In response to the recommendations coming from the operational review and subsequent restructuring of the organisation came the establishment of a new directorate – Retail, Logistics, Communications & Marketing, Commercial Enterprise and Fundraising.

Within that directorate is the Commercial Enterprise portfolio, which is responsible for all commercial and business activities outside of Retail.

In these early days of the establishment of the Commercial Enterprise Portfolio the team are focused on the consolidation of existing business and seeking to improve their performance along with identifying new opportunities to generate income for the Society.

Significant energy has been put into the design of new reporting systems to ensure that we have the ability to measure the performance of the enterprises we are managing, we are also developing systems and processes to assist in undertaking due diligence on any potential business opportunity we may encounter.


Prior to the restructure of the commercial activities of the Society all business activities were managed by the Central Councils and as such operated independently and sometimes in competition with other Central Councils. Since the establishment of the Commercial Enterprise portfolio we have been able to consolidate all aspects of the business and negotiate with buyers from a position of strength. Revised systems have been put in place to ensure total transparency in all negotiations with third party entities. The subsequent results of the work has seen an overall reduction in overheads and increased consolidated income.

The Commercial Enterprise team have taken on the management of an existing Society owned cut rag business located in Northern NSW. Having reviewed the overall operation and implemented new operating systems we have seen a significant turnaround in the performance of the business.


New opportunities may present themselves as new initiatives or simply new ways of seeing things, the latter of these we have achieved by simply redefining what we mean by waste and seeing it as a resource that has the potential to generate income. Put simply every kilogram of waste that we put to landfill costs the Society and reduces the revenue we have to assist those we are here to serve. Seeing the importance and potential impact of redefining what is waste and what is a resource we have taken the decision to set a goal to have zero textile to landfill in the next few years. As a result of this commitment we have worked with our staff and volunteers to train them in the new process required for sorting of textiles that results in the reduction in cost of textile to landfill, increased quality to the shop network and increase in export.


The Society has been a participant in the circular economy since the day we opened our first shop – back then it didn’t have a name, today the concept of circularity which embraces recycling, upcycling, reuse and product stewardship, is becoming what customers expect from organisation such as the St Vincent de Paul Society. To respond to this expectation we have developed a new brand re/CYCLE to market recycled products made from our export textiles through our shops, online and potentially with Third Party online retailers.


St Brigid’s Catholic Parish Primary School, Gwynneville held a container drive where more than 2,000 drink containers were recycled to our Return & Earn depot in Unanderra.

Tracey Shillingsworth and the REDI.E Board on-site at the Container Deposit Scheme site in Dubbo.


‘Return & Earn’ wins big for environment and people in need

The community is awash with unwanted (and often unnecessary) packaging material, much of which cannot be recycled and is no longer accepted by overseas processors. However, single-use drink containers – glass and plastic bottles, and aluminium cans – can be recycled within Australia at an economic cost.

Container deposit schemes work by adding a small extra deposit on top of the price of a beverage such as those in plastic and glass bottles and aluminium cans. These deposits are then refunded to consumers, or to designated charities such as the Society, when they return the empty containers for recycling.

Removing containers from the waste stream is another example of the Society’s commitment to good environmental practice – in the same way that our shops give new life to unwanted items. It also generates valuable funds for our community work with families and individuals struggling to make ends meet.

From humble beginnings our Return & Earn program has grown to become a significant and profitable commercial enterprise. In the 2019/20 financial year our involvement with the container deposit scheme netted a total profit of $833,124, helping fund our good works across the community.

The practical focus has moved towards large scale Return & Earn depots, and away from Over the Counter collection points previously located in several Vinnies Shops.

A grand total of 92 million containers were collected, making this sustainable model a benchmark for excellence across the whole Return & Earn NSW Scheme.

In October 2019, we opened our sixth Return & Earn depot, this time in Dubbo (after Penrith, Unanderra, South Nowra, Cardiff and Wagga Wagga). The joint venture is with an Indigenous organisation, Regional Enterprise Development Institute (REDI.E), operating on Wiradjuri land.

It is a strong demonstration of the Society’s commitment to its Reconciliation Action Plan and to developing practical relationships with Aboriginal partners. It enabled us to employ one full-time Aboriginal worker, with scope for further employment as the business grows.

The Chief Executive Officer of REDI.E Tracey Shillingsworth describes the new initiative as a win-win for the local economy and the Indigenous community.

“We know our communities are familiar with Vinnies and the incredible work they do. This joint venture represents our vision to be at the forefront of innovation and collaboration with other local organisations. We are proud to be part of this initiative, which is an important step towards reducing litter, protecting our environment, and building sustainable futures for our people.”

Vinnies CDS 100 Milion Containers

We send our congratulations to Vinnies NSW Container Deposit Scheme for collecting 100 million containers through the Return and Earn scheme. 🎉 Check out the video below to learn more about their amazing work!

Posted by Return and Earn on Monday, 21 September 2020