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There are 7 action steps we recommend as a means to leverage your purchasing activity to create social value. Most of the steps have several levels and options to consider as you develop your social purchasing practices and engage with your suppliers and community.
Your organization needs to identify the social objectives of your purchasing goals and align these with appropriate procurement practices. Do you want to create employment for persons with disabilities? Create economic opportunities for inner city or Aboriginal businesses? Increase business opportunities for local, small businesses? Let these goals spark awareness and action in your organization.
Examine your existing inventory of purchased goods and or services. Which of these could be better served by social enterprises? Some examples of business goods and services include catering, flowers and gifts, cleaning and janitorial services, printing, landscaping, coffee suppliers, courier services, product assembly, event space rental, and event management services. Review the social enterprise goods and services at the Canadian Social Enterprise Marketplace.
Many purchases are discretionary, such as catering, minor printing and some travel, even for large corporations. For purchases like these, it would be beneficial to have a database of preferred suppliers which include social enterprises. Having a centralized database of screened suppliers for different product categories and regions would benefit staff. A "preferred" list will also send a positive message to both employees and suppliers.
Social enterprises are sometimes too small to bid on large contracts. Purchasing organizations can help by unbundling large contracts. As an example, instead of asking for bids on a contract to supply 100% of the coffee, paper or cleaning services required, a large organization could ask for two separate bids: one bid to supply 70 to 95% of those services and a second one to supply the other 5 to 30%.
Purchasing organizations can also request that large suppliers subcontract to social enterprises. For example, as part of an RFP, contracts with large sole suppliers can specify that sourcing materials or services from social enterprises will have a value in the bid valuation process.
It is important that the organization understand where it is now, where it wants to go, and how to measure what it does. Without this it is impossible to identify progress and priorities.
Create a plan and identify priorities for each year. Look at all options and decide where to start, where your purchases can have the greatest impact, where your organization wants to be in five or ten years and how it plans to get there.
Departments, branches and staff need targets, goals, accountability and incentives. Behaviour will follow expectations and rewards.
It takes time and resources to ensure suppliers meet social, ethical and environmental standards. Third party certification exists in many product categories and these mean purchasing agents can spend significantly less time conducting due diligence than they otherwise would need to do.
It is important to have a consistent message and practices, both internally and externally, to clarify your procurement positioning.
It is important to get input and engage internal stakeholders. Functional users from different departments need to become subject experts on sustainability so that they can indentify their own objectives which will create buy-in and allow the people who know the supplier relationships to best identify what initiatives are worth pursuing and with whom.
Examples of resources could include a purchasing guide or reference book for employees, online resources listing already pre-screened "preferred" suppliers, and workshops on sustainable purchasing practices.
It is important that suppliers know your policies, practices and objectives. Through discussions and relationship building, solutions, common areas of interest and benefits can be identified. There may be ways to form partnerships between suppliers, large and small, to support sourcing from social enterprises.
Supplier engagement could take the following forms:
It is through active participation in such organizations that you can network with other businesses and keep abreast of what others are doing.
Weighting CSR considerations in RFPs sends a message to suppliers and the market as a whole, and allows for effectiveness of policy as well as transparency.
If tangible weights are not given to social enterprise factors in a tender then it is difficult to quantify the value of a bid and facilitate consistency of evaluation.
There should be a place that departments can send their success stories and where staff across the organization can be informed of initiatives going on within the company.
Posting noteworthy goals and accomplishments will provide other departments with ideas and motivation and help accountability.
Campaigns can encourage contributions (e.g., best success story of the month can win a prize or all contributions worthy of posting can be entered in a draw) and exceptional stories can make valuable content in an organization's annual report.
Purchasing procedures need to be kept simple and operationally efficient. Initiatives to leverage purchasing dollars for greater blended-value-bottom-line returns need to be practical to implement. Initial focus should be on a few things, with an emphasis on experimenting, innovating, and impacting society through purposeful social purchasing.
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