Pictured above, left to right: Comox Valley MLA Don McRae; councillors Jesse Ketler and Sean Sullivan; B.C. Minister of Social Innovation and Social Development, Michelle Stilwell; Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird; social procurement consultant Sandra Hamilton and David LePage, Buy Social Canada.

Wow, Cumberland? Maybe the Time is Right
Small B.C. municipality leads way in signalling commitment to social purchasing; next stop, Vancouver

What may seem like an unlikely municipality, Cumberland, B.C., has taken a leadership step forward in Canada’s social enterprise/innovation realm.

“Wow, Cumberland? Maybe the time is right,” says David LePage, a respected figure in the national and international social enterprise scene.

Situated halfway up Vancouver Island, in the Comox Valley, Cumberland has been a mostly quiet presence in B.C.’s bustling social enterprise ecosystem.

But last week it announced a decision to formally signal its commitment to social purchasing by becoming certified with Buy Social Canada — a third-party internationally recognized program.

Buy Social Canada certifies organizations and municipal partners that have demonstrated a commitment to Buy Social principles and are proactively working to ensure that procurement works to add, rather than diminish, social value in society.

  “Social purchasing is emerging as an effective way to address social issues without added costs.”
— David LePage

Cumberland has adopted a social procurement framework which essentially ensures that goods and services are still accessed through a competitive and transparent bidding process, but with a focus on being a lot more strategic and proactive in procurement.

“Staff will leverage existing spend to achieve desirable community goals, while working in alignment with community values and maximizing returns for taxpayers,” Mayor Leslie Baird stated in a press release.

The social procurement framework received unanimous support from all members of the Cumberland council, the mayor said.

Perhaps most notable about the Cumberland development is the key role that consultant and Vancouver Island resident Sandra Hamilton played in informing and encouraging the city elected officials and staff. The mayor said the decision was quite simple after hearing Sandra describe the Buy Social concept and benefits.

Cumberland’s decision is especially exciting for David, Sandra and others who’ve dedicated themselves to strengthening the country’s social enterprise ecosystem.

“It’s all about building the social value market place,” says David, a co-founder of Buy Social Canada and also principal of the consultancy Accelerating Social Impact CCC.

“Another committed purchaser helps to shift the momentum. Creating market opportunities for social enterprise is dependent on growing the demand side, which sets the stage for the convergence of social enterprise suppliers and social impact purchasing.”

Conversations are now underway around the City of Vancouver also becoming Buy Social certified.

It seems like an opportune time, especially given the city’s recently heightened focus on improved health for all through the passing of the Healthy City for All policy. Vancouver has also indicated a commitment to improving the lives of low-income Downtown Eastside (DTES) residents through its DTES strategy. Both policies include a social purchasing strategy to achieve their goals.

The referenced media source is missing and needs to be re-embedded.

“Social purchasing is emerging as an effective way to address social issues without added costs,” David writes in a recent blog post.

“(Vancouver) has the opportunity to leverage its existing direct buying, its entire supply chain and development-related community benefit agreements to achieve greater social value.

“Joining the Buy Social certification program will be a clear signal to the community of the city’s commitment to sustainably integrating economic, environmental and social values.”

The Criteria for Buy Social certification includes the following:

  • We will endeavor to buy goods and services from social enterprises, businesses that reinvest their profits for good, benefiting people and planet.
  • We have fair, accessible and open procurement process and services
  • We are raising awareness of social enterprises across our organization
  • We have trained relevant staff about buying from social enterprises
  • We work with Buy Social Canada to find social enterprise suppliers where possible
  • We are committed to developing metrics to measure the impact of buying social.

To learn more about Buy Social Canada, click here.

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