Social value isn’t just nice, it’s necessary: The marketplace revolution in 2024 and beyond

Jan 9th, 2024

In 2023 we saw continued momentum for social procurement and social enterprise growth, implementation, and capacity-building. Governments, corporations, and community intermediaries are championing social value in procurement as they recognize it’s not just nice to have, it’s necessary.

As we step into the new year, we’re taking this time to reflect on the past and look ahead at what we hope to achieve in the future.

10 years of Buy Social Canada

In 2024 we get to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Buy Social Canada. Beyond the growth and successes of 2023, the past decade has seen a paradigm shift in the marketplace as we’ve collaborated with peers to shift the market from transactional to transformational.

In 2018, we published a comprehensive Guide to Social Procurement and made it available for free on our website to support social procurement implementation and growth across Canada.

10 years of advocacy for social procurement at the federal level has ushered in important progress and unlocked billions of dollars of Federal spending that can now be directed to include social value outcomes. In 2021, Canada’s Treasury Board Secretariat implemented a Directive on the Management of Procurement that allowed procurements to seek “best value consistent with the Government of Canada’s socio-economic and environmental objectives.” In the spring of 2022, the Ministry of Public Services and Procurement Canada, the purchasing agent for the Federal government, published their Social Procurement Policy.

Municipalities are also leading the movement for social procurement policy development and implementation. We’ve worked with cities including Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Peterborough, Vancouver, Winnipeg and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to support their practices over the years and they remain committed to leveraging their purchasing for community benefit. Through the British Columbia Social Procurement Initiative (BSCPI) we have helped 44 local governments and public purchasers across British Columbia realize over $750 million in spending with added social and sustainable value.

In the past four to five years, we’ve seen growth in social procurement amongst corporations including Buy Social Canada Social Purchasing Partners SAP, Chandos, Delnor, Bird, Jacobs and more. In the past two to three years more non-profits and institutions like Open Door Group, Explore Edmonton and others, are also looking at how they can shift their purchasing to achieve their missions.

When government, corporate and community purchasers all pull together to drive change and ask their suppliers to deliver social and environmental value, we see a growing marketplace for social enterprises and other social value suppliers.

Continued momentum in 2023

In 2023, we saw the impacts of the past decade show up in our successes, expanding reach, and partnerships.

We released two major reports, Buy with Impact and Sell with Impact, which took the pulse of the social procurement and social enterprise sectors. The reports shared updates on current strengths and challenges, and stories of best practices and community impact. In the Buy with Impact report, we celebrated advances in social procurement implementation, and called for continued momentum in measurement and reporting. In our Sell with Impact report, we busted social enterprise myths and found that respondents had collectively earned over $4 billion in revenue in 2022.

We also collaborated with partners to release additional resources. We worked with Social Purchasing Partner Destination Vancouver to release a Guide to Social Procurement for Tourism; with Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada on a Guide to Co-op Procurement (also available in French); and with AnchorTO to explore the role of self-attestation to remove barriers in diverse supply chains.

This past year saw many advances in social procurement through our consulting contracts and Social Purchasing Partnerships. We’ve collaborated with leaders at the political, staff and community levels to push for engagement, and supported organizations to build on policy and move to deeper implementation that creates positive impact through training, tool development, community engagement and change management.

Construction continues to be an area of growth and opportunity in social procurement, with many construction companies including Chandos, Delnor, Bird, Jacobs and AtkinsRéalis working with us as Social Purchasing Partners. Others including PCL Construction and Peak Construction Group became involved through Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs). In Vancouver, the City’s Community Benefit Agreements (CBA) Policy is currently applied to several projects throughout the city which are exceeding targets, creating jobs for equity-deserving groups and supporting local businesses and social enterprises. We shared the latest data and stories of impact from one of those projects, New St. Paul’s Hospital, in a recent blog post.

The Federal Government continued to support the social procurement movement last year. Current funding from the Investment Readiness Program (IRP) is coming to an end, but we hope to see a renewed investment in 2024. In 2023, the Government also announced the Social Finance Fund which is intended to meet a critical gap in access to finance for social purpose organizations. This is a much-needed public policy and program breakthrough. That said, we echo others in the sector who are concerned with the inclusivity of the initial design and rollout, and hope that it can achieve its goal to get financing to businesses that have historically not had access to it through mainstream funding channels. We will continue our advocacy that government and other small business capacity building and financing should be inclusive of non-profit social enterprises.

Last year we had the chance to connect with Federal Government leaders at the second annual Sustainable Finance Forum. A common theme from our conversations was the need for connection, collaboration, and partnerships.

Looking ahead

In 2024 and beyond, we are excited to continue to collaborate to change the story of the market and power the marketplace revolution, while we support organizations to buy and sell with impact.

Join us throughout 2024 to celebrate our 10th anniversary. We’ll host a Marketplace Revolution book tour with Buy Social Canada founder and author David LePage and share updates from the marketplace revolution on our blog. We’ll host events and webinars to connect, celebrate, learn, and advance our mission to raise awareness about social enterprise as a solution to our society’s many complex challenges. Stay tuned through our newsletter and social media channels for more details to come.

As we look ahead to the next 10 years, we’re clear that the future is a social value marketplace.

Purchasers need to commit to move social procurement into implementation and report publicly each year on what they achieve. Social enterprise and social value outcomes need to be part of all social procurement programs.

The whole marketplace needs to raise awareness and celebrate social enterprises as a key part of the marketplace revolution, which create lasting change and opportunities for the most marginalized people in our communities.

It’s time to do something about the complex issues our communities and planet face. Social enterprise and social procurement help alter the economic system to create lasting change and healthy communities. How will you help grow the social value marketplace?

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