What is Social Procurement?

by Chanel Clark | 13-08-2018


Social procurement involves organisations (including central and local government and private enterprise) using their purchasing power to generate positive social, environmental, cultural or economic outcomes through their contracted services.

In addition to the delivery of efficient goods, services and works, procurement also looks at what social benefit for the community can be derived from this activity - the goal being to regenerate the environment and create social foundations for people to thrive.

Providers can include both traditional suppliers as well as social enterprise - purpose-driven organisations that trade to deliver social and environmental impact. The types of beneficial activity can be;

  • Creation of jobs and training for young people and at-risk groups
  • Encouraging local economic trade and development
  • Social inclusion, especially for vulnerable groups, giving them the opportunity to participate within the community and economy
  • Addressing complex issues such as intergenerational unemployment, crime, and the decline of local communities or amongst disengaged groups
  • Assisting and mentoring groups as well as individuals to identify and develop thriving businesses that employ from their communities
  • Environmentally sustainable projects such as recycling and repurposing items

So why is it important?

Increasingly, our purchasing decisions also take into account where the product is produced, how and by whom it is made, and its environmental impact. Companies that are committed to environmental sustainability, community well-being, ethical sourcing and economic responsibility are becoming the favourites as our focus begins to shift towards the damage we are doing to the planet and what we can do to reduce this. 

Colmar Brunton conducted a recent study of 15,600 New Zealanders that showed their attitudes and behaviours towards socially, environmentally and economically responsible brands from 2009-2017. Their “Better Futures Report, 2017” highlighted these key findings;

“People see value in making sustainable choices and say they are willing to act accordingly”

  • Females are 75% more committed than males to making sustainable choices. Males come in at just 21%. 
  • 69%:  Kiwis who are willing to pay a bit more to get the best organic, sustainable and ethically produced products available
  • 83%:  Kiwis who would stop purchasing a company’s products if they heard about them being irresponsible or unethical

“Sustainability story is important in appealing to employees, as well as influencing brand reputation more broadly”

  • 73% say it’s important for them to work for a company that is socially and environmentally responsible
  • 64% of Kiwis would rather work for a company with strong values even if they are paid less
  • Only 55% of Kiwi businesses currently take sustainability seriously

7 ways to make your business more socially conscious

With every $1 spent, the aim is to return equal or more value back to the community

Apart from product cost and delivery, consider suppliers and supply chains that actively engage with the community to enhance social and environmental well-being.  This could be providing training, mentoring or employment for at-risk youth or people with disabilities; recycling and repurposing; generating food production or community gardens, etc. 

1. One-off contract projects

Seek to use a supplier that provides work opportunities for disadvantaged people, for instance.  This may be to help tidy up around your business premises, removing graffiti or grounds maintenance, as examples.  There are organisations such as The Akina Foundation, who link buyers with social enterprise suppliers.

2. Employment opportunities

Look within your organisation to see how you can provide meaningful work or training - whether this is contract or part time work only.  You will find people who are grateful to have employment and are reliable, hard workers because they appreciate the opportunity to contribute.  In return, your organisation can help them build self-esteem and work skills. 

3. Purchase products that are ethical sourced

Ethically made and sourced products using sound environmentally sustainable practices are a great start! This can be anything from coffee and tea, all the way to company uniforms. When engaging with suppliers, request their social enterprise policy and practices, as well as proof of their social enterprise activities and their supply chain authenticity - including qualifications and standards approvals. 

4. Become a volunteer, and encourage your employees to do so as well

Becoming a volunteer is not only helpful, but it makes you feel good too! The Red Cross have plenty of opportunities available, or an office favourite here is Lisa King's Eat My Lunch

5. Donate to charity

There are many amazing charities out there that could all use a helping hand! For a full list, click here.

6. Collaborate with like-minded organisations for social good

Know some other organisations that are on the same wave-length as you? Why not team up for the greater good! 

7. Commit to ethical employment policies and labour practices

Practice what you preach! To find out what New Zealand companies value in terms of ethical practices, this site is a good place to start. 

To find out more, go to:












Social procurement is essentially buying contracts for goods & services from social enterprises, with the intention of making a positive social impact. Find out more about what this means for you and how your business. Social procurement is essentially buying contracts for goods & services from social enterprises, with the intention of making a positive social impact. Find out more about what this means for you and how your business.


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