Update

Social procurement solutions for 2022: Growing the movement of community capital creators

Jan 6th, 2022

At this time last year, we were preparing for the unprecedented potential of a procurement paradigm shift in 2021. We asked the question, and challenged ourselves, “Can we move social procurement from the exploration phase to a place of widespread adoption and implementation?” Over the past year, a collective effort with many partners did move the dial.  

Looking into 2022 the next big challenge is to create the social procurement solutions that will include a broader and more inclusive list of social value purchasers and suppliers. As we increase social procurement outcomes we can increase community capital and social impact.

Our goal this year is to enhance our engagement and collaborative efforts with suppliers and purchasers so together we can strengthen and grow the social value marketplace.

Buy with impact on the demand side

In government

2021 was a big year for social procurement in government. At the municipal level, Calgary and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo both unanimously passed Social Procurement Frameworks Programs or Policies. We started new contracts or relationships with other municipalities across the country like City of Lethbridge and City of Peterborough and we look forward to continuing this support into full policy implementation.

The Coastal Communities Social Procurement Initiative (CCSPI) expanded province-wide and became the British Columbia Social Procurement Initiative (BCSPI). The initiative, a collaborative effort with Scale Collaborative, Presentations Plus and Vancouver Island Construction Association now has over 30 members and growing.

2021 also saw an exciting federal policy update from the Treasury Board of Canada which enables purchasers to prioritize best value, not just lowest price, in procurement and opens pathways for purchasing with impact.

As the largest public buyer of goods and services, the Government of Canada can use its purchasing power for the greater good.  We are using our purchasing power to contribute to socio-economic benefits for Canadians, increase competition in our procurements and foster innovation in Canada.

Public Services and Procurement Canada

With confirmation of these goals in the recent Ministers’ mandate letters, and with our continuation engagement and advocacy, we look forward to seeing the next steps of implementation in social procurement at the Federal level in 2022.

We’re also hopeful and excited to see more purchasing for community impact begin to evolve at the provincial level in Canada in 2022. Stay tuned!

In the corporate sector

The corporate sector has taken on social procurement with renewed vigor.  It is encouraging to see the private sector take their efforts beyond corporate social responsibility, to more robust frameworks and policies that integrate into their business activities. This includes integration of social value, diverse supply chains, providing inclusive hiring and training, and focusing on community development outcomes.

In the past year, we worked closely with thirteen Social Purchasing Partners. These organizations are committed to embarking on or continuing their social procurement journeys to support vibrant local economies and inclusive communities. Design your Buy Social Journey and join the network of businesses making change in procurement to start the new year off in a good way.

We’d like to give special recognition to the two founding Buy Social Canada Pledge Leaders; SAP and Chandos Construction.

SAP have made a commitment to achieve 5&5 by 25. That is 5% of addressable spend with social enterprise and 5% of addressable spend with diverse suppliers by 2025. In 2021 SAP and Buy Social Canada continued our collaborative work with a continued focus on access to markets and buyers, education and learning, and joint storytelling opportunities.

We look forward to our on-going joint efforts to implement social procurement throughout SAP’s supply chains and across the broad range of SAP tools and programs used by organizations across Canada and globally.

Chandos Construction have made a commitment to shift at least 5% of their addressable spend to social enterprises, diverse-owned businesses, and other impact organizations by 2025. Throughout 2021 Chandos Construction led as champions of social procurement initiatives in collaboration with Buy Social Canada.

We look forward to our on-going implementation of social procurement, and advocacy for social procurement and Community Benefit Agreements, with Chandos throughout 2022.

We’re also proud to work with Social Purchasing Partner Destination Vancouver to develop and implement a Social Procurement Policy in 2022. They are taking a leadership role in the tourism sector, and hope this will inspire their members and other destination marketing organizations to help transform our communities and our visitors through the power of travel.

Outside of Social Purchasing Partnerships, City of Vancouver’s CBA Policy is a new avenue of work that has been fostering community capital creation. Buy Social Canada currently serves as the Independent Third Party Monitor on two Vancouver CBA contracts. While one project is still in the early planning stages, we’ve already seen meaningful impacts since breaking ground on the new St. Paul’s Hospital development. Through our Third Party Monitor contract with PCL Construction, we’ve supported the project to connect with social enterprises, local and supportive employment networks, and businesses and workers in the Downtown Eastside.

One story of impact from this Community Benefit Agreement comes from EMBERS Staffing Solutions, where a part time worker placed there as part of the fulfilment of the CBA has impressed their managers so much, she landed a full-time position! Learn more in this Q&A from EMBERS.

As more large-scale redevelopments take place in Vancouver, we look forward to connecting contractors with social enterprises and other social value suppliers to provide meaningful work, wraparound supports and impact in the local community.

Sell with impact on the supply side

Social procurement success hinges on suppliers’ ability to create social value. There is no social purchase without the businesses who deliver social value while selling their goods and services.

2021 saw a growing network of social enterprises and social value suppliers. We continued our work to support social enterprises and other suppliers to access opportunities, win contracts and increase their impact.  We developed new training programs tailored to the supply side of social procurement.

We are encouraged by the number of social enterprises we’ve certified this past year, bringing us to a total of 163 distinct enterprises on our Certified Social Enterprise Directory. Each of these businesses generates an incredible amount of impact and creates so much value for the communities where they work. CleanStart BC has started to measure and report on that impact each month. We look forward to promoting and telling the stories of amazing work done by the growing social enterprise network this year.

The growth of social value suppliers is also supported by small actions like the Elections Canada recognition and call out for certified social enterprises in their application form to become a supplier for Elections Canada. We look forward to seeing more recognition and weighting that prioritizes social enterprises and other social value suppliers in contracts and RFXs across sectors.

To support growing demand, we developed the Social Procurement Supplier Readiness (SUPER) program in 2021, and ran five cohorts of procurement readiness and storytelling trainings, funded by the Government of Canada’s Social Development Partnerships Program.

Here is one great story that came out of the most recent storytelling cohort, made by a training participant who works at Resource Assistance for Youth’s (RAY) LevelUp! program.

We look forward to sharing SUPER with more social value suppliers in 2022, and developing other ways to support businesses to take advantage of social procurement opportunities. If you have any suggestions on the gaps in supply-side supports, get in touch.

2021 also saw us forge new relationships with diverse-owned and Black-led business networks across Canada. This is an objective which is increasingly included in social procurement contracts and programs. As part of this work, we joined forces with SETSI (Social Economy Through Social Inclusion) to support the development of an social procurement mobilization and policy support for Black-led and other diverse businesses. This work is being done for AnchorTO, City of Toronto’s anchor network that aims to leverage procurement to achieve inclusive economic development outcomes. 

We’ve also signed on to support the Black Business Association of BC’s (BBABC) Sustainability Incubator in 2022 to deliver social procurement readiness training. If you’re eligible to participant in this incubator, make sure to submit your application before January 14.

We look forward to supporting community capital creation as we continue to build relationships with the diverse-owned, Black-owned and Indigenous business communities.

Create social value across the ecosystem

The ecosystem that surrounds social procurement is more than business to business and business to government relations. It includes a network of community members, social procurement champions, and training and resources to educate all stakeholders on the opportunities and impacts offered by the social value marketplace.

At Buy Social Canada, we have been proud to work with four regional partners and Momentum, our founding community champion, leading the movement for community capital creators across the country, and hope to see this network of leaders grow in 2022. Reach out if you’re interested in joining us to support our mission to promote and advance social procurement activities within your networks and communities!

We are collaborating with local networks from Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Peel, St. Catherine’s, Windsor/Essex, and Vancouver’s Exchange Inner City to explore and move forward community benefits in infrastructure and development projects. These networks are key for sharing best practices and building a knowledge base to expand everyone’s capacity to design and leverage effective community benefits.

In 2021 we developed the Social Procurement Professional Certificate program to provide both private and public sector participants with in-depth knowledge of the fundamental components of social procurement success. Included in the course is a video with SAP’s Stephen Young. His insights help inspire cohorts of procurement leaders to “take a leap of faith” and move beyond corporate social responsibility to systems and culture change.

So far, 71 public procurement professionals were certified through CIPMM’s National Workshop, and an additional 29 have been certified in two Buy Social Canada cohorts. Participants have included procurement staff, project managers, executives, consultants, and managers from all levels of government, the corporate sector, the construction industry, public institutions, and non-profits.

These training sessions are about a practical approach to implementing social procurement! An overview of social procurement fundamentals is provided and there is opportunity to network and learn with industry experts and social procurement practitioners.

Training Participant

To support our education efforts in 2021, our Trade Agreements Primer was updated with the latest agreements, and the Social Value Menu for Goods and Services was updated with new best practices including a standardized social procurement questionnaire. With the support of Chandos Construction and in partnership with a cadre of design groups and construction industry partners we created a new Guide to Social Procurement in Construction and Infrastructure Projects.

Beyond the Professional Certificate course, we’ve been lucky to provide training to BCSPI members, federal and municipal governments, construction associations and others, all with the goal to expand social procurement. We strongly believe that education and training supports can change, and are changing, the culture of procurement. We continue to work across the ecosystem to develop new programs and resources as needed. If you think anything is missing – get in touch!


Looking forward, we’re excited to continue to collaborate with community, government and industry, to convene spaces for relationship-building, provide tools and resources, and strategize to support social procurement solutions which build the social value marketplace.  

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this movement. Together we are redefining how goods and services are bought and sold. We are taking back control from the invisible hand of capitalism and building healthy communities that are rich in human, social, cultural, physical and economic capital.

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