Why Op Shops?

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In a world where many businesses exist with profit maximisation as their primary purpose and the financial concerns of shareholders overriding those of the community, social enterprises are changing the way in which we measure success.

The Akina Foundation defines social enterprises as “purpose-driven organisations that trade to deliver social and environmental impact.” They provide a new business model with a clear social or environmental purpose at the forefront. In this model, companies not only give us products and services that they profit from, but also promote good values throughout the community. It recognises that companies can provide benefits for the community above and beyond the products and services they sell. It redefines the role of businesses in society.

A social enterprise may employ people from disadvantaged groups, ensure their products are produced in a sustainable way, or use their profits to improve and raise awareness of social issues. In other words, these companies exist for a purpose rather than a profit.

The social enterprise landscape in New Zealand has been growing in recent years. Examples include companies such as Eat My Lunch, which helps to alleviate the consequences of child poverty in New Zealand by providing food for children in need to take to school, and Ethique, which reduces plastic waste by producing soaps and shampoos without plastic packaging.

Vinnies is a charity, but their model is similar to that of a social enterprise. The charity has been running op shops for 85 years in Wellington, with the first Community Shop opening on Vivian Street in Wellington. They exist for the purpose of providing support for people in need, which is why their tag line is people helping people. This does not mean that profit is unimportant, but simply that it takes a back-seat role in facilitating the purpose of the organisation rather than being its sole objective.

Vinnies Opportunity Shops, more commonly known as Op-Shops, are a pivotal piece of the organisation. They provide a way for people to donate unneeded items, thereby recycling products throughout the community. These Op-Shops are the Vinnies that most people know and interact with.

What people are less aware of is that the profits from the Op-Shops are used to sustain the free welfare services that Vinnies provides. This includes a full-time social worker, a food bank, pregnancy assistance, home support and visitations. These services are all funded by the revenue that comes from the Op-Shops. This means that every time you purchase a second-hand clothing item, kitchen utensil, or piece of furniture, you are directly contributing to helping individuals within the community that are in need.

Shopping with companies that exist for a purpose is an easy way to improve our social footprint. Finding out the purpose of the companies that we support is a good way of holding them accountable to community standards and ensuring that they uphold values that we find important. If a company exists solely to make profits, it may be worth supporting a social enterprise or a charity instead. By voting with our wallets, we can encourage other businesses to support the community, be sustainable, and have a role in changing what companies exist for.

Shopping at Vinnies Op-Shops is good for the planet, good for people, and good for your pocket. Visit the Vinnies website to see where your nearest Op-Shop is and be part of the changing business landscape.