Building Our Communities Up: Advancing Social Impact in Construction Projects

Building Our Communities Up: Advancing Social Impact in Construction Projects

Earlier this year, the CCSP held a peer exchange focused on the environmental priorities in construction projects. To continue the conversation about sustainable procurement in construction, the CCSP focused its November Peer Exchange on social priorities in construction projects.

It’s not news to procurement departments that construction projects present a high impact opportunity: the size of these projects’ budget is a good indicator of this. The public sector has been leveraging these large projects for their positive community impact potential. Creating opportunities such as apprenticeships and employment for equity-deserving groups and supporting local suppliers.

Speakers Brent Brodie, Snr. Procurement Analyst & Project Lead at York University, and Austin Lui, Social Planner II, Community Economic Development at the City of Vancouver shared how their organizations are requiring social objectives in construction projects, including success factors, challenges, and best practices.


York University Tools and Success Factors for Social Procurement in Construction

Spurred by its Social Procurement Policy, York University has been very active in incorporating social value into construction projects. The method used to accomplish this is the creation of a Social Procurement Plan for each major project, where-by the contractor is provided a template to report back monthly on items such as local spend and number of apprenticeships for equity-deserving individuals.

With this approach, York has been able to track its impact:

Brent shared the following key success factors that support this work:

  1. Community Engagement is a Must. The community knows what it needs. Without community engagement, it’s very difficult to implement social procurement objectives. Letting the community inform outcomes allows York to develop a social procurement program that satisfies their needs.
  2. Set Achievable Goals. Goals must be proportionate to the opportunity in question. Setting unachievable social procurement goals and “reinventing the wheel” is not a desirable outcome. To ensure proponents can understand and meet the requirements, set attainable targets and use understandable language.
  3. Tell your Story. When engaging with contractors and the community, use data to create a story that communicates the benefits of social procurement. Build a relationship with the General Contractor to help encourage the implementation of social procurement priorities.

York has a social procurement reporting template with example RFP language and other resources that organizations can adopt for their own use. Keep an eye on their website for the template to be published.


City of Vancouver Community Benefit Agreements (CBA’s)

The City of Vancouver dove into the implementation of its Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) Policy. This is a mandatory Policy for large development projects, which must meet employment and procurement targets for local and equity-denied communities. A CBA is a binding contract between a Developer and the City to ensure that the community directly benefits from the project.

Vancouver’s CBA Policy defines three compliance targets:

Austin outlined the 5-step process used to implement the CBA Policy:

  1. During rezoning, developers are notified of CBA requirements.
  2. Developer must sign the CBA prior to rezoning enactment.
  3. Prior to the issuance of development permits, the developer must produce a plan showing how they will achieve the following CBA requirements and do the following:
    1. Submit a construction schedule and relevant information,
    2. Hire a 3rd party monitor, and
    3. Begin a project specific Working Group.
  4. The CBA applies during the entire lifecycle of the project.
  5. Reporting is required monthly and annually to the City of Vancouver to demonstrate compliance and share other information.


The Social Procurement Plan provided by York University, and the CBA enacted by the City of Vancouver are two examples of techniques being used by organizations to implement social procurement. Both speakers reinforced best practices for effective implementation of social value in construction, including:

  • Encourage your company and major suppliers to apply for 3rd party certification.
  • Look through existing supply chain for companies that meet social targets.
  • Embed local and diversity targets into your hiring and procurement processes.
  • Look to networks and directories for local/social/businesses owned by people from underrepresented groups.
  • Attend social procurement and hiring events.
  • Build ongoing relationships with agencies that work with equity-deserving groups.
  • Include Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion training in your workplaces.