On May 17th, diverse suppliers, including IWSCC Certified Suppliers, were invited to the City of Toronto’s second Social Procurement networking event. Smiling and enthusiastic procurement staff from across the City of Toronto’s departments lined Metro Halls’ rotunda: from Parks, Forests and Recreation to IT services to Toronto Animal Services. Over the course of the morning’s event, suppliers formed short queues in front of staff, waiting for their opportunity to introduce themselves, their business, and the expertise that they provide.
I would later learn that in government circles, social procurement is still in many ways new. In fact, the City of Toronto is the first municipality in Canada to implement a Diverse Supplier procurement process. The program adopted by council only two years prior, May 2016.
Nothing at the time indicated to me this newness. Engagement, excitement and passion about both the community and business benefits of social procurement filled the room.
One worker at Parks, Forest and Recreation explained for example that the Social Procurement Program’s mandate to invite Diverse Suppliers on smaller RFQs is a mandate to invite smaller and more local business to compete with large multi-nationals on contracts that are well within their means. Should these local businesses win, it means tax-payer money put back into the city and support for the training and development of individuals in communities that are typically marginalized and overlooked.
City staff were enthused not just for the community benefits. As one enthusiastic manager in IT services explained, the perspective of differently abled business partners is crucial to business. This is particularly the case as the City has set its sights on meeting the Ontario Accessibility Act (AODA) aims to remove accessibility barriers by 2025. He argued that accessible re-design should not only have disabled persons involved but in positions of leadership and expertise.
We saw understanding and commitment to Supplier Diversity throughout the City of Toronto. This lifted us with hope and filled us with excitement. We continue to look for more ways to work with the city in our advocacy for equal opportunities for businesses owned and operated by Veterans and persons with disabilities.
Stay tuned for more!