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Social Procurement in Australia

9 December 2010 at 2:01 pm
Staff Reporter
A new national report examines how Not for Profit organisations, governments and corporations can use their purchasing power and procurement processes to generate positive social impacts.

Staff Reporter | 9 December 2010 at 2:01 pm


Social Procurement in Australia
9 December 2010 at 2:01 pm

A new national report examines how Not for Profit organisations, governments and corporations can use their purchasing power and procurement processes to generate positive social impacts in addition to acquiring quality goods, services and works.

The report is part two of the Social Procurement project commissioned by the Centre for Social Impact and developed by Foresters Community Finance, in consultation with the project partners.

The project partners include Les Hems and Cheryl Kernot (CSI); Mark Daniels and May Lam (Social Traders); Chris Newman (DPCD); Joanne McNeill (Parramatta City Council); Rogan Hume and Raf Bassily (Brisbane City Council) and Belinda Drew (Foresters Community Finance).

The first part of the project developed Social Procurement Guidelines for Victorian Local Governments and were released in October, 2010 and can be found here. 

The Victorian Guide is focused on practical guidelines at a local government level and includes some detailed legal advice from the Victorian Government Solicitors Office.

The national report is based on a national research project into social procurement, across government, corporate and the Not for Profit sector.

The report's author, Ingrid Burkett from Foresters Community Finance says the national report is more comprehensive in building a context for social procurement, but less focused on providing detailed guidelines for a particular sector.

The report says that how organisations spend their money, who they purchase from, and what they purchase, can have  profound social impacts.

It says companies whose suppliers have poor labour standards, or organisations whose purchases result in social and environmental degradation (or even catastrophes) are now publicly questioned and criticised. Conversely there are increasing examples of purchase and procurement decisions resulting in large-scale positive impacts: companies who are promoting fair trade by procuring all their tea and coffee supplies from fair trade suppliers; public bodies who are generating higher levels of Indigenous employment by specifying this in their contracts for public works; and NFP organisations who are ensuring that their purchases are aligned with their values and also generate positive outcomes for their clients and constituents.

The report examines the concept and the practice of social procurement, the term now used to refer to the generation of social impacts from purchasing and tendering processes.

Essentially, social procurement is a dimension of sustainable and responsible purchasing and procurement practices. The report says that while it is intended that strong links be drawn between social procurement and broader goals of sustainable procurement, the document focuses on ?social impacts? of the sustainability agenda are rather than unpacking and outlining the whole sustainable procurement arena.

The report outlines the current status of social procurement in Australia (across all sectors) and opens some pathways for how it could be further developed into the future. The report is the culmination of a 12 month research process that integrated the following:

  • A literature review process that examined relevant academic, practice and policy literature concerning social procurement;
  • In-depth interviews with a diversity of stakeholders across the sectors who have undertaken or benefited from social procurement;
  • Consultations with relevant research, policy, regulatory and industry bodies who have oversight of procurement process and practice in Australia and internationally;
  • Engagement with the project reference group over a period of 6 months to discuss key issues and approaches in the early stages of the research process;
  • Establishment of a framework for a Community of Practice to begin the dialogue and share resources about how to develop social procurement in Australia.

The report can be downloaded here [PDF]. 

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