Community Business

CSIRO spins out company to help tackle 'social licence to operate'

DECLINING TRUST in corporations is being tackled by Australia's national science agency, CSIRO, which has developed and commercialised a new science-driven approach to enable companies to better manage their social licence to operate – starting with mining and agriculture.

New business Voconiq was launched to scale up CSIRO’s community insights service, formerly called Reflexivity.

It captures real-time insights into community sentiment across time and locations, and aims to help industries and communities build greater trust and mutually-beneficial outcomes.

A social licence to operate continues to be a top business risk facing industry today, as highlighted in CSIRO’s recent Australian National Outlook 2019 report.

"Our social insights capability has grown strong market demand from customers including BHP, Rio Tinto and the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia, so we were able to spin out Voconiq, creating a new Australian company poised for international growth,” CSIRO Mineral Resources director, Jonathan Law, said.

"This move means more businesses will be able to draw on CSIRO-developed science through Voconiq, who can grow their service to benefit more communities, the resources sector and any other industry where community trust is essential to their business.”

Voconiq already has operations underway across five countries and in key Australian mining regions, including the Pilbara, WA and the Hunter Valley, NSW. A new agreement with Newmont Goldcorp in the city of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, WA was implemented this month as the company continues to grow.

The Voconiq methodology involves community engagement, community surveys, data collection, analysis and reporting in a clear framework that companies can proactively respond to.

It is underpinned by more than a decade of CSIRO research that shows trust between companies and the communities they work alongside is a key factor influencing a social licence to operate. When companies lose community trust, conflict can occur equating to potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in delays or the complete abandonment of a project. 

Voconiq CEO Kieren Moffat, a former CSIRO senior research scientist, said the service is about moving companies from a transactional approach to working with communities in a long term and constructive way.

“Our service enables companies to systematically understand the complex sets of issues and concerns held by communities, while providing communities with a constructive way to have a voice and influence company decision-making,” Dr Moffat said.

In its first year, Voconiq will focus on delivering for its current portfolio of clients, including recently-secured contracts with Newmont Goldcorp, AgriFutures Australia and LiveCorp. It has longer term plans to expand further into the infrastructure, oil and gas industries and to provide its services to communities directly.

Voconiq will also build on previous national-scale research undertaken in CSIRO, including national attitudes to mining surveys for Australia, China and Chile, and most recently for Australian Eggs.

CSIRO continues to maintain a strong social science focus across a range of industries, including mining, tourism, the marine environment, energy and onshore gas, such as through the Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance.

The Voconiq team was supported by Australia’s national science and technology accelerator, ON, powered by CSIRO.


Sponsology joined by Stemdom, Champific and Bestowly

SPONSOLOGY, the new Australian web platform that uses an algorithm to match sponsorship ‘givers’ and ‘seekers’, has been joined by its platform siblings in the sports, arts and research/education sectors going live online.

Champific is the special sector for sports people, Bestowly is for all artists and creative pursuits and Stemdom is for researchers, educators and innovators.

The problem Sponsology, Stemdom, Champific and Bestowly confronts is matching organisations and philanthropists with the people and specific causes they want to sponsor, partner or donate to – whether that be financial or in-kind support. 

It is believed to be the first platform in the world to offer such a ‘giver-seeker’ matching system. More than $60 million is on the books now across the platform from ‘givers’ aiming to place their support where it can be most effective, matching across Sponsology, Stemdom, Champific and Bestowly.

The four integrated platforms have been created by professional sponsorship facilitator Stephen King, founder of a not-for-profit Mark McConnell and intellectual property licensing and trademark attorney Celia Murray.

What the Sponsology set aims to do is solve the fundamental issue of time and money wasted by ‘givers’ and ‘seekers’ in matching up, according to Sponsology set co-founder Mr King.


Sponsology was launched successfully in March and quickly attracted tens of millions of dollars worth of sponsorship to the platform.

Those taking part in the early stages range from philanthropists to some of Australia’s largest corporations and foundations, all seeking ideal matches. Early feedback from ‘givers’ has been that the platform reduces their administrative burden significantly, saving both time and money that can be better turned to sponsorship.

Champific, Bestowly and Stemdom were launched in May to bring organisation to other areas of sponsorship and philanthropy that have been even more haphazard for organisations and individuals to navigate in the past.

The Sponsology set organises the process by logging the intentions of givers and sorting the requests of seekers through the specifically-developed platform. The platform takes into account the nature of the giving and seeking organisations involved, the projects, organisations and individuals proposed and applies an algorithm. 

The result speeds up the matching process creating more accurate introductions based on highly qualified alignment of purpose and outcomes.

Mr King said one of the benefits of the platform that really stood out was that many givers could now do so from anonymity, should they choose to. Major organisations could simply tell seekers that they were using the Sponsology, Champific, Stemdom and Bestowly platforms to make their matches and disbursements.

While this would drive seekers to register with the platforms, it would also increase the chances of them finding the right matches, Mr King said.

“There is an ongoing cost to handling these proposals,” Mr King said. “Even local coffee shops find themselves spending time every week handling sponsorship requests – so this changes that dynamic."

The system also saves seekers time and money. In Mr King’s experience, seekers go to elaborate lengths to develop a sponsorship case and develop reports and video stories to support it – often unsuccessfully and often at up to $1000 a time. Now they can simply pay $770 a year for up to seven matches. 

“As far as we can tell, this is a world first in terms of matching those who want to give, to certain sectors of the community or to particular causes, with charitable or community organisations that are engaged in that particular work or those particular sectors,” Mr King said.

“Up until now, major organisations that operate sponsorship budgets have had to spend a lot of staff time and money in sifting through all the requests they get, just to find those that match their desired causes and areas of special interest,” he said.

“The Sponsology platforms save givers and the seekers time and money by facilitating those matches in a very sophisticated and structured way. It is about making matches that are ideal for both parties – and may possibly never have happened before Sponsology came along.

“Both parties, a giver and a seeker, define their criteria as to where they want to be aligned, who they want to align with, and how they want their organisation to be promoted in the alignment.”


Similarly, Mr King said, many givers will be attracted to the Sponsology platform set simply because they will not have to engage with seekers directly, if they choose not to. This time and resources-saving aspect of the program is attracting a lot of attention.

“For example, we know of one major car company in Australia that is a well-known sponsor of sport, community services and the arts,” Mr King said. “They currently receive about 1000 proposals a month. They have a team set aside to deal with it, but it is still a tremendous logistical undertaking – and that is without the work they do in seeking out specific sponsorships they may want to initiate as part of their overall strategy.

“Now, this organisation can simply promote on their website, and in their communications, that they use Sponsology to handle sponsorship charity and not-for profit requests. They simply have a Click Here button that puts seekers through to Sponsology and explains what it is all about. The platform does all the work and presents the auto company only with proposals that meet their requirements – and they take it from there, getting in touch with those they are interested in.”

Mr King said an early benefit of Sponsology should be to dramatically reduce staff time dedicated to handling sponsorship requests.

While Sponsology clearly has benefits for large giving organisations and philanthropists, it may also be a solution for small businesses that are also increasingly being asked for donations and sponsorships.

“I asked one coffee shop owner I know about this and his response surprised me,” Mr King said. “He estimated he would spend at least an hour a week dealing with requests from charities. Mostly having to say no.

“With very limited resources in this area he tends to pre-set his charitable donations and stick with those. But he still has to deal with the requests. Now he just directs all requests to join Sponsology and he looks forward to a matched introduction.” 

Mr King said businesses with limited resources also often worried that they were not spending their sponsorship funds effectively.

“Because Sponsology is free to givers, this may be a solution for many,” Mr King said. “It is simply a case of setting a budget aside and spending it when the best matches come through. That way you would tend to get better bang for your sponsorship buck while prioritising the causes you care most about.”

Sponsology wants givers to invest more into sponsorship so has made the service free for givers – who can specify precisely what amounts of money or in-kind donations they are offering.

The $770-a-year fee for seeker organisations gives up to seven proposal matches.

 “From my work in this sector, I know that most organisations seeking substantial support spend thousands of dollars developing major proposals and printing up request documents, mailing them to prospects,” Mr King said. “This is how it happens at the moment and so much of that effort is wasted because the seekers do not know enough about the organisations they approach to match their proposals.

“We know Sponsology, Champific, Bestowly and Stemdom can change all that for the better.”


Commemorative ride for Smiddy helps break cancer cycle

THE 10-YEAR commemorative ‘Smiling for Smiddy’ ride, dedicated to beloved mate Adam Smiddy, was a major success for cycling mates, their families and Mater Hospital’s cancer research on March 14.

The ride started from Adam Smiddy Park, Park Road, Milton, in Brisbane from 5:30am and concluded many hours later in a rousing tribute and fund raising celebration at La Dolce Vita Caffé, which is opposite Adam Smiddy Park.

To support the cause, La Dolce Vita Caffe fully catered for the 10-year commemoration, donating 100 per cent of the cost of the breakfast to Smiling for Smiddy’s cause: cancer research by the Mater Hospital Foundation.

The event was a significant milestone for ‘Team Smiddy’, his family, friends and the surrounding community to acknowledge the 10-year anniversary since the park was renamed in honour of the late Adam Smiddy. 

What began as a humble tribute ride to salute and farewell a close mate, has now grown into a wonderful series of challenges. A circle of close friends now join together to raise vital funds for cancer research projects for the Mater Hospital Foundation and they say they will “always keep smiling as they ride for Smiddy”.

Over the past 12 years, Smiling for Smiddy participants and supporters have raised more than $9 million for cancer research at Mater Hospital. Through awareness and fundraiser events the aim is to raise an additional $1 million this year. So far, in 2019, the Smiling for Smiddy initiative has raised in excess of $66,000 and riders are on track to raise much more.

In August, Team Smiddy will hit the road for another epic, ‘The Original Smiddy Challenge’ but this time in reverse from Tamworth to Brisbane in a 1,600km loop. It will take them along outback highways passing through warm country towns and stunning ranges, riding in companionship with mates old and new.

“Thanks to ongoing support from fundraiser sponsors, local Milton businesses and broader community we continue to see Adam Smiddy’s proud legacy recognised 12 years on,” Mater Foudnation CEO Nigel Harris said. “Now that’s something we should all smile about.”


Adam Smiddy never had an enemy in the world. His disarming smile, one that rarely left his face even amid the gravest of circumstances, gave his family and friends a window into the soul of a gentle, kind-hearted and unassuming boy from Home Hill.

In 2006, Adam Smiddy passed away from an aggressive melanoma. He was just 26 years old, a talented triathlete and respected physiotherapist with the world at his feet. Six months earlier, Adam had discovered a small lump in his groin, and a biopsy revealed it was a malignant melanoma. He had immediate surgery to remove the lump and his lymph glands.

Gradually over a six month period, Mr Smiddy’s health and fitness started to return. Sadly however, it was not to be.

During a bike ride with his close friend and triathlon coach, Mark ‘Sharky’ Smoothy, Adam confessed he was not feeling well. Just over three weeks later, Adam passed away. He was in hospital for only eight days. Without his knowledge, Adam’s cancer had spread to his vital organs.

To honour Adam, six weeks after his passing, Sharky and two other mates, Ron Steel and Oliver Bodak, fulfilled one of Adam’s unrealised dreams. They rode 1,600 km from Brisbane to Adam’s hometown Home Hill, with nothing but a credit card in their back pockets, and they raised $24,000 for cancer research in the process. 

La Dolce Vita Caffé is now raising money for Smiling for Smiddy. The café is matching riders’ weekly Wednesday morning post ride refreshment purchases with donations directly to the Smiling for Smiddy cause. The Cafe staff will keep a tally each week for all to see with the hopes that numbers increase as the weeks go on.


CEOs join the food harvesting global revolution

By Ellen Boonstra, Asia correspondent >>

ACCORDING TO THE UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), around 1.3 tonnes of edible food is wasted every year, at a cost of US$750 billion. Much of that wasted food could have fed the world’s hungry and prevented tonnes of greenhouse gases from escaping landfills to poison the atmosphere.

This is the starting point for a revolution in food rescue. The pioneer in Australia is OzHarvest, which celebrated its annual fundraiser on March 25 at Sydney’s Royal Hall of Industries. The OzHarvest CEO Cookoff brought together celebrity chefs and businesspeople to make and serve gourmet dinners for 1,500 disadvantaged and homeless people.

For this year’s event, OzHarvest founder and CEO Ronni Kahn was hoping to raise another A$3 million to help the company ramp up its efforts to feed and educate the public after last year’s effort broke the $2 million-dollar boundary. 

Starting in 2004, OzHarvest began after Ms Khan, a veteran events planner, noticed how much food was wasted by the hospitality industry and, when combined with her own midlife crisis about creating a meaningful legacy for herself, came up with a game plan to form the first perishable food rescue organization in Australia.

From those modest beginnings, the company now works with a thousand charities across Australia, and has inspired similar foundations in the UK, South Africa and Thailand.

Since 2016, ThaiHarvest SOS has notched up some impressive stats: providing some 300,000 meals for those in need after collecting some 100 tonnes of edible food from five-star hotel buffets, mega-stores, restaurants and smaller supermarket chains.

For many people from affluent countries, the idea of not letting good sustenance go to waste is hardly new, said Abigail Smith, the chief operations officer.

“I grew up in a household where my mother told me to finish my meal because there’s people starving in Africa. It’s not a new concept,” Ms Smith said. “It’s basic and what our foundation does is one of a million things that people can do to reduce food waste on their own.”


In Thailand however, changing minds and winning stomachs has been more of an uphill struggle, explained Po-Tsao ‘Bruce’ Chen, the foundation’s community engagement coordinator.

“One challenge is changing the perceptions of both donors and recipients, because the concept is pretty new here,” Mr Chen said. 

Safety is a primary concern. Some recipients fret that the foodstuffs are leftovers. In reality, said Mr Chen, these fruits, vegetables, meats and baked goods are “very clean and there are good hygiene standards in places like five-star hotels. So it’s very safe”.

Food safety is a major concern in other countries too. In Australia, for example, OzHarvest only rescues food from registered businesses, and any such enterprises that donate food to the charity are protected from civil liability.

Getting the business community and celebrity chefs on board has been instrumental in both raising money and allaying public health concerns. Bringing them together for the OzHarvest CEO Cookoff are the key ingredients in what has become a high-profile event.

The 2019 installment marks the first time that groups of up to five employees can now register to assist their bosses and help to raise more donations by way of sponsorship. At the event, the businesspeople work under the guidance of a chef, to help prepare food for groups of around 30 to 40 people.

For companies the event could be a kind of team-building exercise that also functions as a readymade community social responsibility (CSR) plan. Making the OzHarvest CEO Cookoff a triple-win is that participants can meet and mingle with other members of the business community.


One of the participating chefs this year is Neil Perry, who has made a name for himself through his books, TV shows, signature Sydney restaurants like Rockpool, and a personal history of philanthropy. 

In 2013, Perry was made a member of the Order of Australia in the General Division “for significant service to the community as a benefactor of and fundraiser for charities and as a chef and restaurateur”.

He is a big backer of OzHarvest.

“It’s just such a genius idea, taking great food that was going into a landfill to feed hungry and disadvantaged people,” Mr Perry said.

Another fixture on Australia’s foodie scene, Matt Moran, is also participating again in this year’s Cookoff. Brought up on a farm in New South Wales still run by his family, which supplies beef and lamb to his restaurants, Mr Moran has been asking his tens of thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram to sponsor him.

On a recent Instagram post he wrote, “The event is to highlight the issues of food waste, hunger and homelessness around OZ! A charity very dear to my heart! I’m hoping I can hit $20,000 in a month – So, I ask you all to please dig deep and sponsor me, even $10 goes a long way!” 

The success of the Australian charity’s fundraiser has also generated interest among other food rescue organizations like ThaiHarvest SOS in creating a similar event.

Yet the basic premise underlining their work, and scores of likeminded foundations across the world, remains the same. Compared with other challenges facing the planet, such as climate change, socioeconomic inequalities and the wholesale slaughter of endangered species, the problems posed by food security are both easier to address and easier to comprehend. 

“We’re not trying to come up with an alternative source for fossil fuel here,” said Abigail Smith in the Bangkok office of ThaiHarvest SOS.

“This is easy. This is a no-brainer. It’s in our conscience and our core. You’d be hard pressed to meet a human being who doesn’t believe that everyone deserves a decent meal.”

Images courtesy of OzHarvest and ThaiHarvest SOS.


Accountants vow to help SME mental health challenges

INSTITUTE of Public Accountants (IPA) chief executive officer, Andrew Conway, delivered a moving and meaningful address to hundreds of delegates at the World Congress of Accountants in Sydney recently on dealing with threats to the mental health of small business leaders.

Professor Conway said IPA members were increasingly dealing with the mental health fallout of small-to-medium enterprise (SME) owners and leaders struggling with – and too often succumbing to – increasing levels of physical, emotional and financial stress.

“The real statistics are unfathomable, when over 1,000,000 people commit suicide each year – one every 40 seconds globally and estimated to grow to 1,500,000 each year by 2020,” Prof. Conway said. 

“As a profession, it is beyond time that we have a mature and robust discussion about this dilemma that faces our world.  Today, I am asking the profession to start this global discussion.

“Our research, and much more research will be done, points to the biggest stress points for small business owners, is the fact they are striving to survive.

“We were openly told real truths when we conducted our study over a 12 month period, such as: ‘I am doing well, but my business is killing me – I’m never there for my family; I went to a client with bandages on her wrists and I took her to the hospital to get professional help; I was told by a client that he couldn’t manage anymore, the phone call ended and I haven’t been able to contact him again’.

“As a profession, we cannot ignore our social responsibility. That does not mean we are the fixers but more the concierge service … that when we recognise our small business clients in stress, we guide them to ensure professional assistance and solutions are achievable.

“Our early studies show that when a small business client engages with their accountant, 95 percent of them feel a relief in their stress levels,” Prof. Conway said.

“We also know that people will turn to their accountant for advice well beyond compliance and audit requirements. This is the power of trust that is divested to us, and one which we must respect and live up to.

“Look at the statistics; they speak for themselves. Simply, the risk is too great – we cannot ignore our social value or responsibility.

“Collaboratively, we must agree on resourcing the appropriate tools and systems that enables us all to address this trend and hopefully, together, we can make a difference,” Prof. Conway said.

The IPA Group is the largest SME focused accountancy organisation in the world. The IPA is a member of the International Federation of Accountants, the Accounting Professional and Ethical Standards Board and the Confederation of Asian and Pacific Accountants.


Sodexo partners with Foodbank to supply vital staple foods

SODEXO, a company specialising in ‘quality of life’ services, donated $32,000 to Australian Foodbank’s Key Staples Program – ahead of World Food Day on October 16 – to help the hunger relief organisation feed more than 652,000 people per month.

Foodbank’s world-leading Key Staples Program proactively sources and manufactures essential food items such as meat, pasta, flour and rice with the help of Australian businesses.

The demand for these staple ingredients is outstripping supply, hindering Foodbank’s ability to provide nutritious meals, meaning 65,000 people are being turned away every month due to lack of food relief – and 17,550 of them are children.

Sodexo Australia chief financial officer and country president, Mark Chalmers, said his organisation was “very humbled to help Australians in need and we couldn’t be more grateful to support such an innovative program”. 

“Ending world hunger is one of the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, which forms part of Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow 2025 Corporate Responsibility Road Map,” Mr Chalmers said.

“As a global company, it’s a collective goal we’re committed to achieving,” he said.

“Globally, Sodexo serves 100 million consumers every day, so we understand the importance of the staple ingredients required to prepare nutritious meals.”

Foodbank Australia chief executive officer, Brianna Casey said the organisation was thrilled to partner with Sodexo to help achieve their target of 50 million kilograms of food and groceries to vulnerable people each year.

“More than 3.6 million people experience food insecurity at some point every year, with one in five Australian children facing the same struggle,” Ms Casey said.

“The demand for food relief is rising, with charities reporting a 10 percent increase in demand last year. There is a real need to provide staple ingredients to these charities so they can be used to help put nutritious meals on the dinner tables of those in need.”

Foodbank’s Key Staples Program works by partnering with companies such as Sodexo Australia to supplement the gap between the amount of staple foods rescued and what is needed by the charities and community groups to provide filling and nutritious meals.

To address this, Foodbank partners with food companies who donate or subsidise the ingredients and services to produce, process, package, and transport essential items. 

Building on the Sodexo’s entire ecosystem – employees, families and friends, clients, consumers and suppliers – Sodexo’s Stop Hunger program has built a model of partnership between public and private partners with a unique potential for action.

Sodexo’s Stop Hunger program engages 427,000 Sodexo employee volunteers in 41 countries, contributing 100 percent of donations to NGO partners. Globally, Sodexo’s Stop Hunger program supports 1,200 NGOs and associations in the field.

“We’ve enjoyed a longstanding relationship with Foodbank Australia, spanning five years through our Stop Hunger program and we’re proud to continue our relationship in funding the Key Staples Program,” Sodexo’s Mr Chalmers said.

“By working with Foodbank, we are well placed to achieve our Better Tomorrow 2025 commitments. We encourage other corporate companies to support Foodbank and its Key Staples Program, as we can only stop hunger by working together and taking positive actions today.”

Mr Chalmers said the partnership was part of Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow 2025 strategy, the company’s roadmap for the next stage of its corporate responsibility journey covering issues ranging from stopping hunger to reducing waste and increasing gender diversity.

In Australia, Sodexo employs a diverse workforce of more than 5,000 people to deliver a unique array of over 100 integrated services lines including: catering, facilities management, concierge services, security, asset maintenance and hospitality services in the segments of Corporate, Healthcare and Seniors, Education, Government and Justice, and Energy and Resources both on and off shore.

Founded in Marseille in 1966 by Pierre Bellon, Sodexo is a global leader in services that improve ‘quality of life’ – seen as an essential factor in individual and organisational performance.

Sodexo is in 80 countries and is ranked the 19th largest employer worldwide with a total of 427,000 people.

For more information in Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow 2025:

For more information on Sodexo’s Stop Hunger program:

For more information on Foodbank’s Key Staples Program: donate-food/key-staples-program/


Grand Plaza rallies support as ‘the heart’ of its local community

GRAND PLAZA Shopping Centre in Browns Plains, Queensland – managed by Vicinity Centres – has found differentiation in its proud community heart and is focussed on giving back to its customers.

Local community groups are utilising Grand Plaza as a base for assisting the community and local volunteers are now part of the ‘Friends of Grand Plaza’ initiative.

From Rural Patient Health Care to the local Marsden State High School, The Australian Men’s Shed Association (AMSA), the Logan House Fire Support Network and more, Grand Plaza works with charities and institutions around Logan to help support its economically and culturally diverse customer base. 

At the heart of this is the ‘Friends of Grand Plaza’ initiative – a collective of about 30 individuals whose tireless works have been publicly celebrated by the centre and who now work in unofficial ambassadorial roles for Grand Plaza – hosting workshops and facing public relations campaigns.

“It’s been a tremendously rewarding initiative for us,” Grand Plaza centre manager Martine Coorey said.

“Not only has it allowed us to really interact and connect with the local community, it has also created a feel-good aspect that differentiates us from other shopping destinations.”

Further to this, Grand Plaza has utilised a retail space for a dedicated community hub – a free room that can be booked for anything from mother’s meetings to book clubs, not to mention the centre’s ongoing workshop series available to all members of the public both young and old.

In this way, the centre has been able to morph successfully into a valued community destination – ensuring customers not only maintain a strong communal tie to Friends of Grand Plaza but also to the centre’s retailers, Ms Coorey said.


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