As promised in our 2018 Year in Review, we will delve into some of the new and innovative procurement strategies that are being implemented by your colleagues across the country. This is by no means an exhaustive list. We know that many of you are exploring new approaches to enhance the value received from your procurements, and we invite you to contact us with your own examples so that we can share the information with other procurement professionals across the country. Why reinvent the wheel when you can learn valuable lessons and new approaches that have been tested in the market?

In this first article of a three-part series, we explore the relatively new (to Canada) topic of Social Procurement. Subsequent articles will address the topics of Early Market Engagement Strategies and Vendor Management Systems.

Social Procurement

This is perhaps the hottest new procurement topic on the horizon. This strategic approach to moving your procurements from “making good deals” to “making deals that do good” has been mandated in other jurisdictions for many years. While Canada is a little late to the game, we see important shifts with legislation such as the federal Bill C-344 embedding a potential for requiring community benefits in infrastructure projects, as well as similar legislation, policies and directives at the sub-federal level right across the country.

Think about how far we have come with ‘green procurement’. We have clearly moved beyond the early days when there was uncertainty about the cost impact, the ability of suppliers to meet the requirements, and whether government should really be trying to influence environmental impact. Now green procurement standards and expectations are the norm in both public and private procurement.

Defined as ‘leveraging procurement policies and practices to affect social impact’, social procurement takes many forms. During our one day course in November in Burnaby, Social Procurement: Adding Public Value through Engagement with Social Enterprises, we examined a formula for calculating the ‘Social Return on Investment’ to support the business case for moving your organization in this important direction. As with the early days of green procurement, start small but do start. Perhaps for select under- threshold procurements you can order catering through a social enterprise that hires those with barriers to employment, have uniforms or other clothing items sewn by a social enterprise that hires and trains new Canadians, or have kits or other items assembled by a social enterprise that hires at-risk youth.

The possibilities are virtually endless, and the tangible and intangible benefits are both important and demonstrable.

Let’s use 2019 to build stronger supplier relationships, maximize the positive impact our procurement initiatives can have, and embark on a new era of maximizing value while shoring up fairness and transparency of process.

Readers are cautioned not to rely upon this article as legal advice nor as an exhaustive discussion of the topic or case.  For any particular legal problem, seek advice directly from your lawyer or in-house counsel.  All dates, contact information and website addresses were current at the time of original publication.