By design, social procurement delivers significant social value. It reminds us that every product and service impacts people and their community.
In 2019, we were awarded a contract to provide technical services to Major Roads Project Victoria (MRPV) – the biggest road investment in the state’s history. This contract required us to develop a social procurement framework for goods or services procured externally.
Social procurement can be realised when organisations purchase goods and services that provide more value to the community. Purchasing these goods and services through social benefit suppliers such as Indigenous businesses, Australian Disability Enterprises, and not-for-profit organisations delivers social value, including community, employment, and education.
Delivering technical services for the state’s most complex road projects requires specialised skills and purposeful relationships. For our framework to provide real value for people and the community, we needed a new approach beyond targets, quotas and best-practice methods.
Pioneering a new social procurement approach
Social procurement is not a simple process of replacing a supplier with a social benefit supplier. Instead, social benefit suppliers often have no experience on major projects or existing relationships with our clients or partners.
First, we connected to partners who could help us define our approach and connect us to the social benefit ecosystem, including the Indigenous Defence and Infrastructure Consortium, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Australian Network on Disability, Career Trackers and Career Seekers.
We then identified and mapped services to suppliers in three areas:
People: developing new roles that suit the talent pool and considering new project delivery methods to serve a diverse range of needs.
Services: include creating work packages to suit capability, supporting social benefit businesses with guidance and accepting commercial and contractual risks.
Goods: procuring all project spending for team events, catering and other areas through Indigenous businesses.
Building purposeful and sustainable relationships
To make this approach a reality, we must develop purposeful and sustainable relationships with our suppliers, providing stability and catering to their unique needs.
Providing a consistent pipeline and income for these businesses and a commitment to a strong working relationship allows them to expand their offering, develop their staff, invest their profits in their social cause and increase their impact.
We provide direct internship and employment opportunities to many marginalised Victorians through our social benefit supplier.
These actions create a fair, supportive, generous and committed environment. It requires us to listen, innovate, provide honest feedback, and coach and develop their people and ours.
Changing lives with social procurement
Changing our approach catalysed the delivery and impact of our social procurement. From June 2020 to December 2021, total social procurement spending accelerated to over $900,000. Today, our spending with social benefit suppliers continues to grow each quarter.
The impact on the individuals and community is arguably more valuable. Whether an engineer from the Middle East who can use their professional skills again or an intern in our Technical Advisory team now working in the industry or undertaking further study, the programme helps build futures and changes lives.
Our technical advisor role with MRPV gave us a valuable learning experience and a new approach to social procurement. It helped us learn that we must:
commit to understanding social benefit suppliers
invest in the relationship and nurture the ecosystem
cultivate relationships with honesty, transparency, and connection
value leadership on the client and supplier side.
This experience proves there can be a future where procuring a social benefit supplier is business as usual. That future is in our hands. If you want to learn more about this story and our approach to social procurement, reach out to our team.