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City Council seeks social value from government spending

On Monday, December 17th, Calgary’s City Council took another important step towards supporting a more diverse and resilient local economy by approving recommendations to develop a social procurement policy for The City of Calgary.

Governments make purchases every day in order to provide the public goods and services we all rely on. From basic office supplies to garbage trucks, from daily cleaning to major infrastructure construction contracts, every purchase has an economic, environmental and social impact.

Social procurement leverages this buying power to increase the positive impacts of spending. It is an innovative adaptation of current procurement processes to achieve broader city goals and community benefits, which can include:

  • local economic development;
  • employment opportunities for people who face barriers to finding and keeping good jobs; and
  • environmental benefits.

A great example of what social procurement looks like can be found in Saskatoon. Following a model pioneered in Manitoba, the City of Saskatoon awarded an apartment renovation contract with the Saskatoon Housing Authority to a local social enterprise that employs people with criminal records. Employees gain skills, experience and a stable income – opening doors to future employment opportunities while helping them overcome the stigma that often comes with having a criminal record.

Here at Momentum, we’ve been strong supporters of social procurement by adopting our own “Think Three” sustainable purchasing guidelines. At the same time, our public policy team has worked collaboratively with community champions, policy makers and elected officials to promote economic inclusion and strong, local economies by proposing the addition of a social value lens to the City’s existing Sustainable Environmental Ethical Procurement Policy (SEEPP).

Monday’s decision by City Council has given staff in the City Manager’s department the opportunity and the resources to begin a three-year social procurement implementation strategy and expand the Sustainable, Ethical, Environment Procurement Policy (SEEPP). Key actions from the report, prepared by Buy Social Canada with contributions from Momentum, Thrive and REAP Business Association include:

  • Establishing an Advisory Task Force with representation of The City, local business, industry and community to support SSEEPP design, implementation, and evaluation.
  • Exploring and initiating pilot projects to test and design the inclusion of more small, medium sized businesses and social enterprises into direct procurement opportunities and into the supply chain of major contractors.
  • Aligning an outcomes-based measurement and reporting process with existing City of Calgary policy, programs and strategies.

Getting to this point has been a truly collaborative effort

To learn more about social procurement and its potential to help The City of Calgary achieve many of its strategic goals, read the full report, Social Procurement: State of Practice & Recommendations.

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