How to Connect Social Goals, Budget Restraints and Social Procurement

Aug 29th, 2023

The Social Value Questionnaire: A Key Tool for Social Procurement Implementation

Every purchase has an economic, social, cultural, and environmental impact. Social procurement is the intentional use of existing purchasing to achieve social value outcomes. Social procurement transforms purchasing from an economic transaction into a means to create community capital.

Effective social procurement means that for every dollar spent to purchase goods or services, even greater value is created for government. The underlying value of social procurement is its capacity to achieve social, Indigenous, and environmental, strategic goals from current purchasing.

Or from another perspective, every dollar spent on goods and services with a social procurement outcome also saves government spending for a related social, Indigenous, or environmental expense. For example, diversity of ownership in supply chains can address issues of racialized poverty and social exclusion. Purchasing from a social enterprise may create employment for a person facing barriers, such as a new immigrant or a person with a disability. Indigenous procurement can mean economic and cultural advancement and support socioeconomic reconciliation. Creating targeted employment generates income and self-esteem, social inclusion addresses the social determinants of health, increased Indigenous well-being addresses some of the negative impacts of colonization, and reduces related government program costs.

In 2021 the Government of Canada recognized this correlation when they adopted a social procurement policy and strategy to intentionally leverage best value outcomes from existing government purchasing of goods, services, and construction.

And with this week’s news that “Federal cabinet ministers have been given an October 2nd deadline to come up with specific cuts as part of an effort to shave about $15-billion from existing spending plans,” according to a letter obtained by The Globe and Mail. The inclusion of social procurement could help by providing substantial savings or leveling of current expenditures. The recent findings in Comox on an infrastructure project, and Calgary after a year of measuring social purchasing activities have found no additional costs, but clear measurable social value outcomes.

The Federal social procurement policy was a critical step one. Now the challenge is to establish the most effective tools and resources for implementation and measuring impact. We have recently received two RFIs from the Federal government that have included some form of social procurement language, weighting, and scoring. Building a new social value content framework for every bid will only create problems in evaluation, more work for purchasers, and resistance from bidders.

For nearly ten years Buy Social Canada has been advising and consulting for governments across Canada. One of the tools we developed that is now being implemented in various manners is the Social Value Questionnaire. The Social Value Questionnaire is a standard set of questions included within the bid to evaluate, score, and create contract language for social procurement implementation.

The ‘questionnaire’ process and weighting provide consistency, fairness, transparency, openness, and flexibility, across all RFx to achieve the appropriate social value outcomes. The questionnaires are implemented as appendices or embedded criteria into the bid process, and become the foundation for contract language, measurements and reporting on social value outcomes.

You can see below the examples from several municipalities that have designed and implemented social value questionnaires to support the success of their social procurement programs.

We believe that designing and adopting a series of questionnaires for the Federal Government, and any other government in Canada, will enhance your efforts, simplify your process for procurement staff and bidders, and provide a data baseline for measurement and reporting.

If you would like support to develop a Social Value Questionnaire for your organization, please contact Tori Williamson at tori@buysocialcanada.com.

Social Value Questionnaire Implementation Examples

City of Calgary


The Social Procurement Program is how the City is building inclusive, resilient and sustainable trade within our supply chain. Through the program, all City services are:

Encouraged to buy local whenever possible for purchases below $5,000.
Required to get at least one quote from a local supplier whenever possible for purchases of goods and services costing $5,000 – $75,000 and construction costing $5,000 – $200,000.

Including the Social Procurement Questionnaire for purchases of goods and services costing more than $75,000 and construction costing more than $200,000, where Trade Agreements apply, with a minimum five per cent weighting in the evaluation. If a business meets the requirements for price and quality, its ability to receive additional points in the evaluation through the Social Procurement Questionnaire could provide the advantage needed to win a competitive bid.

City of Winnipeg


The key economic and social goals that the Social Procurement Questionnaire will ask questions about are:

  • Increase employment of First Nations, Inuit and Red River Métis peoples
  • Increase employment of Equity Groups
  • Increase in organizations paying a Living Wage
  • Increase training and apprenticeship opportunities for Equity Groups, including First Nations, Inuit and Red River Métis peoples
  • Increase contract and subcontracts with social enterprises, Indigenous businesses and diverse businesses
  • Enhance City of Winnipeg knowledge of public and private employment training entities and increase partnerships between contractors and these entities
  • Align public and private education and training programs with potential employment through sustainable procurement
  • Suppliers are recognized for and increase their contributions to the advancement of the Winnipeg community socially, economically, culturally and environmentally

Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo


The key economic and social goals the Social Procurement Questionnaire will ask questions about are:

  1. Economic Development and Business Diversity
    • Small sized enterprises (Small is 1-49 employees)
    • Indigenous owned
    • Social Enterprises
    • Equity-deserving owned – ie. Owned by Racialized peoples, Women, members of the 2SLGBTQIAPP+ community, persons with disabilities, or another Equity-deserving Group
  2. Supply Chain Practices
    • General practices
    • Subcontracting opportunities
  3. Skills Development
    • Training and apprenticeships, or internship programs
  4. Inclusive Hiring
    • Employment of individuals from Equity-deserving Groups

City of Peterborough


The City of Peterborough uses different methods to include Social Procurement in its procurement process, including:

  • Prioritizing the City’s low value procurement (up to $10,000 and under trade agreement thresholds) to local, social enterprise, diverse-owned businesses and Suppliers who contribute to the Social Value Objectives. Vendors who identify as these business types can register on the City of Peterborough’s Vendor Registry.
  • For procurements that are between $10,000 to less than $50,000, the City will obtain a minimum of three informal quotes of which at least one is from a local supplier, social enterprise or diverse-owned Supplier, where practicable.
  • For procurements that are over $50,000 and less than $100,000, the City will issue the bid solicitation to at least three Suppliers, with the goal that at least one is from a local supplier, social enterprise or diverse-owned Supplier. The Invitational Competition will consider price, Best Value, Social Value considerations and other evaluation criteria included in the Bid Solicitation.
  • For procurements $100,000 or more, a Social Value Questionnaire is included as part of the evaluation criteria along with price, quality, time, materials, etc.

City of Edmonton


The City of Edmonton implemented a Social Procurement Framework in December 2019 working with industry experts, Buy Social Canada. Buy Social Canada is a social enterprise with a goal to improve social, environmental, cultural and economic impact of purchasing by businesses, governments, and consumers. Working with Buy Social Canada, the City developed the sustainable benefit criteria that has been included in competitive procurements. The criteria is from the City’s Social Procurement Framework, and is related to employment, skills and training, social value supply chain, and community development.

In February 2022, Buy Social Canada completed a case study report of various 2021 City procurements, in an effort to learn and progress towards positive community impacts. Based on the results of Buy Social Canada’s case study report, the City is implementing new changes to further support community impacts.

In September 2022, the City entered into a new contract with Buy Social Canada to support the implementation of the Sustainable Procurement case study report recommendations. As part of the work, Administration is currently working on various new tools and changing its sustainable procurement approach to not only encourage the use of sustainable procurement criteria but also be specific on the desired outcomes of the procurements and create targeted opportunities.

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