Community Benefits & Social Procurement

Social Procurement and Community Benefits

What is Social Procurement?

What we buy matters—and who we buy from matters just as much. Some individuals use purchasing power to support particular goals, like buying Canadian-made products or fair trade coffee. They do this because they know that “value for money” goes beyond getting a good deal; it includes supporting organizations that they want to see stick around.

With billions at their disposal, governments and public benefit organizations have so much more purchasing power—and the same principle applies. How do we make sure that these entities have a positive social impact when they spend?

Social procurement just means taking the opportunity that comes with every purchase to leverage spending for further investments in communities, which can create ripple effects with our collectively spent public dollars.

Social procurement can help public benefit organizations put their purchasing dollars to work not just once, but twice by supporting social enterprise and other community benefits, at no extra cost.

Community Benefits | What are we doing?

The Ontario government has committed to spending $160 billion on its 12-year infrastructure plan and there is a commitment to the principle of community benefits in Ontario law with the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act.

ONN and our partners, working under the umbrella of Community Benefits Ontario, are advocating for the Ontario government to animate this principle in policy and practice. We’ve created a policy framework to put this into action, and have shared it directly with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. We eagerly await the government’s response to our proposal.

Community Benefits Ontario made a submission to the Ministry of Infrastructure Consultation on the Long-Term Infrastructure Plan related to community benefits. The objective is to help the Ontario government implement community benefits to become “business as usual” in infrastructure procurements, leading to more equitable and sustainable economic growth, social inclusion and shared prosperity. Read our letter to Minister Bob Chiarelli, Ministry of Infrastructure.

To learn more about Community Benefits Ontario, see the list of organizations below or contact Ausma Malik.


City of Toronto social procurement policy.

Atkinson Foundation. Making Community Benefits a Reality in Ontario. 2016.

Andrew Galley. “Community Benefit Agreements.” Mowat Centre and Atkinson Foundation. The Prosperous Province: Strategies for Building Community Wealth research series. 2015.

Dina Graser. Community Benefits and Tower Renewal. Evergreen. May 2016.

Maytree. Community Benefit Agreements: A New Tool to Reduce Poverty and Inequality. 2014.

Mowat Centre and Atkinson Foundation. “Community Benefits and Social Procurement Policies – A Jurisdictional Review 2016.” The Prosperous Province series. 2016.

ONN’s Submission to the Standing Committee on Bill 6. May 25, 2016.

Toronto Community Benefits Network website.

United Way of Toronto and York Region/ Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. On Track to Opportunities: Linking Transit Development to Community Employment and Training Project. Ontario Labour Market Partnership (OLMP) final report. 2015.


City of Vancouver. “Community Benefits from Development: Improving Neighbourhoods and Enabling Affordable Housing.” (Undated.)

Western Economic Diversification Canada. “Section 5: Performance – Achievement of Expected Outcomes.” Evaluation of Urban Development Agreements: Vancouver. 2012.


For an overview, see Dina Graser. Community Benefits in Policy and Practice: Lessons from the United States and the United Kingdom. Atkinson Foundation. September 2016.

United Kingdom and Northern Ireland

The Community Benefits movement has had great success in Wales. Further information about the Welsh Community Benefits Guidance can be found at this link.

The Scottish Procurement Reform Act is an excellent example of a community benefits framework. More information on the Act can be found at this link. For a social enterprise perspective, please see Ready for Business (Scotland), Community Benefit Clauses.

As of April 2016, Northern Ireland’s “Buy Social” requirements are to be used in procurement above £2m for construction and above £4m for civil engineering. More information at this link.


California Partnership for Working Families. Community Benefit Agreements: Making Development Projects Accountable. 2005.

LAANE (Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy). Community Benefits (includes links to several community benefit agreements).

Partnership for Working Families. Policy and Tools: Community Benefit Agreements and Policies.

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). Community Benefits Policy. 2011.

Ground-breaking legislation passed in Ontario encouraging community benefits in infrastructure projects

Ontario has taken a major step in the right direction with the passage of Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act. A large coalition of community partners has been advocating for community benefits to be included in this bill. That’s because Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) support communities by creating jobs and training opportunities and supporting social enterprise activity and other community amenities. CBAs offer an opportunity to engage marginalized populations, including youth and newcomers, in a range of quality job opportunities as part of a large infrastructure investment.

This achievement is the result of cross-sectoral collaboration of many community agencies, nonprofits, labour groups and social enterprise leaders working together.

However, as we enjoy this victory, it is important to remember that finding meaningful and practical ways to implement this act will be critical, and the Ontario government can benefit from the input of stakeholders and community groups who have expertise to offer in areas ranging from job training to construction to community engagement. We encourage government to consult broadly on regulations when they are developed under the act.

We look forward to working with all stakeholders to discuss next steps and to ensure that the implementation of community benefits legislation works for local communities.