Online Portal Elevates Socially-conscious Purchasing in Winnipeg

Natural Cycle Courier, pictured above, is one of the suppliers that is connecting to Winnipeg’s socially-conscious purchasing community through the only online portal of its kind in Canada.

Online Portal Elevates Socially-conscious Purchasing in Winnipeg

Portal tracks more than $697,000 in associated purchasing in one year

A Winnipeg training program for citizens returning from the criminal justice system needed “tons of sweaters and T-shirts” for its trainees. Thanks to the city’s Social Purchasing Portal (SPP), it was able to connect with a downtown sportswear supplier that employs people who have barriers to work. Now both organizations are even more well-positioned to advance their respective missions.

This is just one example of how the SPP is contributing to social change in the city, says co-ordinator Molly Dunbar.

The SPP is an online tool designed to elevate socially conscious purchasing across Winnipeg by connecting socially-minded and locally-owned business, co-ops and social enterprises with both purchasers and job seekers.

 
  SPP supplier Neechi Foods Worker Co-op has a well known slogan: “Don’t Panic, we got Bannock.”

At the moment, it’s the only portal of its kind in Canada.

The project currently works with 41 suppliers, 60 institutional purchasers and about 22 employment agencies.

In its last reporting year, the SPP was able to track more than $697,000 in purchasing that had been intentionally directed to the enterprises associated with the SPP.

While SPPs have been piloted in other cities, the Winnipeg project has now existed for close to 10 years. Elements of success have included finding a “home” organization, which in this case is Local Investment Toward Employment (LITE), as of 2010. LITE’s mandate is to support employment creation and initiatives in Winnipeg and to support jobs for people with barriers to employment, which is one of the outcomes of the SPP.
    
The SPP would also not have taken root without a strong band of volunteers and community members who first got it off the ground in 2004. Ongoing funders have also been vital to its sustainability.

There’s reason for every institution and individual in Winnipeg to be engaged with the SPP, says Molly.

For purchasers in particular, it can seem like too much work to overhaul one’s purchasing patterns and connections. “But once people sign, on they can see that it’s not,” she says. “The SPP does a lot of work for people by identifying these really great social enterprises and businesses and co-operatives who are working with these bottom lines — the hardest part is done for you — you just have to look at the directory and make a call.”

Engaging as a purchaser requires signing a statement of commitment, which can also seem daunting, but there’s no requirement for a certain percentage of purchasing through the SPP. Purchasers are simply committing to buying their goods and services through the SPP “when possible.”

The SPP is currently working on a new public education and awareness campaign, in hopes of sparking more interest from the community.

Molly, who took over as co-ordinator in July, says she has a number of ideas for how to advance the effort. “Since I started with the SPP, I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching for it,” she says with a chuckle.

“I think there is a lot of potential for it to have a wider reach and an even greater impact.”

Click here to ready Molly’s blog on the SPP and other LITE initiatives.

You can comment on this story below, or e-mail michelle(at)axiomnews.ca.

A version of this article was originally written for the Enterprising Non-profits Canada news service. This repost, for which we received permission, follows the style guidelines of the original post. To learn more about generative newsroom options for your organization or community, please contact peter(at)axiomnews.ca.

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Michelle Strutzenberger

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