Stone Hearth Bakery produces high-quality European style breads, bagels and specialty baked goods, which are distributed throughout the Maritimes and available at most major grocery stores. Instead of relying on government funding, the social enterprise has been able to compete with traditional businesses in the industry, all while creating a life-changing impact on individuals facing barriers to employment.
“Baby boomers see doing good as separate from investing; whereas millennials don’t see how you could possibly separate the two.”
Manager of Stone Hearth, John Hartling believes that social change is on the way, and sees a tipping point where the conventional profit outcomes of business are not enough for consumers, who increasingly expect some form of organisational community engagement. Young generations are much less prepared to stand for businesses who only extract value from a community and are more interested in what and how they contribute.
With the announcement earlier in November of an $805 million investment in social innovation by the Canadian federal government, and the establishment of a Nova Scotian social enterprise strategy in 2017, things may be looking up for non-profit social enterprises like Stone Hearth.
Notably, social businesses like Stone Hearth provide employability services and training to individuals otherwise regarded as uneconomical, keeping them productive, valuable to the economy and supporting them to live independent lives – saving the state money.
So should this contribution to society be recognized in the procurement practices of commercial and public sectors?
Legislating for mandatory or prioritized procurement support for businesses with a specific social mandate or program would reduce stigma about working with mental health employment social enterprises and make it easier for social businesses to engage in the competitive marketplace.
Stone Hearth receives a lot of commercial interest from companies and individuals who buy products from them to support the social mission, but then become repeat customers because they love the product. Often status as a non-profit or lack of awareness about workers with mental health or learning disabilities can create additional barriers for social enterprises to engage with the competitive market.
“Sometimes the bread burns, and you have to be able to manage the dynamic nature of change.”
Businesses like Stone Hearth have these 15 permanent members of staff so they can create value proposition for big companies, because sometimes the bread burns, but as a business, they have to be able to manage and cope with the dynamic nature of change and ensure that the client is serviced regardless.
It’s clear to John and clear to us that there needs to be more inclusive mixing between the private, public and third sectors in terms of market-based cohesion.
“Giving rise to more than just bread.”
Businesses need to engage in a more comprehensive way with social enterprises like Stone Hearth, so that the employment training and mental health support services provided by social businesses are not compromised by the bottom line. Procurement opportunities would allow Stone Hearth to focus on giving rise to more than just bread and continue to invest in improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in society