Drug and alcohol programs are quickly going beyond being workplace health and safety initiatives. As Australia battles the growing use of illicit drugs and increasing numbers of dangerous binge drinking episodes, all eyes are looking to employers as frontline intervention points because approximately 80 percent of the people who use these substances are employed. The implication is that workplace influences can have a very real social impact. In this sense, all Australian businesses are social enterprises, and it is a common mistake to view the drug and alcohol as only having relevance within the workplace.
A business social enterprise is one which operates in the marketplace to generate profits, but does so by fulfilling a cultural, social, or environmental purpose.1 Maintaining operations to benefit society encompasses a variety of efforts, activities, and goals. For example, the company may be committed to hiring the long-term unemployed or hiring those living in poverty and paying the employees a living wage. However, it might also brand itself as selling high quality sustainable products, free of defects and produced by a drug and alcohol free workforce. Social enterprises could include a branding component based on offering employees opportunities to voluntarily participate in Employee Assistance Plans to overcome addictions and working with local organisations to ensure workers have access to resources outside the workplace when needing help staying off drugs and alcohol.
Taking Social Responsibility to a New Level
Employers failing to develop a written drug and alcohol policy that complies with federal, state, or territory laws and regulations are inadvertently harming society. Even when they exist, it is common to view the drug and alcohol programs as standalone initiatives, taking them out of the broader social context. The truth is that society benefits from each worker able to end illicit drug use or who stops binge drinking because of employer-delivered workforce training.
Social enterprises are traditionally focused on funding or supporting some type of social cause like reducing unemployment, increasing social inclusion of marginalised people, producing Fair Trade products, increasing access to healthcare, and so on. Though drug and alcohol programs are not normally mentioned in context of social enterprise, they do play an important role in a society where illicit drugs and alcohol abuse harm communities and force governments to redirect scarce resources.
It is not just the business that benefits from building a social enterprise perspective, even if it is not following a social enterprise model. Companies that brand themselves as having a zero tolerance for workplace substance use are more likely to attract responsible people who support a drug and alcohol free culture. In addition, employers with strong drug and alcohol policies and employee support systems are often partnering with local services that can provide guidance and help as needed. This helps the support services achieve their goals as well.
In This Together
Though a drug and alcohol policy alone does not make a social enterprise, the resources put into helping employees get off and stay off drugs and alcohol contributes to the well-being of Australian society. In other words, helping workers live substance free lives through an investment of business resources might be one component of the larger work of the organisation.2 It is not necessary to strictly follow a social enterprise model to do good things for Australia. It is only necessary to have a social enterprise component that drives quality business performance.
An important component of successful drug and alcohol programs is the quality of testing supplies and equipment used by the employer. CMM Technology has what employers need to administer their drug and alcohol testing program.
- Social Ventures Australia and Parramatta City Council. (n.d.). A business planning guide for socail enterprises - Putting the pieces together. Retrieved from Social Ventures Australia: http://bit.ly/1d8ZMjW.
- Christopher Mason. (August 7, 2013). Defining Social Enterprise. Retrieved from Probono Australia: http://bit.ly/1lJRezO.