What is Social Procurement?

Are the dollars you spend supporting your local economy?

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

Across British Columbia, local governments and other large purchasers spend billions of dollars on goods, services and infrastructure projects. Since 2016, BCSPI members have been identifying ways to integrate social procurement principles and actions into their spending to create additional social, environmental & ethical value that can contribute directly to the social and economic resiliency of our communities.

What is social procurement?

Every purchase has a social, economic, cultural, and environmental impact. Social procurement is about using your existing purchasing to capture those impacts to achieve overarching institutional, governmental, or organizational goals that help shape inclusive, vibrant and healthy communities. It is a shift from requiring ‘lowest price’ to achieving ‘best value’.

Watch this short video from BCSPI delivery partner, Buy Social Canada to learn more.

Why is social procurement important?

Local governments spend millions of dollars annually. There is a growing opportunity to look at the potential for their spending to support local support local economies, mitigate climate change, contribute to reconciliation, and provide many additional community benefits. For smaller communities and those in economic transition, local government spending can be a significant lever to generate positive community impacts.

How can social procurement create additional value?

By including social procurement in their purchasing processes organizations can create additional social and environmental value from their existing spending. This ensures dollars spent are contributing to identified economic and social objectives and helping mitigate many pressing social and environmental issues.

What issues can social procurement help to address?

Governments and other institutional purchasers can use their existing purchasing power to address many issues that are growing concerns and community priorities. BCSPI’s Purchasing Power learning series explores just some of ways social procurement can address a number of issues including supporting local economies, engaging Indigenous businesses, increasing food security, supporting diversity and inclusion and addressing climate change. To learn more, visit the Training & Events Page to watch the full series.

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.

Community groups deliver value

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District

Keeping it simple

Comox Valley Regional District

changing the procurement landscape

Sunshine Coast Regional District

Social Procurement FAQs, Myths and Facts

Does it cost more?

In terms of proposals received, so far there has not been an increase in costs. In fact, by unbundling projects (breaking large contracts into smaller, clearly separate parts), there has even been significant cost savings that result from goods and services being delivered by local businesses. However, depending on what the goals might be, a decision could be made to pay more for greater value.

What about the trade agreements?

Yes, governments have to comply with trade agreements. You cannot restrict competition, but you can seek social value outcomes from all bidders. The important part is making the process competitive and transparent for all bidders.

How much extra work will it take?

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

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.