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Social Enterprise Profile: The Social Purchasing Portal, Toronto, Canada

The Social Purchasing Portal (SPP) provides an on-line environment for business-to-business procurement transactions to leverage community economic development activity. Initially launched in Vancouver in June of 2003 SSP has grown to 7 SSP websites.

The project was initially supported financially and with volunteer expertise by the BC Technology Social Venture Partners.

The Social Purchasing Portal:
• Provides purchaser of goods and services an easy and effective means to initiate Corporate Social Responsibility
o Purchasing Partners can search for, see product and service profiles, and contact participating suppliers of goods and services.
• Opens up new markets and business growth opportunities For suppliers of goods and services it
o Supplier Partners market directly to motivated purchasers.
• Generates positive community economic and social impacts

How it works...
In the process of purchasing goods and services companies already choose suppliers - such as food services/catering, printing, packaging, couriers, promotional materials, building maintenance, recycling, and landscaping - based on the values of quality, service and price. In the Social Purchasing Portal the purchasing companies add one other criterion to the selection process: social value.

So, all things being equal (price, quality, value, etc.) in quotes from the suppliers of goods or services, the purchaser is interested in one additional component that the provider could offer: what social value can be generated through the purchase agreement? Will the supplier of the services and goods as a part of the contract hire new employees from the targeted training programs? Or is the supplier of services and goods located in a geographically defined development area?

SPP Toronto (www.spptoronto.org)
With the support of national partners already engaged in the Vancouver SPP, SPP Toronto.org had a soft launch in June 2004, and have continued to engage purchasing and supplier partners locally over the summer and fall, attracting strong organisations to join it and support its mission. SPP Toronto is a joint project of the Learning Enrichment Foundation and ITAC Ontario.

SPP Winnipeg (www.sppwinnipeg.org)
Seed Winnipeg has launched the Social Purchasing Portal in that city and the response has been immediate, with growing local business engagement.

SPP Surrey (www.sppsurrey.org)
With the support from North Fraser Community Futures Development and Community Innovations and sponsoring partners, HRSDC, Western Economic Diversification, Coast Capital Savings and Vibrant Surrey, SPP Surrey launched July 2005. Local businesses, neighbourhood organisations and the general public all work together in this unique portal which leverages a citywide initiative of community economic development goals and corporate social & community responsibilities to create a better, more vibrant Surrey.

SPP Fraser Valley (www.sppfraservalley.org)
The Fraser Valley Social Purchasing Portal is a partnership of Mennonite Central Committee Employment & Community Development Office, the South Fraser Community Futures and Coast Capital Savings. The partnership represents a merger of private sector socially responsible business expertise with a coalition of organisations committed to community-based economic development. The site has been live since November 2005 and is called SPP Fraser Valley because it covers the communities of Chilliwack, Mission, Abbotsford and Hope.

SPP Calgary (www.sppcalgary.org)
Momentum is a Community Economic Development (CED) organisation that offers hope and opportunity to people living in poverty. Momentum is a not-for-profit society that has been partnering with low-income Calgarians to develop their productive futures since 1991.

SPP Vancouver Island (www.sppvi.org)
The Community Council, a registered charitable organisation that provides leadership to bring the community together to enhance quality of life for everyone in BC's Capital Region and its sponsoring partners, Service Canada, Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance, Coast Capital Savings, and CEDTAP had a soft launch of the Vancouver Island portal during Corporate Social Responsibility Week in May 2006. An official launch of SPP Vancouver Island's pilot year is planned for September 2006 and will primarily focus on engaging BC Capital Region suppliers and purchasers before it branches out to other regions on Vancouver Island.

The Portal's vision of a vibrant region where society thrives because business thrives is supported by local businesses, a coalition of employment providers, and the general public because they see themselves as part of the solution.

SPP Waterloo Region (www.sppwaterlooregion.org)
The Waterloo Region Social Purchasing Portal officially launched in November 2006, with generous funding from The Ontario Trillium Foundation, Waterloo-Wellington Training and Adjustment Board, Waterloo Region, and the Ontario Disability Support Program. The project is led by the Waterloo-Wellington Training and Adjustment Board and Opportunities Waterloo Region. We have already had our first successful hire and as the Portal grows, we will continue to build employment opportunities for individuals who face barriers. The Portal is a simple and straightforward way for businesses and organisations to transform the community through socially-conscious decisions.

Benefits:
The Social Purchasing Portal integrates corporate social responsibility into existing business-to-business purchasing and supplier relationships and builds on the existing community based employment services and community development efforts. The components already exist -- SPP is the tool that brings them together into a mutually beneficial relationship. It offers benefits to everyone participating.

• Participating purchasers of goods and services: a direct and meaningful way to initiate Corporate Social Responsibility
The SPP creates the situation where the participating purchaser can stimulate social benefits in the community using existing purchasing expenditures. Examples include Pivotal Software's choice of vendors for some catering events, choosing Cook Studio Catering, a Downtown Eastside caterer that is also a training program for welfare recipients moving to work and youth at risk. The SPP allows companies like Crystal Decisions, which last year changed their purchasing policies to include social value, the easy opportunity to implement the policy with access to suppliers that meet their desired CSR goals.

• Participating suppliers of goods and services: products and services promoted to Purchasing Partners, generating new market and growth opportunities.
Successful community economic development requires business retention and growth. The SPP markets directly to motivated purchasers and directs contracts to participating suppliers creating the opportunities for the local suppliers to gain a direct advantage to grow their businesses.

• Communities: The SPP promotes economic development for inner city businesses and employment opportunities for the hard-to-employ or long-term unemployed to the participating purchasers and suppliers. In the DTES, working with a network of employment development services, the SPP suppliers sign a contract that give employment advantages to qualified persons ready to re-enter the labour force.

For more information on the SPP visit www.sppcanada.org/canada/index.cfm


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Company Registration No. 278156. Scottish Charity No. SC 029210