BCSPI Purchasing Power Recap: How can procurement advance reconciliation?

Nov 29th, 2022

British Columbia Social Procurement Initiative (BCSPI) brings together local governments and institutions to develop and grow social procurement policies and practices. BCSPI is supported by Buy Social Canada, Scale Collaborative, and Vancouver Island Construction Association.

British Columbia Social Procurement Initiative (BCSPI) recently kicked off the second annual “Purchasing Power” series with an event titled “How can procurement advance reconciliation?”

We spoke with industry leaders, Matthew Foss, Vice President of Research and Public Policy for Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB), Tim Laronde, National Director of Indigenous Strategy for Chandos Construction, and Janine Kruse, Manager of Indigenous and Rural Relations at Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB). The conversation focused on socioeconomic reconciliation in the face of historical and ongoing colonialism and oppression.

Here are the key lessons and best practice tips:

1. Procurement is a powerful tool for reconciliation

“We believe procurement is an important aspect of reconciliation” – Matthew Foss

All three speakers agree that procurement can be a valuable pathway for economic reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and communities.

Tim Laronde quoted former President and CEO of CCAB, JP Gladu, who said that “economic reconciliation is when First Nations communities go from managing poverty to managing wealth.”

One way to do that, says Laronde, is through procurement of at least 5% from Indigenous businesses. That target can, and should, go higher when working directly in or with Indigenous communities and reserves. On some projects Chandos Construction has worked on, this number has been set at 80% by the local First Nations community.

Speakers also emphasized that wealth generated through procurement has other spinoff benefits including job creation and community reinvestment.

“Indigenous procurement is an important driver of economic reconciliation. Not only does it generate revenue for Indigenous businesses, but it’s an opportunity to form relationships between corporations and governments.” – Janine Kruse

2. Be proactive with outreach and engagement

“The Indigenous economy can’t exist within programs and services, it really needs to be centred in relationships, economic empowerment, inclusion and visibility.” – Janine Kruse

As recognized in past Purchasing Power conversations, relationships and outreach are at the heart of a successful social procurement program, whether you are focussed on sustainability, social value, and/or Indigenous targets.

Janine Kruse spoke about success RMWB has had with a working group that includes stakeholders from the six local First Nations, six local Métis communities, government staff, and other community stakeholders. As they develop Indigenous Procurement and Social Procurement practices, they centre relationships, dialogue, and trust to co-create policy and programs.

Tim Laronde shared that at Chandos they’re “being more proactive in terms of reaching out directly to communities… who may have never been consulted before.” Some actions they’ve taken include hosting a job fair for a project on for Big Stone Cree Nation, where they got names and contact information for 75 local businesses and individuals interested in working on the building of a high school.

3. Use the TRC Calls to Action as a foundation for design and implementation

This Purchasing Power conversation started with reference to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Call to Action #92, which calls on corporations to practice economic reconciliation in many ways.

All three speakers highlighted the value of the TRC calls to action while their organizations were developing specific Indigenous procurement strategies, targets, and advocacy. The calls to action are an important jumping off point for organizations to then develop and take action. They strongly encourage involving community in the design process.

4. Complex procurement processes can be a barrier for success

In addition to stereotyping, prejudice, and systemic barriers, Matthew Foss shared that a “burdensome procurement process” is one of the key challenges faced by Indigenous businesses trying to participate in economic reconciliation and government procurement.

Some of this can be addressed through the creation of good relationships as a way for all parties to better understand each other’s needs as suppliers and purchasers, and to share opportunities.

However, the format of procurement opportunities themselves can also be a challenge. Most bids and tenders don’t allow much time to build capacity or training to allow Indigenous businesses to take part in the supply chain, says Foss.

Janine Kruse also emphases that inclusive design and collaboration is critical when trying to mitigate barriers and address unconscious bias in the procurement process.

“Indigenous communities have so much potential to offer Canada’s economy with simple changes to the procurement process” – Matthew Foss

Three concrete actions you can take now:

1. Set a 5% target for Indigenous procurement and “maintain momentum towards it.” – Matthew Foss

2. “Take the time to learn about Indigenous history and cultures. The more we’re educated about our history, the more we can make informed decisions.” – Tim Laronde

3. “Embark on a journey of collective education,” and take responsibility for your own awareness and action. – Janine Kruse

Watch the full recording to learn more:

Please contact Rob Fisher at rfisher@scalecollaborative.ca to find out more about becoming a BCSPI member, and sign up for the BCSPI newsletter to stay up to date on procurement news, events and offerings.

We hope we’ll see you at the next Purchasing Power event: How can procurement support zero waste?

For your reference and continued learning, here are the resources and links shared during the event:

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