Social Procurement: Moving from ‘Do no harm’ to ‘Do some good’

What is social procurement? Sandra Hamilton explains it in-depth in her paper Social Procurement The Olympic, Commonwealth & Pan Am Games, and the growing case for Social Procurement Policy in Canada, but in a nutshell, it’s a leveraging of procurement dollars to generate a value-added social impact.

Vancouver City Council has woven social procurement into its Healthy City Action Plan.

“Social procurement can be understood as the use of purchasing power to create social value. In the case of public sector purchasing, social procurement involves the utilization of procurement strategies to support social policy objectives” (Barraket & Weissman 2009).

Hamilton states “The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games were a catalyst for social procurement; the first Olympic Games to include social considerations in their sustainability strategy. For example, the floral supply contract required the provision of a community benefit. The successful proponent committed to train and employ marginalised women, many recently released from prison. The podiums were built by at-risk-youth learning carpentry skills; and contractors bidding on the construction of the athletes village were required to provide employment opportunities for low income residents from the neighbouring, downtown eastside.”

In the City of Vancouver’s recently passed Healthy City Strategy Action Plan, two of the items are: “Encourage development and enhancement of social procurement frameworks among the Leadership Table.” and “Create formal social procurement framework to guide practices.”

The potential for positive change is huge. Hamilton states: “In British Columbia, local governments and school districts alone spend over $6.7 billion every year.”