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Ethical fashion enterprise wins Westpac uniform contract

Ethical fashion social enterprise The Social Outfit has won a contract to supply elements of the uniforms worn by Westpac’s branch staff, in a deal that will support the enterprise’s mission to train and employ more refugee women.

Under the agreement struck in collaboration with the bank’s uniform supplier Workwear Group, the Sydney-based social fashion brand will sew around 2,000 scarves and pocket-squares, available to Westpac staff from June.

The Social Outfit’s chief executive, Camilla Schippa, said it marked the largest business-to-business contract for the enterprise, a Westpac Foundation partner and registered charity which supports refugee women to kick-start their Australian careers via its clothing manufacturing studio and retail store.

“This is such an exciting collaboration because we know there is only so much we can sell in our Newtown retail store and online,” Ms Schippa said.

“By stepping into the field of procurement through this arrangement, the increased revenue means we can confidently hire and empower more women. It’s also been a fantastic opportunity to test our capabilities and systems and lay the groundwork for more business-to-business contracts of this kind.”

The agreement enabled The Social Outfit to achieve its goal to reach 1000 training outcomes and 100 jobs for refugee women by its 10th anniversary this year. To date,101 people have been employed by the enterprise, earning over $1.5 million in total wages, and for the vast majority it’s been their first Australian job.

Westpac’s chief procurement officer, Brian Hagen, said the contract lined up with the bank’s commitment to use inclusive and diverse sourcing strategies to create positive impact.

“At Westpac, we have long recognised the opportunities our supply chain creates to direct procurement spend towards businesses, like The Social Outfit, that are great operators doing great work to promote social and economic participation,” he said.

“Through the Westpac Foundation, the bank has had a longstanding partnership with The Social Outfit, so we’ve seen how they've evolved, the impact they make, and the high quality of the work produced by their team. We look forward to seeing the ways in which this new arrangement can help to support and scale their impact.”

Workwear Group’s uniform and operations general manager, Matthew Blashki said partnering with customers like Westpac provided a great opportunity to combine commercial and community impact.

“We’ve thoroughly enjoyed working alongside The Social Outfit, guiding the team through the requirements, challenges, and benefits of establishing ‘bulk production’, and we’re looking forward to working with them well into the future on other products and programs,” Mr Blashki said.

“We are embracing this shift and conversations with our large customers like Westpac, so we can be part of more initiatives like this one.”

In the last financial year, Westpac reported spending $27.9 million with diverse suppliers, up almost 35 percent compared to the prior year, and 140 percent up from 2021. Mr Hagen expects the spend to continue to grow, reflecting improvements in the bank’s procurement processes and systems to better identify opportunities.

“We’ve formed strong partnerships with direct suppliers – ranging from those like Workwear Group, to those who supply the bank’s office stationery, fit-out services, and technology hardware – which have created a growing number of diverse supplier opportunities throughout the supply chain.”

Westpac Foundation’s chief executive Amy Lyden, said the development showed the value of support beyond philanthropy offered by Westpac Foundation, which has partnered with The Social Outfit since 2017 and helped to facilitate its connection with the bank’s procurement team.

“While funding is important to helping our grant partners to scale, it’s our unique non-financial programs and networks that enable us to walk alongside our social enterprise partners over the long-term and contribute meaningfully to their strength, growth and sustainability,” Ms Lyden said.