered message
When Adam commissioned his idea to artist Kara Underwood, he noticed the ‘whiteness’ of historic pop art and the lack of mainstream pop art pieces that represent minorities.
“The first version was unimpressive, and by that I mean, it looked like every other pop art piece: white.”
After discussions with his wife, exploring how factors like race and sexual orientation can affect gender discrimination, the design was iterated to feature an ethnically ambiguous character.
“The layers are my favourite part of the design…As a male, it’s easy for me to put a feminist quote on a shirt and sell a buttload, but it’s different to actually understand the layers and understand that even in gender discrimination, not all women are treated equally,” he explained.
“Depending on ethnicity, minority women make roughly 15% less than white women. The design wouldn’t be complete without recognizing the inequality across the board.”
Food for thought: Gender Inequality in Australia
Across the world, women consistently earn less than men and are concentrated in the lowest-paid and least secure forms of work. In Australia, the gender pay gap is below the global average of 23 per cent, but the reality of the difference still exists. Here’s a quick snapshot of key stats from the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2018 report on gender equality:
In Australia, the wage gap is 15.3 per cent – that means for every one dollar a male makes, a woman makes 15 per cent less (based on the average full-time weekly wage).
According to the report, 47 per cent of the workforce in 2018 are women but across the private and public sector, women are over-represented in low-paid, part-time roles and remain under-represented in leadership positions. Astonishingly, Australian women will also have to work an extra 56 days a year to earn the same pay as men for doing the same work.
In light of the current wage disparity, the average superannuation balance for women at retirement (aged 60-64) is 42.0% lower than those for men. When we add this up, Australian women who reach retirement will have an average of $113,660 less superannuation than the average male.