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 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.
Let’s channel the social purchasing power of the public sector and anchor institutions to provide community benefits
There is an opportunity to leverage the purchasing power of the public service and broader public sector (hospitals, schools, municipalities) to promote nonprofit social enterprise. Organizations can buy with social value in mind at any scale, whether it is a government requiring community benefit clauses in infrastructure contracts or universities having their annual meetings catered by a nonprofit social enterprise. Major government infrastructure contracts (e.g. for the construction of transit and highways) and urban development can be designed to include community benefits that support employment opportunities for marginalized communities, procurement opportunities for social enterprises, affordable housing, and other community initiatives. Social procurement policies can direct public sector spending to social enterprises and other diverse suppliers from marginalized communities.
We’re advocating for the Ontario Government to:
- Implement a robust social procurement strategy across government and the broader public sector
- Operationalize the commitment to “community benefits” in the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2015, and the 2017 Long-Term Infrastructure Plan
We’re working with the Ontario nonprofit sector to:
- Promote a shared understanding of the critical role played by nonprofit social enterprise and other forms of earned income in sustaining the nonprofit sector
- Promote purchasing from social enterprises on the part of government, the broader public sector, and nonprofit organizations themselves
- Share best practices and successes on implementing social procurement policies and practices in all sectors
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. 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.
- Association of Ontario Health Centres
- Atkinson Foundation
- Broadbent Institute
- City of Ottawa
- City of Toronto
- Community Opportunity & Innovation Network (COIN) Peterborough
- East Scarborough Storefront
- Graser Enterprises
- Halton Poverty Roundtable
- Hamilton Community Foundation
- Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction
- Hospitality Workers Training Centre
- Ironworkers Union Local 721
- Learning Enrichment Foundation
- Metcalf Foundation
- Scadding Court Community Centre
- Social Research & Demonstration Corporation
- St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing
- Toronto Community Benefits Network
- Toronto Workforce Innovation Group
- Toronto and York Region Labour Council
- United Way of Greater Toronto
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.
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.