No matter what type of organisation you operate or work for it is likely that in order for that organisation to function and deliver goods and services it will also need to procure goods and services. In fact - outside of changing your organisational model overnight - one of the greatest levers for influence is where and how an organisation spends money. When organisations make purchasing decisions in a way that includes consideration for social impact this is called ‘social procurement.’
Social procurement is a broad tent and I find it useful to characterise goods and services as either coming from an organisation that has a positive impact or when the goods and services themselves have a positive impact. Ideally when we plot an organisation's purchasing profile we’d want to see the clusters of suppliers moving up and/or to the right over time (see matrix below).
A simple example of moving along the horizontal axis might be shifting energy purchasing to a PPA with Solar Farm or renewable sources via your energy provider. Whereas moving up the vertical axis might be shifting some catering spend to a local cafe that employs at-risk youth and gets them into training programs.
How can we identify opportunities for shifting spend?
If you aren’t sure where to start with identifying suppliers that meet the brief then you are in luck - there are a number of resources that can help you on your journey of implementing social procurement and I have summarised some of these below:
- BuyAbility - BuyAbility is an initiative of National Disability Services (NDS) aimed at growing supported employment to give people with disability the opportunity to participate in the workforce
- B Corporation Directory - Directory of Certified B Corporations, or B Corps, in Australia that make decisions that make a positive impact across their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment
- Supply Nation - Supply Nation provides Australia's largest national directory of verified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses
- Social Traders - Social Traders business and government memberships provide tailored support and expertise to enable members to incorporate social enterprise into supply chains
What else can be done?
Alongside shifting a portion of spend and adopting a target for social procurement - sufficiently large organisations can also adapt their procurement policies to include a weighting for decisions to be made based on social impact. This is already becoming quite common amongst large listed companies and governments which provide strong examples of frameworks for others to implement and will ultimately support change throughout the supplier network more broadly.