Social procurement at NZ Post

New Zealand Post and Ākina Foundation have been working together since 2012 to grow the next generation of social enterprise in New Zealand.

Social enterprises work to solve complex social and environmental challenges. Partnering with these businesses in our supply chain makes use of our procurement spend to deliver broader outcomes - creating jobs and opportunities where it matters most.

Social procurement happens when we buy from businesses who deliver social and environmental impact. We are harnessing the money we’re already spending to promote inclusive growth, reduce our environmental footprint, help deliver what people care about and build resilience in our communities.

“At NZ Post, we are committed to buying from Kiwi businesses whose purpose is to create a positive impact – these businesses are also known as social enterprises. Social enterprises operate to tackle social problems, improve communities, provide people access to employment or to help the environment.” David Walsh CEO NZ Post

Here’s how we’re putting social procurement into action

  • Working with suppliers that are committed to making a positive difference in their communities through meaningful employment, building social connection or improving the environment.
  • Opening doors for social enterprises by partnering with Ākina and large buying organisations, so we can keep growing social procurement in New Zealand.
  • We’re a member of Fwd, the Ākina social procurement platform, which we founded together back in 2018.

Today we partner with 12 social enterprises for a range of needs across our business –from sourcing some of our uniform items and recycling our waste to providing some of our cleaning products and services. We are working to develop even more opportunities for social procurement within our ten year plan and our major projects.

To learn more about some of our social enterprise suppliers, check out the stories below.

WILL&ABLE

For WILL&ABLE, their mission is simple - to create jobs for people with disabilities. CEO and founder, Martin Wylie’s vison was to provide an opportunity for Kiwis with disabilities (particularly intellectual) and to bring them purpose, independence and inclusion. Martin himself has a son with Autism so he understands the barriers that people with disabilities face. Studies have shown that people with disabilities are three times less likely to be employed and WILL&ABLE is changing that narrative.

WILL&ABLE is striving to create a sustainable business model in which they can employ an expanding number of people with disabilities on the minimum wage without any support from the government. By using profits from product sales to grow the business, they are growing a model that can be expanded throughout the country. They have recently begun dispatching to the South Island from a facility in Christchurch as well as shipping to the North Island from their Auckland facility. 

At WILL&ABLE everyone is accepted for who they are and acknowledged as contributing to a culture of mutual support where all are friends and part of a community. Employees are surrounded by a team that really understands who they are as individuals. Each employee is encouraged to bring their whole self to work and to take pride in their work. “Our people are proud of what they do here. Ask any of the employees and they will tell you they enjoy coming to work and are grateful to be here”, said Martin. It gives them something to strive for, a reason to get out of bed in the morning and a sense of community. “We want to enable our employees to develop a reputable work history and break down barriers for people with disabilities so they can also go into mainstream employment if they choose,” said Martin. 

WILL&ABLE are also deeply committed to using environmentally sustainable products and business practices. WILL&ABLE is the only eco range of cleaning products in New Zealand using 100% recycled milk bottles, proudly filled, labelled and packed by people with disabilities. In their commitment to environmental responsibility their RETURN TO SENDER programme is a circular scheme which enables their customers to return empty bottles which they then make into more useful materials.   

What’s more, WILL&ABLE’s profits go directly to creating more jobs for people with disabilities. Their goal is to create 100 new jobs for people with disabilities in the next year and a half. For WILL&ABLE’s customers, they know that their money is going to a cause that not only has social impact but focuses on ecological sustainability and ethics.  

Learn more about WILL&ABLE

Little Yellow Bird

“A Natural Fit - Little Yellow Bird and NZ Post”

One of the ways that we’re using our buying power to reduce waste and increase the well-being of communities is by sourcing some of our uniform items from Little Yellow Bird.

Little Yellow Bird makes 100% organic cotton uniforms, corporate wear and basics. They are dedicated to making clothes that are good for people and the planet. Little Yellow Bird supplies the organic black polo shirts that are worn by our box lobby staff, customer facing staff at Courier Post and Operational Managers, as well as some of the teams in corporate.

“We needed a 100% cotton polo that met our aspirations for an ethical and sustainably sourced product. Little Yellow Bird was able to deliver in a way that exceeded our expectations.” says Karen Mikaera, NZ Post’s Supply Chain Specialist. “Little Yellow Bird uses traceable, rain-fed, organic cotton, supports small farmers and have sustainable production practices that tread lightly on the planet - it’s an ethical supply chain from cotton seed through to shipping.”

One of the values that NZ Post shares with Little Yellow Bird is making a positive impact in the communities that we work – last year they took out the supreme award at the Sustainable Business Network awards (2019). “NZ Post is part of the fabric of New Zealand, and that’s been so clear this year”, says Jess Matthews, General Manager at Little Yellow Bird.  “It’s been a tough year to get through, but during lockdowns, NZ Post played such a major role in peoples’ lives. Being on board with the Posties and people who were driving so much change in their communities meant so much to our team.”

“We are very community driven and focussed on seeing people thriving in our communities, NZ Post has the same mindset” says Jess. In New Zealand, Little Yellow Bird supports the local clothing industry, through New Zealand merino and New Zealand made masks. In India, where Little Yellow Bird’s cotton is grown, the team works with a local impact partner, Sai Dham, on community driven projects, including educational scholarships, microloans to women and infrastructure that supports girls to access education. This year, Little Yellow Bird has also supplied over 20,000 hot meals for migrant workers in the communities where products are made, providing nutrition and care at all stages of the supply chain during a time of uncertainty.

“When we heard about Little Yellow Bird, it was a ‘natural fit’”, says Karen. “We worked with our main uniform supplier, Profile, to work out a way that Little Yellow Bird could supply a portion of our overall uniform needs. We basically unbundled our uniform catalogue to enable Little Yellow Bird, who align with our values, to access this larger contract in bite-size chunks. This also influences our large suppliers, by making it really clear that we’re focussed on sustainability and delivering positive impact.”

What’s next?

“It’s a bold goal”, says Jess “We’re trying to re align the entire uniform industry, so that the way we make and recycle clothes becomes the norm and not the exception. Every Postie that’s out there with our Little Yellow Bird tag is another chink in the fast fashion system”

We’re currently working with Little Yellow Bird and on how we might expand the range of organic uniform items, as well as how we can ‘close the loop’ and recycle our clothing. “It’s pretty exciting” says Jess, “and so critical to work with companies like NZ Post who are so visible and so vocal about how they’re trying to change things.”

Learn more about Little Yellow Bird

All Heart

All Heart has a unique approach to waste and is also a supplier to NZ Post. Waste is a growing problem in New Zealand - particularly corporate and building industry waste which makes up a whopping 88% of New Zealand’s total waste to landfill. All Heart NZ is a social enterprise working to change that by partnering with corporates to redirect, repurpose and reduce their redundant and unwanted items in a practical way, supporting communities in the process.

Ultimately, All Heart NZ finds an environmentally and socially positive solution for unwanted corporate items including building waste, furniture and end of life products. This means less waste goes to landfill and gives items another life to be of use to communities throughout Aotearoa “We want to see more unwanted corporate items redirected to where they are needed. Not only does it help community groups, it makes a real impact in reducing waste here in Aotearoa.” Says Joe Yousef, All Heart’s National Director. Here’s a snapshot of how All Heart’s partnerships work:

Through this partnership, NZ Post has delivered a tonne of impact. We chatted to two of our people who are leading the charge in social procurement at NZ Post, Kate Potter in the Procurement team and Joel Mellor, our facilities manager from Cushman Wakefield, about the impact NZ Post has contributed to since working with All Heart NZ.

“In one of our Wellington cleanouts, All Heart NZ repurposed 100% of the 7.66 tonnes of unwanted office material. Rather than ending up in the ground or storage, these items went to communities who are working on our hardest social issues, such as poverty, addiction and unemployment” says Kate.  NZ Post also redirected 1.7 tonnes of furniture to a decile one school, to help set up classrooms and office space. It was a perfect storm, we were moving office and we had so much stuff. Rather than going to waste or storage, we thought there must be a better solution, so we talked to Cushman Wakefield about how we could make it work” says Kate.   

It is a problem that a lot of businesses face - excess furniture and office ‘stuff’ that is perfectly fine but doesn’t fit their current needs. It was a real ah ha moment for us”, says Kate. “You don’t often get to be at the forefront of change and it is exciting to be doing that with an organisation like  NZ Post that can actually effect change and has a leadership role in this space. I’m so proud of what we do, it’s what gets me out of bed every morning” says Kate.

So what’s next for our partnership? “We are currently going through our storage and working out what we don’t need to hold onto and what can be useful” says Joel. “We’ve streamlined our process to make it easy for NZ Post employees to log a job and indicate that you want the items to go to All Heart NZ”.

Learn more about All Heart