Social procurement in a nutshell is the leveraging of procurement dollars to generate a value-added social impact. Here’s how Imagine Canada defines it:
Social procurement (often referred to as social purchasing) is essentially buying contracts for goods and services from social enterprises, with the intention of making a positive social impact, be it job creation for a historically disadvantaged community, or reducing carbon emissions. It means leveraging money that will already be spent on contracts by governments, private companies or nonprofits to also further a social good. This practice is extremely important for opening up social enterprise market opportunities.
Social purchasing is emerging as a means for government, private sector, institutions and nonprofits to leverage their existing purchasing into an added value outcome. They are moving their purchasing from being a simple business transaction to get the lowest priced option to using purchasing to achieve a social value, too.
With the intentional use of existing purchasing, we are able to address issues such as poverty, housing, targeted employment and social isolation. The direct result of social procurement initiatives means many more people who experience barriers to employment are getting work with social enterprises such as EMBERS in Vancouver or Build in Winnipeg, across the portfolio of the Toronto Enterprise Fund or DASCin Halifax.
Social purchasing doesn’t negate the need for competitive pricing, quality of service and goods, and environmental issues; it merely adds another lens into the purchasing consideration. Nor is social purchasing a silver bullet, able to solve all of our social issues and economic challenges. But it is one more tool in our collective efforts to build healthy communities.