Groundwork Laid for Executing Canada’s Buy Social Brand at the Regional Level

Canada Cultivating the Buy Social Brand
Social purchasing is taking firmer root in Canada in 2014. A national Buy Social brand and campaign were launched in June, and a small but determined network of social enterprise consultants and entrepreneurs in all regions is working to help it grow.

Groundwork Laid for Executing Canada’s Buy Social Brand at the Regional Level

Regional pioneers share their passion, intentions, hopes

A small social enterprise in Nova Scotia that employs people who have a disability has just doubled its capacity to make a difference, thanks to a new contract with a major corporation. For the corporation, the contract is miniscule compared to its overall revenues. But for the social enterprise, the additional revenues have the potential to enable a complete transformation.

  Jonathan Wade

It’s that kind of story that a small group of consultants and entrepreneurs from different parts of Canada hopes will become much more common as they execute Canada’s new Buy Social brand and campaign at the regional level.

Through a certification process, promotion and marketplace, Buy Social intends to heighten demand for products and services that are creating a social impact.

Canada launched Buy Social at a conference in June, effectively adopting a U.K. model that launched in 2012.

Across Canada, the time is ripe to support the acceleration of social purchasing in Canada through the Buy Social brand and campaign. Such efforts have been attempted in the past, but they were essentially before their time.

Today, with increased consumer confidence reported, more people and organizations are thinking about what their purchasing dollar is doing beyond the simple transaction, and social enterprises are becoming both more plentiful and capable.

“All of these elements are combining to create a screaming demand for some service that lubricates these growing gears in society,” says Jonathan Wade, an Ottawa consultant involved in executing the Buy Social brand in his region.

  David Upton

Jonathan is planning an official regional Buy Social launch in Ottawa this fall where he hopes to announce the Buy Social certification of a first set of local purchasers and vendors.

In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia consultants David Upton and Andy Horsnell are undertaking to execute the Buy social model.

They don’t see that they’ll need to do much convincing around the value of buying social. As they say, social purchasing just makes business and social sense. “It’s business as usual — with that added benefit,” David says. In fact, some procurement offices are ready to buy social — and finding no one able to deliver.

The bigger task in the short term, at least in Atlantic Canada, lies in preparing social enterprises to handle contracts with the likes of large-scale corporations and government entities.

“(The Buy Social model) is a very effective, strategic way to get a lot of resources that are already being spent anyway, redirected to things we care about,” Andy says.

  Andy Horsnell

In B.C., the Buy Social effort is also still very much at the “exploratory stage,” according to John Kay.

John and his B.C. colleagues, including David LePage of Accelerating Impact CCC, have had many conversations over the last two years with a variety of interested organizations, both large institutional purchasers and social enterprises.

They are now looking to move the conversation to the next phase, which includes encouraging enrolment in the Buy Social program.

John, David and a third party, Brad Mills of Mills Basic Office Supplies, formed Buy Social B.C. as a community contribution company this August. Its mission is to execute the Buy Social brand and campaign in that province.

Through these affiliations in each of the regions across the country, the development of a fairly comprehensive Buy Social marketplace is anticipated over the next one to five years. In this marketplace, anybody who wants to exercise their interest in buying products and goods with a social-value proposition will be able to go to one place and find the information they need.

If the U.K. model is any example, there will be a database that’s searchable, including contact information.

  John Kay

All of the organizations included in this marketplace will have been vetted as having passed a first set of “Buy Social” criteria. (Work is also underway by the Canadian team to develop a second set of criteria, geared to tender-ready social enterprises with an interest in selling to the federal government in particular. That criteria is to be announced at next year’s Canadian Conference on Social Enterprise in London, Ontario.)

The Buy Social system will also include consultants who can provide the added service of personal linking between suppliers and purchasers.

But while they’re certainly visionary, the pioneers of this effort are also pragmatic.

Andy and Dave’s goals, for instance, are relatively modest with respect to promoting social procurement within large-scale corporations and government entities. “This isn’t about getting major institutions to buy everything (from social enterprise). Just having them shift a per cent of their purchasing would completely change the landscape,” Andy says.

For instance, Nova Scotia Community College spends $40 million on goods and services. Imagine if the college shifted just 15 per cent to buying from social enterprises — that would be $6 million fed into a system that’s in the business of transforming people’s lives.

John is also realistic about the time it will take for this effort to really “get into Canada’s water supply.”

He’s been involved in the Fair Trade movement in Canada for the last 10 years. In that time, about 300 organizations have been officially licensed as Fair Trade. He’s expecting a similar growth pattern with the Buy Social campaign.

Click here to learn more about Buy Social in the U.K.

Click here to read a recent a great, comprehensive article by David LePage on Canada’s implementation of Buy Social.

Related Stories:
Is There an Upswing in ‘Humanizing’ Business?

Buy Social Summit Won't be Prescribing Answers

Summit Aims to Accelerate Social-impact Purchasing

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I think that

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creating such a service with the UK example is a great idea. The territory of Canada is really big, so there can always appear some problem when different entrepreneurs want to get in touch with one another. That is why such database will provide a good possibility to all people who need different help. The other online service that provides <a href="">loan online</a> can be useful to all businessmen and ordinary people. It gives monetary help online and with no check of credit history. That is why it can be beneficial for young businessmen.

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Michelle Strutzenberger

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