A Tour of the “trending trajectory” of Social Purchasing!

*This post originally appeared on Accelerating Social Impact, a CCC founded by David LePage with the mission to accelerate blended value business and investment opportunities to build healthy communities.

Social Purchasing is Encouraging a shift towards procurement based on achieving multiple outcomes in addition to maximizing financial value.”                                                                         - Social Procurement and New Public Governance: Barraket et al, 2016

Social purchasing intentionally multiplies the social and economic ripples of existing purchasing from merely supplier benefits to community benefits.

This tour through social purchasing initiatives is an evolving ‘map’ as we go along the journey. We couldn’t cover every possible point of interest, so we tried to provide a good overview. Please send us any additions to the itinerary!

 Why is the tour a ‘trending trajectory’?

A Trend is the prevailing tendency; changes in a situation or in the way that people are behaving; a direction in which something is developing.

A Trajectory is the path followed by a projectile flying or an object moving under the action of given force, a progression.

 Background for the Tour:

Social purchasing and Community Benefit Agreements are now moving beyond experiments. They are becoming innovative and effective implementations across multiple jurisdictions and locations. They are creating targeted employment opportunities, enhancing local economic development, and contributing to healthy communities. And through social purchasing social enterprises are seeing their sales opportunities increase, and their social impact grow.

 In the spring of 2014 I published Exploring Social Procurement, which outlined opportunities and barriers to advance social purchasing, especially for governments. The paper noted that we were at an early development and emerging stage of social purchasing. http://buysocialcanada.ca/2015/01/13/exploring-social-procurement-report/

Now just three years later Social Purchasing is on an amazing “trending” trajectory!

So, rather than me trying to write a comprehensive observation and analysis of what is evolving in social purchasing globally, let me just provide a tour of some quotes and quips. You can explore and see for yourself!

 The Early Days of the Tour:

Sixteen years ago, in 2000, Carter and Jennings wrote, “To the best of our knowledge, ours is the first study that has empirically examined how the involvement of any functional area of logistics management in a broad-based group of socially responsible activities affects supply chain relationships.”


In 2003 we launched the first Social Purchasing Portal in Vancouver, and saw it replicated across Canada. An early demand side targeted employment model experiment that faded as available grant funding diminished. (Through local funding the SPP still operates in Winnipeg, http://sppwinnipeg.org.)

 From Emerging Experiments to Multiple Examples:

The 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland both initiated Community Benefit Agreement models to support social enterprise suppliers at international games events. They raised important policy issues and discovered supply chain opportunities for social enterprises. (http://www.ceis.org.uk/sustainable-procurement/)

Let’s continue the tour in Europe…

“Evidence from across the EU suggests that innovation in public procurement or the public procurement of innovation has re-surfaced as a popular policy solution.” Scotland Public Procurement Reform 2013 http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/68170.aspx

In Europe the public procurement represents 17% of the GDP of EU Member States. While preserving competition and transparency, it may be used in a way to steer the market in a more socially responsible direction and thus contribute more generally to sustainable development. http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=89&newsId=978

 And to Britain…

The UK Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 requires public bodies to consider how the services they commission and procure might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the area. Commissioners are required to factor social value in at the pre-procurement phase, allowing them to embed social value in the design of the service from the outset. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2012/3/contents/enacted

Buy Social is SEUK’s flagship campaign launched in 2012 aims to build markets for social enterprises among the general public as well as the private and public sectors. It challenges all of us to think about where we buy our goods and services from, and the social impact of our purchasing decisions.


And over to Wales…

 Welsh procurement policy aims to address and balance economic, social and environmental issues and impacts.

Off to Scotland…

Develop and deliver new approaches to public service reforms and make better use of our public procurement to drive innovation. Scotland Social Value Act


 The public sector in Scotland spends £10 billion annually on goods and services and Ready for Business works with commissioners and buyers to encourage the adoption of social value in public procurement and to increase the share of these services that the third sector delivers. http://readyforbusiness.org

“We will enable more consumers, public authorities and businesses to understand and purchase from social enterprises… explore creative ways to open up market opportunities to social enterprises…encourage forward procurement planning.”

Scotland Social Enterprise Strategy December 2016 http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/12/4404

Over to Australia…

Australia’s Social Traders’ Connect is a unique service for government and corporate buyers seeking to procure from certified social enterprises.

Through Social Traders’ extensive social enterprise network, buyers have the opportunity to generate social impact within their supply chains, creating greater value to the community.


Across Canada…

“In these circumstances, the government’s desire to underpin Canada’s future economic performance with a renewed innovation agenda is undoubtedly the right policy inclination…. [which includes] focusing on demand-side instruments — such as regulations and government procurement policies — that can sharpen innovation incentives, while promoting broader public interests…” Institute for Research on Public Policy, June 9, 2016


Modernize procurement practices so that they are simpler, less administratively burdensome, deploy modern comptrollership, and include practices that support our economic policy goals, including green and social procurement.

Canada’s Minister of Public Service and Procurement’s Mandate Letter 2015


“The time to invest in Canada’s infrastructure is now—to bring Canadians good jobs, a cleaner environment and thriving communities for years to come. The government will be investing more than $180 billion.” http://www.budget.gc.ca/fes-eea/2016/docs/themes/infrastructure-en.html

Bill C-227 in Canada’s Parliament will allow the Minister of Public Service and Procurement to require a social value on infrastructure expenditures. It was introduced in early 2016 and was approved at the committee level on December 3, 2016, and is ready for final reading and approval in Parliament in spring 2017.

From February 24, 2016: “Mr. Speaker, I am honored to rise today, with the support of the member from Scarborough-Rouge Park, to introduce my first private member’s bill on Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) in federal spending on infrastructure.

  • CBAs are a new approach to development and growth in neighbourhoods all across Canada.
  • CBAs create community wealth, quality jobs, training; responsible growth and a healthier environment
  • CBAs empower communities to make development work for them.
  • CBAs are about fairness and broad community participation in the development process resulting in everyone getting a slice of the development pie.”


Ontario’s Provincial Bill 6 approved, Infrastructure Legislation now includes Community Benefits. The Ontario Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act (20150 provides the planning framework for delivery of $130 Billion of infrastructure projects across the province over the next 10 years. http://www.communitybenefits.ca/bill_6

Toronto passed a social purchasing policy that targets diversifying their supply chain employment opportunities. Spring 2016


The Toronto Community Benefits Network has built a strong community-labour partnership with a support base of workforce development agencies, learning institutions and funders. http://www.communitybenefits.ca/about

Chantier de l’Economie Sociale in Quebec has a new interface that enables consumers, buyers from large Para-public and private enterprises, and government ministries to not only learn more about the products and services provided by social economy enterprises, but also, access them directly. http://www.achetersolidaire.com

British Columbia has published Social Impact Purchasing Guidelines. 2015 http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/employment-business-and-economic-development/business-management/social-innovation/si-purchasing-guidelines.pdf

BC Housing now includes sustainable purchasing goals in their RFP’s, which includes specific reference and preference for Aboriginal and Social Enterprise businesses. https://www.bchousing.org/doing-business/supplier-centre/contract-essentials

Cumberland BC and Wood Buffalo, AB became the first Buy Social Certified municipalities in 2016. www.buysocialcanada.ca

Vancouver Casino Community Benefit Agreement: April and May 2015: City and PARQ register on title the “Inner-City Local Employment and Procurement Agreement” and “Responsible Gaming Agreement” that covers the entire project for the duration of Casino operations at 39 Smithe Street. http://council.vancouver.ca/20161130/documents/pspc3.pdf

City of Vancouver passed the Downtown Eastside Community Economic Development Strategy that includes support for further development of social purchasing and Community Benefit Agreements. November 2016


Next Steps on the journey…

 Significant steps in the path ahead are enabling procurers and those who commission procurement has been the single most important enabler – or barrier – for innovation procurement.”

Policy instruments for public procurement of innovation: Choice, design and assessment by L Georghiou


A Strategic Opportunity for moving forward in Canada is the scaling of Buy Social Canada, which will soon be expanding our platform, resources, and facilitation for advancing social purchasing across the country…


We’re glad you travelled with us this far, and we look forward to you joining the tour by adding your points of interest along the way as social purchasing journey continues its trending trajectory forward…