What Is Social Procurement?

Are the dollars you spend supporting your local economy?

Social procurement is a growing best practice that governments & other public purchasers can use to create social, environmental & ethical value that can contribute to building healthy and resilient communities.

Across British Columbia, local governments and other large purchasers spend billions of dollars each year on goods, services and infrastructure projects. Social procurement can create additional community benefits from this existing purchasing power.

What is social procurement?

Since 2016, BCSPI members have been identifying ways to integrate social procurement principles and actions into their purchasing processes to create additional social, environmental & ethical value from their spending that contributes directly to the social and economic resiliency of their communities.

Why is social procurement important?

Communities today are facing complex social, economic and environmental challenges. Every year, local governments across BC spend billions of dollars on goods and services using public funds. Social procurement focuses on ‘best value for money’ beyond just a financial transaction. It is becoming an increasingly expected practice that procurement processes include local community and environmental impact assessments and goals, at all levels of government. Procurement becomes a tool for building healthy communities.

How can social procurement create additional value?

Social procurement creates “best value” from existing spending to ensure that public dollars spent by governments are being reinvested directly back into the local community and can contributing to a community’s identified economic needs and social objectives. Examples are things like the  employment of marginalized population groups, local food security, housing affordability, community engagement, local economic revitalization, beautification and provision of cultural amenities. 

Does it cost more?

Despite common misconceptions, there is no evidence this is true. Generally social procurement will not increase the overall price, but it will increase overall value. Additionally, lowest price does not always need to be the defining factor when “best value” is considered.

What about the trade agreements?

Trade agreements will always apply and competition cannot be restricted, but purchasers can seek social value outcomes. Trade agreements also have exceptions for contracting with non-profits and financial thresholds which provide further flexibility within below threshold purchasing/direct award.

How much extra work will it take?

Implementing social procurement is affordable and achievable for local governments with BCSPI. Membership adds capacity and takes away the heavy lifting, meeting member staff where they are at with resource capacity by creating a social procurement implementation journey that is achievable and fully supported by training, templates, coaching and a host of other resources.

Social procurement in action

These local case studies from BCSPI member communities provide examples and ideas for how to begin implementing social procurement. They also discuss important outcomes and lessons learned throughout each process.

Comox Valley RD: Keeping It Simple

Learn how community employment benefits were achieved in a large construction project.

City of Victoria: Small Spends for Community Benefit

The City of Victoria is using p-card spend as a first step to integrating social value.

Tofino: Unbundling for Local Benefit

Unbundling a large streetscape revitalization contract to include local vendors.

Port Hardy: Test Driving Community Value

Recreation centre upgrades address community and environmental needs.

Comox Valley: Construction Pilot

CVRD piloted social value criteria in a small construction project on Denman Island.

Ready to take the next step?

BCSPI membership makes it easy

BCSPI provides the capacity building, training, coaching and other resources that organizations need to easily implement social procurement practices to create additional social, environmental & ethical value from their existing spending.

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