Social enterprise, while having existed for a long time under different names, has over the last decade or more become part of a growing movement in Canada to address economic inequality. Social enterprises, along with the broader cooperative and CED movements, are helping to build an alternative people-centred economy, principally through hiring and training those marginalized within the traditional economy but often times meeting other additional social and environmental missions at the same time. While the excitement around this effective tool has grown within the nonprofit sector, among entrepreneurs, with social-impact investors and recently in provincial governments, “a key barrier to social-impact purchasing is the disconnect between purchasers and suppliers.” (see David LePage’s recent report Exploring Social Procurement)
“We’ve got suppliers, whether they’re small businesses, local businesses, social enterprises, social-purpose business, co-ops, all kind of businesses that are putting social values into their production,” David says.
“And then there are a whole lot of purchasers who are trying to figure out how do we buy stuff and actually create some social value.
“So the summit is really the beginning of how do we create a discussion between these parties that want to be doing the same things.”
And purchasers do have a strong interest in making socially and environmentally ethical purchasing decisions. A recent report by BDC shows that almost one third of Canadian consumers are willing to pay more for ‘ethically-made products,’ a relatively equal number of Canadians have looked into the corporate social responsibility policies of companies they purchase from, and 90% of Canadians would discontinue their purchasing from companies that were found to be socially and/or environmentally irresponsible. So the appetite is there for the products and services offered within Canada's social economy - purchasers just need to be made better aware of these ethical purchasing opportunities.
Recent studies have looked to highlight the potential for social procurement policies in the public sector (e.g. Toward a Community Benefit Model of Procurement in Community Services and The Political Economy of Procurement) while others have helped to demonstrate the heightened economic impact of local purchasing (e.g. The Power of Purchasing: The Economic Impacts of Local Procurement). These are important contributions to understanding how our purchasing decisions have a huge impact on planet and people.
Join the conversation on how we can better leverage existing purchasing into social value!
Check out Social Enterprise Canada's Social Enterprise Marketplace
Check out recent research on social enterprise
Are you a CCEDNet member attending the Buy Social Canada Summit? We're holding a Members Reception before the Summit reception at 3:30pm on June 16th at the Italian Cultural Centre. Contact Matthew Thompson to find out more!
Quotations are taken from an Axiom News article written by Michelle Strutzenberger and published on Wednesday April 30, 2014.