Social Procurement Policies: What we have learnt 12 months on

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Since Victoria’s Social Procurement Framework was formally launched last September, we’ve been working with clients and government on strategies to meet the requirements. Here are some of the things we’ve learnt.

2018 saw the launch of the Victorian Government’s Social Procurement Framework* and continued implementation and emphasis of the federal government’s social procurement policies. In that time these policies have become an integral part of the evaluation of potential government suppliers.

social procurement

Every Victorian Government RFT – indeed, almost every government RFT – I have seen in the last 12 months has included one or more questions about the bidder’s policies and practices in support of the framework’s objectives.

In other words, organisations wanting to win government business must define clear corporate strategies and practices to show how they meet – or intend to meet – government’s social and sustainability objectives.

Government’s commitment to social procurement is certainly not waning. In fact, it’s intensifying.

One of the questions we’re asked most frequently is ‘What practical things can I do to show my commitment to social procurement?’. In this article, I’ll take you through some of the suggestions we’ve made and actions we’ve seen our clients taking that have helped them win government work.

Corporate policies

The very first thing an organisation can do is to review and update corporate policies, identifying any gaps, with the aim of having a set of policies that broadly align with Government’s social and sustainable procurement objectives. For example:

  • Ensure your organisation’s procurement policy includes:
    • measures to engage Indigenous employees, disadvantaged individuals or a marginalised workforce, and
    • opportunities to expand part of your supply chain to include social enterprises and/or Indigenous businesses.
  • Ensure your organisation’s procurement policy also includes measures to prevent modern slavery, as legislated in the Modern Slavery Act 2018.
  • Ensure you have a gender equality and safety policy statement that includes a position on a family violence leave.
  • Confirm you have policies to ensure equal and fair employment opportunity, including workplace gender equality; and
  • Implement an environmental management system to manage the environmental impact of your business.

Also see our post, Pay attention to your corporate governance policies.

Note: Under the federal government’s Workplace Gender Equality Act, businesses with 100 or more employees have to report annually, so those close to the threshold may want to consider collecting this data.

Workforce education

Government requires its suppliers to commit to more than policies; they also want to see a demonstration of your practices in this area. Thus it is important to be able to show government that all employees (and your suppliers) understand and implement your corporate social responsibility policies. Organisations that are not already doing so might consider training in areas such as:

  • Equal employment opportunity
  • Bullying
  • Sexual harassment
  • Privacy, internet and social media
  • Working with/supervising people with a disability/people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and
  • Removing barriers to recruitment and employment.

Diversify employment pools

Consider recruiting from a wider cohort than you might have done traditionally. For example, you could consider employing new migrants, the long-term unemployed or people with a disability.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence’s Given the Chance program provides training for marginalised job seekers and supports employers to grow and diversify their workforce. Research from KPMG shows that the program delivers a solid financial as well as social benefit, with Given the Chance employees proving to be loyal, long-term, highly productive employees. (Also see this guest post from the Brotherhood’s Jo Tabit.)

Specialisterne connects employees with autism with potential employers, and supports both to develop highly productive and successful employment opportunities.

Social enterprises in the supply chain

Not every business will have the opportunity to increase direct employment, but you will still probably have a supply chain. All businesses can consider Indigenous, social and disability enterprises when searching for and evaluating suppliers.

A word here about social enterprises – they are businesses, not charities. Organisations engage social enterprises on the basis that they offer a commercially sound business service. They compete in the market alongside ‘regular’ businesses, but with a social benefit.

Some examples that we’ve seen working well are:

  • Waste management – both construction waste and e-waste through Outlook Victoria. Outlook Victoria employs people with disabilities to sort and recycle the waste, reducing the amount that goes to landfill (hitting environmental, as well as social, objectives).
  • Catering and hospitalityWaverley Industries employs people with disabilities for corporate catering; Streat offers life skills, training and work experience to homeless and disadvantaged young people through their hospitality and coffee roasting business.
  • Grounds maintenance and gardeningEnviro Management Services offers landscaping and grounds maintenance services, employing people with a disability. Yarra View Nursery employs over 100 adults with an intellectual disability to grow plants for supply direct, or through an enterprise such as Enviro.
  • Administrative servicesOC Connections provides employees with a disability to run copying, scanning and mail room services. The organisation was selected by the Department of Defence, which has reported that the presence of the OC Connections team makes not only sound business sense but has positively impacted the morale of their staff.
  • Fleet car washing – OC Connections also provides a fleet car wash service, and with only one litre of water used per vehicle, this also ticks environmental boxes.
  • Packaging and light assembly – several social enterprises offer this service, including Wallara, OC Connections and Marriott Support Services.
  • IT service and support – A number of Indigenous enterprises provide technology services, including Yerra and Goanna Solutions. (Contact Supply Nation below for a more comprehensive list).

Where to find out more:

Once you stop thinking ‘we’ve always done it this way’, there are many ways to embrace social and sustainable procurement objectives.

Your organisation can do something good and kind, while showing alignment with both Victorian and federal government social procurement policies, and meeting what is fast becoming a very important part of winning government business.

* Established in September 2018, Victoria’s Social Procurement Framework drives social, economic and environmental outcomes that benefit the Victorian community. In simple terms, it has introduced a set of thresholds and criteria around environmental sustainability principles and social inclusion for government procurements.

 Also see our posts:

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