City of Calgary Approves ‘Social Procurement’ Strategy

December 19, 2018

The following article appeared in the Calgary Herald on December 16, 2018. Following EconoUs2017 in Calgary, members of the Canadian CED Network and partners in Calgary’s social economy delivered an appeal to the City of Calgary to explore social procurement for Calgary. A Social Procurement Strategy could help foster economic inclusion, increase innovation, and build a sustainable economy for Calgarians. 

Update:  Calgary City Council approved the proposal on Dec 17.  See the report here.

City of CalgaryRather than just price point, Calgary should adopt a policy that considers factors such as social concerns and ways that community members can benefit when using its buying power, a report by the deputy city manager’s office recommends.

The report, scheduled to go before council Monday, follows a notice of motion in April that passed unanimously, asking city administration to look into the issue of social procurement. 

“Every purchase has an economic, environmental and social impact, whether intended or not,” the city’s report states. “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.”

While the city’s procurement practices have historically been based on choosing suppliers offering high-quality products for the lowest prices, social procurement is aimed at achieving other governmental goals and takes into account “multiple outcomes in addition to maximizing financial value.”

“The whole idea behind social procurement is that you’re not just looking for the lowest bidder. You’re not just looking for the lowest bidder who’s not destroying the environment. You’re looking for bidders to be really thoughtful about how they can maximize the social good of big government contracts,” said Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, who spearheaded the motion that led to the report by city administration.

“It takes it to the next level and says, ‘while you’re building it, is there something you can do to employ local people who can gain skills that they can turn into marketable skills, cut down on unemployment?’ These are just some examples.”

The three-year strategy proposed by the city recommends establishing an advisory task force with representation from the city, local business, industry and community to support the implementation and design of a sustainable, social, ethical and environmental procurement policy.

The policy would be an extension of the city’s Sustainable Ethical Environmental Procurement Policy (SEEPP), which is already in place.

Administration also recommends the city initiate pilot projects to test and design the inclusion of more small and medium-sized businesses into direct procurement opportunities.

The recommendations propose using a staged implementation process that will eventually include all construction and consulting contracts, which are outside the scope of the city’s current SEEPP policy.

The projected budget for the three-year pilot and implementation plan would be $505,000.

Coun. Druh Farrell, who co-sponsored the motion earlier this year, said such a strategy “could make a big difference in the local economy.”

“Whatever we can do to bolster local entrepreneurship or advance our municipal goals, we should take that opportunity,” Farrell said.

“The first thing that comes to mind when looking at ethical procurement is not using child labour, so not buying uniforms from countries that use child labour or slave labour, and that needs to transcend other policies like our recycling policy. We don’t want to send our waste to developing countries where they don’t have the same environmental rules and they’re putting their population in danger.”

The report notes that other Canadian cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver have adopted similar practices.

Farrell said the impact of the city’s purchasing power “can change society for the better.”

SOURCE: The Calgary Herald