Social Procurement in Vancouver

Originally Published in The Legal Edge on July 12, 2016 | By Larry Berglund, SCMP, MBA

Started in 2000, Starworks is in their 16th year of business as a social enterprise. I had the great experience a few years ago to contract for supplies through Starworks for the City of Vancouver. Those same goods cost us substantially less through Starworks when compared to having them made through City trade staff. Our objective was not to seek a lower cost it was to engage with social enterprises. We met with the president of the CUPE union to see if the union had any issues with us outsourcing this work. There were no objections; in fact, they were pleased to hear about us engaging with Starworks.

Starworks hires people from the community facing employment barriers. The workers receive at least minimum wage and some benefits and a safe work environment. The work previously performed by the union staff could be characterized as menial to a trade’s person or craftsman. However, this was very meaningful work to the Starworks group.

The Starworks’ employees become financially independent and most live in their own apartment. Their families are delighted to see them integrating into their communities and contributing to society.

Starworks has many clients from the public and private sectors. Starworks also bids on tenders in the market and operates similar to any other private company – they don’t have the burden of having to generate profits as they reinvest surplus revenues in expanding their operations and capacity.

Companies which have adopted a social procurement strategy help to redistribute the wealth in the communities where they operate. Studies show this contributes to people with fewer health issues; reduced crime rates; support for arts and culture; improved social and economic development; reduced governmental subsidies; and an overall improvement in the quality of life.

If those same companies only buy goods and services with a heavy focus on the lowest cost, they will not achieve the best value for their community.

Larry Berglund, SCMP, MBA


larry berglundLarry has been in the supply chain management field as an author, manager, business trainer, academia, and consultant for many years. Larry has worked in both the private and public sectors. Recently he has been co-facilitating NECI eSeminars, classroom sessions, and online modules. His new book, Good Planets are Hard to Buy, was released in the fall of 2015.
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