NOV, 2018

Procurement, social enterprise, and social sustainability

Making investments in the City that benefit the community

The City has a tremendous amount of purchasing power within the community. This gives us tremendous potential to do things differently and have a positive effect. Each year the City spends millions of dollars on different purchases—construction projects, water main replacements, and facility repairs, to name just a few—and this is something that we can leverage beyond infrastructure improvements to have other benefits as well. I believe the City of Saskatoon has a responsibility to make sure that the investments we are making in the city are best serving the community as a whole.

At the October City Council meeting, City Council approved a new Purchasing Policy for the City of Saskatoon. This policy aligns our own procurement better with that of the Priority Saskatchewan framework. It now reflects best practices for public procurement and will make the process more transparent and fair for all businesses. It draws on criteria from federal and provincial procurement rules and will use ‘best value’ rather than lowest price in the procurement of civic goods and services for the City.

The City undertook a procurement review over the past year, which gave us the opportunity to:

  • identify any gaps in the procurement process;
  • document all current purchasing processes;
  • provide greater transparency for vendors;
  • give clear direction for City employees on common standards to be used consistently for the majority of purchases made by the City; and
  • provide consistency across the organization by developing new templates and contracts.

Social procurement

The new purchasing policy also includes social procurement criteria, which will better enable procuring from social enterprises, Indigenous businesses, and from businesses that incorporate environmental sustainable practices. The idea of social procurement is an emerging and growing trend in Canada, with lots of opportunity for innovation simply by leveraging purchasing power.

When I ran for mayor, I committed to revamping our procurement practices to make them more in line with the province’s Priority Saskatchewan framework, to partnering with Indigenous governments and institutions to create employment and training opportunities, and to do my part in supporting local Indigenous economies.

Last month, the City of Saskatoon hosted a round table bringing together leadership in Indigenous business and economic development, and the wider business community. They discussed how to ensure our procurement processes give access and opportunity for participation from a growing Indigenous economic sector.

Although this change in policy makes some headway, there is still lots of work to do. Creating socially, environmentally, and financially sustainable procurement practices isn’t something that is just a switch to turn on and solve everything. It’s more like a dial that we need to continually adjust and turn up as the scope of social procurement grows.

Social Procurement Case study – Winnipeg

Earlier in the year, I had the opportunity to gather in a room with business leaders and local non-profit organizations to talk about the best way to make investments work for the community as a whole.

We met with Shaun Loney, from BUILD in Winnipeg.  Shaun a leading expert in the country on promoting social enterprises and social entrepreneurs. A ‘social enterprise’ is a business—sometimes in partnership with a non-profit organization—that intentionally works with disadvantaged groups and people to provide jobs and training opportunities where they might not otherwise exist. For example, businesses that hire people who are exiting prison, are trying to escape gang life, or who have never regularly held a job before.

Shaun told of the examples of BUILD and Aki Energy, and their work to empower social enterprises. He discussed the value that social enterprises have, a value that extends far beyond the people being hired or the work being done. He talked about practical steps taken in Winnipeg that had tangible benefits, such as hiring underemployed people to retrofit plumbing in public facilities to be more energy efficient. Not only did these retrofits have financial payback with the cost savings associated with them, such as keeping people out of the justice system, but there was also payback through providing training and work experience. Although this is just one many possible examples, it speaks to the benefits of connecting people who need the work with the work that needs to be done.

Shaun Loney’s story was a powerful one, about how investments that are already being made can serve additional and very important purposes.

Leveraging the City’s buying power for maximum benefit

We have to work with businesses, non-profits, and the community as we create and improve the way that purchases are evaluated. This work is being done collaboratively and through building relationships, and in a couple of months we will have an update on the ways we can procure from Indigenous businesses.

Saskatoon is fortunate to have so many of the building blocks for this work—an increasingly diverse economy, a history of innovation, a spirit of collaboration, and a strong business community—so I’m confident that we can create a strong economy in globally uncertain times.

For more information on other changes to the City’s Purchasing Policy, you can check out the monthly Council Highlights, the full-length policy that was adopted, or a summary of changes in the new policy.

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