|Small potatoes for some make a big impact for social enterprise|
|by Annie Lambla|
|on November 30, 2012|
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Although it says nowhere that social impact businesses must be small, the reality is that most social enterprises and responsible businesses in the room at the Social Impact Purchasing Summit in Vancouver on November 8th were small. Sadly, what prevents many social enterprises from growing is, along with the communication and expectations challenges I introduced in my previous post, a lack of congruity with the processes involved in winning contracts of significant size.
The challenge arose on Wednesday evening of helping social enterprises do business with the federal government, or access companies winning big contracts with secondary contracts. This theme foreshadowed much of the next day’s conversation in LOCO BC’s afternoon panel, “How to buy Local and Social,” and much of the subsequent concluding discussion. The RFP application process is a huge investment of time and energy. According to Eclipse Awards’ Toby Barazzuol, and many others, considering the scale requirements of orders, time pressures for production, and frequent inside jobs and foregone decisions, it is rarely worth that investment for small social enterprises.
Is requirement the way forward?
Larry Berglund introduced an idea to require that 30% of a company’s sourcing come from local suppliers and social enterprises, allowing the remaining 70% to go to large contracts and RFPs. This may be a starting point, although it does not address the interesting door that could be opened if those small local businesses had access to secondary needs associated with these large contracts. It also raises the legitimate concern brought up by Mickey McLeod of Salt Spring Coffee, in an industry steeped in challenges of legitimate certifications, that certification and real values aren’t necessarily congruent. This means following regulations and requirements may not be the best decision, or best precedent to establish.