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Moving Social Procurement from Why to How

How Curiosity in the Economy can make Procurement an Agent of Change

Written by Christine Spottiswood

Hand washing

A little curiosity in the economy is going to be required as social procurement across Canada moves from convincing people why it’s important, to actually figuring out how it is done. David LePage, Managing Director at Buy Social Canada shares his thoughts after 20 years working towards making social procurement a reality.

According to David, the most exciting part is the fact that we seem to have turned the corner on social procurement. A few years ago, we were answering questions about what is social procurement and why should we do it? While we are still doing the “what” and “why”, we are also spending a lot more time on how do we actually do social procurement. The next step is to figure out how to start implementing it and measuring the outcomes. In Edmonton we had a community saying we would like to do this, then there was a plan, and then a policy, and now it’s time to figure out how we are going to do something. We have witnessed very similar trajectory in Calgary with community identifying that social procurement will help build community, then council gets on board, and then city staff get engaged. So how do take this momentum and start to create the next steps?

Part of the process is going to be a big culture shift.

Most procurement people do not see themselves as agents of change, they buy stuff. We are changing a quantitative job into a qualitative one, and according to David, that is going to require more young people to get in charge of decision making.

David goes on to reiterate that the economy is so important to the community. We can have all these social enterprises, cooperatives, and social purpose organizations and businesses, but if no one is buying from them, we aren’t going to move the market. Corporations and governments are buying products and services, and they could target what they are buying. Think of the jobs you could create or the economic impact of that. Social procurement is one piece of a much larger process of community transformation.

When asked what is already happening that he would like to see more of, David acknowledges that we are already seeing some interest from the private sector, which as a sector has been doing good stuff for many years, but it hasn’t been part of their supply chain. We do it in our personal lives all the time, shop local, buy organic, support the farmers market. We have this consciousness on an individual level, and now we are starting to see it on a corporate and government level. In addition to that, as a result of the global pandemic, people are much more aware of what the supply chain is, and potentially an opportunity we can leverage to move social procurement forward.

So, what’s next? At Buy Social Canada they are working on strengthening the network of partnerships, as an animator and facilitator, they can build local capacity to be the delivery channel in local communities, similar to the work they are doing with AB Seed and Momentum. That’s where the longevity is going to be, in getting the local community economic development groups to really take ownership of the whole process.


AB Seed and Buy Social Canada have partnered to provide Social Procurement Webinars geared at purchasers and suppliers.

Supplier Session- March 30

Introduction to SUPER - Social Procurement Supplier Readiness

The Buy Social Canada SUPER Project is a suite of training and tools to help social value suppliers understand the opportunity and to prepare to grow their impact through procurement. At this session we will cover the why, the what is and the get ready for social procurement. REGISTER

Purchaser Session - April 15

Purchase with Impact: The what, why and how of social procurement

Every purchase has an economic, environmental and social impact, whether intended or not. Social procurement is about capturing those impacts and seeking to make intentional positive contributions to both the local economy and the overall vibrancy of the community. REGISTER

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