A BC First: Cumberland adopts Social Procurement Framework

The Village of Cumberland has passed a motion to implement social impact purchasing, making the Village the first municipality in British Columbia to proactively leverage existing spending to improve social outcomes in the community.

“Council is aware of the positive impact we can make through our purchasing practices,” said Mayor Leslie Baird. “That’s why we included social procurement purchasing as a strategic priority for the municipality, and why we’ve approved the Social Procurement Framework.”

By passing the Social Procurement Framework the Village of Cumberland is working to build a stronger local economy, to increase diversity among government suppliers, and to improve access for micro, small business and social enterprises to government contracts.

“Council spends $5 million annually,” said Councillor Jesse Ketler, who will be representing the Village at a presentation on social procurement during the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) Conference in September. “We want to maximize returns for taxpayers by better aligning this spending with community values and strategic priorities.”

To help move forward the social procurement strategy the Village engaged the help of Comox Valley resident Sandra Hamilton, a Canadian expert in social procurement who works with municipalities to strategically align purchasing with local objectives, all while working within the confines of trade agreements.

Hamilton, the former business manager to Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics CEO John Furlong, has seen first-hand how social procurement can have a positive effect on a community.

“The floral contract for the 2010 Olympic Games included something called a Community Benefit Clause,” said Hamilton. “The winning bid, would not only offer a competitive price and supplier capability, but would also commit to train women from the downtown eastside as florists. It was a pivotal moment for me, I realised procurement had the power to change lives.”

This set in motion a journey that has resulted in a number of Canadian firsts for Hamilton. She became the catalyst for creating Canada’s first Social MBA degree program; she is the first person to secure the supply of farm direct, local food into a B.C. Hospital, and now her work with Cumberland has helped lead to the design and implementation of the first municipal Social Procurement Framework in B.C.

“Sustainability is about doing the right thing. How we buy and how we invest, drives the economy, which shapes our communities,” said Hamilton.  “In Canada, government spending accounts for 40 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  On Vancouver Island public sector spending, in the form of health care and social services, represent the second and third largest economic drivers respectively. Small businesses and social enterprise growth in our smaller communities will be driven by improving access to taxpayer funded contracts. It’s good to see the Village of Cumberland stepping forward and taking the lead in this important issue.”