Collaborating to Activate Social Procurement for Low Value Purchases across Canada’s Public Sector

Results of the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement’s 2019 Working Group

By Alyssa McDonald

 

Social procurement is a major trend in sustainable purchasing. It has been gaining ground to complement green purchasing as more public organizations consider how their buying power can positively impact the social wellbeing of their communities such as poverty reduction, economic and social inclusion, and local economic development.

Inspired by this momentum, the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement’s 2019 Working Group with members from Calgary, Victoria, Halifax, Edmonton and Mississauga developed and piloted a training program to encourage public credit card and p-card holders to include social value when making everyday purchases like catered meals, promotional materials, and contract labour/services.

They hoped to build awareness around the opportunities for purchases under procurement thresholds, give members tools to make an impact with minimal resources, and promote a united approach for MCSP members across Canada.

 

What is a Working Group?

The MCSP’s Working Group is made of volunteers from current member institutions interested in working together to advance thought-leadership and co-create resources on a topic of mutual interest. They convene for 5-6 facilitated meetings throughout the year and present their work to all members at our final Peer Exchange webinar.

 

How was social procurement defined?

The group’s definition of social procurement is best defined by the presentation itself (see image on right).

More specifically, it signifies purchasing goods and services from suppliers including social enterprises and suppliers that demonstrate best practices in:

  • diversity, inclusion, and accessibility of marginalized populations,
  • providing employment and training for youth and people with employment barriers (e.g. people with disabilities, new immigrants, chronically unemployed, ex-offenders, etc.),
  • offering full-time and living wage employment for marginalized and targeted populations,
  • considering social value in their production process (e.g. Fairtrade, B Corps, etc.), and/or
  • adopting advanced health and safety practices.

 

What did the Working Group accomplish?

The Working Group developed a 15-minute training on “Including Social Value in Your Low-Value Purchases” to deliver to p-cards and credit card holders in public organizations. The content included key definitions, the business case for social procurement, and how and when to consider social value when making a purchase. Additionally, it shared 4 recent social procurement success stories.

Once the training was complete, members tested it on nearly 40 staff across 4 cities – Victoria, Halifax, Edmonton, and Calgary – and used the feedback to finetune the content and create additional resources such as an FAQ document and a guide on “How to Find a Social Value Business”.

 

What did participants think?

Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive! They agreed (average score of 4.8/5) that the training:

  1. Enhanced their understanding of the concept and benefits of including social value in their purchases;
  2. Offered relevant information to help them include social value in their purchases; and
  3. Made them more likely to include social value considerations in their purchases.

Feedback forms included quotes like: “Learning about this topic and seeing that the city supports this initiative is making me think about how my section can improve. I hadn’t thought about my purchases like this prior!” and “I’m happy that the city is encouraging more sustainable and community-driven purchases rather than promoting buying whatever is cheapest!” Likewise, the success stories – like the one from Edmonton below – were often cited as insightful and motivating.

 

 

What’s next?

The training materials are shared with MCSP’s 20 member organizations through our online Resource Centre and are actively being updated with new success stories from across our network. Victoria and Halifax have formally integrated the new content into their staff training sessions and intranets… and we’re actively looking for more public organizations interested in implementing sustainable procurement in 2020!

This year, our network is relaunching as the Canadian Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement (CCSP) to officially open our community to the entire public sector and offer more accessible pricing to smaller organizations. Find out more in our new program brochure and reach out to us if you’re interested.

 

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