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City of Powell River adopts social procurement policy

More than best price to be considered when making purchases
COMMUNITY BENEFITS: City of Powell River councillor Rob Southcott has been an advocate for social procurement, where benefit to the community is also considered in the city’s purchases. City council adopted a new purchasing policy that takes into account social procurement.

City of Powell River council has repealed its former purchasing policy and adopted a new policy that provides for social purchasing.

At the August 19 city council meeting, councillor Rob Southcott said the new policy was the culmination of five years of work, done by a remarkable group of people, elected and staff, from local governments.

“This is highly innovative,” said Southcott. “In a nutshell, what it does is it takes purchasing from the old-fashioned bang for the buck, to during the ’60s and ’70s, the inclusion of purchasing being good for the environment. Now, we are including another axis, which is, it has to be good for our community as well.

“That’s where the social part comes in. It could be called community benefit as well – it is to benefit our community. This is an amazing step forward.”

Southcott said chief financial officer Adam Langenmaier had done a super job with the policy. He said city staff are so busy and he thinks the policy was worth waiting for, as it has been in development for awhile.

“It took me months, if not a year to really understand this simple principle when I first got involved,” said Southcott. “Thank you, mayor [Dave] Formosa, for pushing me in that direction, saying, here, go do this. It took a long time but it’s a very happy day for me that this is happening tonight.”

Formosa said an example of social procurement that council was in the process of voting on occurred during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. He said the social procurement concept was adopted at the winter games.

“When they put out a bid, instead of just bidding the best price, the question was put out, what was it that a bidder or corporation would like to add to their bid that would bring benefit to the community?” said Formosa. “What happened in this particular event that caught my attention, was when they put out the bids for flowers for the Olympics, one of the bidders, a florist, added in their bid the agreement that they would take, with all due respect, street people, and train them as florists.

“A number of folks took up the challenge. We ended up with some new florists from street people who went out and became florists thereafter. That is an example, and the example that caught me. I thought we should have such a program in Powell River, where there are bids on projects, we can have social procurement opportunities.”

Formosa said this example gave a group of people a whole new lease on life.

According to a staff report, the reason why social procurement is important is because communities today are facing complex social, economic and environmental challenges. The report stated that local governments and other large purchasers spend billions of dollars each year on goods, services and infrastructure projects. When procurement focuses on best value for money beyond just a financial transaction, it becomes a tool for building healthy communities, according to the report.

“Social procurement practices create pathways to stronger local economies and unlock additional community benefits that can help meet the social goals of local governments,” the report stated. “The adoption of a social procurement-based purchasing policy is a step in making the impact of the city’s purchases more beneficial to all.”