Can We Fix It – Poverty Week: Organisations making a difference
Give a man a fish, you know the rest. While the adage is old – and yes, definitely clichéd – for Otahuhu-based Trow Group, it is the way of business.
“We strongly believe in giving people a hand up, not a handout,” Trow Group office manager Julie Latu says.
Born from the desire to give back, Trow Group specialises in civil contracting and machinery hire, working alongside councils and businesses to reduce items going to landfill by deconstructing and salvaging materials for community groups, including maraes and schools.
Its sustainable approach to business is paired with the company’s dedication to investing in the education and training of local people who lack opportunities or support, and giving them pathways to employment, Latu says. It’s community development with people at the centre.
“We believe that if each business does its bit towards social good it will be one big step towards a better future for us and our children, and grandchildren.”
Economic development can be a huge force in pulling people from poverty, as evidenced in countries like China. During the 1970s in the height of globalisation, China managed to lift 800 million people from poverty with market reforms, reducing poverty rates from 90 percent to below 5 percent.
The problem is that economic growth, although important, is not shared unless by design. And as the gap between the rich and poor in New Zealand has expanded, increasingly people across the country have decided to do something about it, starting social businesses and initiatives that offer training and employment to people struggling to access opportunities.
Often these businesses have an environmentally sustainable approach, like Kilmarnock in Christchurch, which trains and employs people with disabilities to work in the open market doing a range of services including collating and packing, woodwork and electronic waste recycling.
In Wellington, Pomegranate Kitchen employs refugee women to prepare Middle Eastern food for delivery and catering. The work has helped the women improve their communication and practical skills, and has led to other employment opportunities.
In Lower Hutt, the Common Unity Project started growing food on a school’s unused field and now feeds 2,500 kids a day. The project has also upskilled and hired local community members for a range of work including beekeeping, gardening and cooking.
And in Henderson, The Kitchen Project is giving locals the chance to develop their own businesses through training and the use of an industrial kitchen. Project lead Connie Clarkson says the idea is to generate diverse, affordable and healthy food options in the area.
The project is aimed at people who don’t have the capacity or financial capability to get their food business started, and who live in Henderson and would base their business there.
Social enterprise, Clarkson says, isn’t about giving away something, it’s about ensuring business has a social good behind it.