Buy Social Canada celebrates 10 years of impactful procurement

The social enterprise reflects on a decade of growing the social procurement movement and the recent death of its founder.

Crews celebrate a concrete pour at the new Saint Paul’s Hospital project in Vancouver. – Providence Health

Key Takeaways:

  • More and more companies and municipalities are realizing the benefits of social procurement.
  • David LePage, who passed away this summer, was a key figure in promoting social procurement in Canada. His work helped to develop the concept and encourage companies to adopt social procurement practices.
  • By opening up opportunities for underrepresented groups, social procurement can help to bring more talent into the industry.

The Whole Story:

Advocates for social procurement have had a bittersweet year. 

The movement to utilize construction spending to benefit local communities has gained traction among some of the nation’s largest construction companies and on some of its largest projects. Buy Social Canada, one of the main forces behind the movement, celebrated its tenth year and was preparing to reflect on its growth. 

But then Buy Social Canada’s founder and a champion for ethical and impactful construction spending, David LePage, suddenly passed away after a brief illness. 

“It’s almost impossible to say in words the impact that David had,” said Elizabeth Chick, Buy Social Canada CEO. “He was really instrumental in driving forward both the social enterprise ecosystem and the work that’s been achieved there in the last decade and the social procurement movement in Canada.”

Chick stated that his legacy will be as someone who was able to make progress in these efforts while understanding what these concepts should look like in practice. 

“The fruits of that labor are the social outcomes that we are seeing across the country,” said Chick. “And there are folks not just across Canada, but globally who want to thank David for the work that he’s done to drive social enterprise forward.”

David LePage

Part of that legacy is helping companies like Delnor Construction Managers, which implemented social procurement policies on the kihcihkaw askî (Sacred Land) project in Edmonton. The city partnered with various Indigenous organizations for the project and there were requirements to ensure Indigenous people and businesses could participate in the work. 

“That was the beginning of our journey,” said Delnor Construction corporate project development manager Jason Deboski. “We worked with Buy Social to develop a social procurement framework.” 

Delnor did internal surveys with their vendors, trained employees and explored the concept of social procurement in construction. 

“I feel that construction can bee a tool to have a social impact in our communities,” said Deboski. “Barriers to entry are fairly low. You can start as a labourer and build a great career for yourself.” 

Deboski added that learning about the impact Delnor can have on the Edmonton community, especially with underrepresented groups like Indigenous people, has been a game changer. 

“It’s super important to me to be able to build a career for myself and the people that I work with,” he said. “But to be able to have a positive social impact in this community and see others getting to follow in the path I’ve been fortunate to walk down, it’s incredibly exciting and rewarding. Construction has given me so much. I am halfway through my career. I’ve learned a lot. To be able to give to others what has been given to me is the biggest draw in all this.”

The kihcihkaw askî-sacred land project in Edmonton. – Reimagine Architects

LePage’s efforts have also reached some of the nation’s biggest, most sophisticated contractors. Early on, it was just Chandos, led by longtime social procurement advocate Tim Coldwell, who has since left Chandos to continue social procurement advocacy at Énska, Canada’s first Indigenous real estate advisory and project governance practice.

“I’ve known David for nearly a decade and worked closely with him advocating for social procurement across Canada,” said Coldwell. “David’s vision for a more inclusive society lives on through the work that Elizabeth Chick and her team at Buy Social Canada do every day. Through his work, David impacted the lives of thousands and thousands of people across Canada and he will be remembered for that.”

During the last decade the list of companies looking integrate social procurement into the business has steadily grown. 

“When I started at Buy Social Canada, we were just working with Chandos. Now we are working with Chandos, Delnor, PCL, Bird Construction, Clark Builders and a lot of these general contractors,” said Chick. 

She noted that many builders are starting to realize that social procurement isn’t just good for communities. It’s good for business. 

“We are having conversations with these contractors and they are saying that it used to be, and still is, a value add, but now they are starting to realize and quantify the work they are losing by not doing this because it is becoming a requirement,” said Chick. “Municipalities across the country—Edmonton, Calgary, Wood Buffalo, Peterborough, Brampton, Toronto—All them them are starting to ask in bids what are you doing for inclusive employment, if you practice social procurement.” 

With the nation facing a critical shortage of skilled construction workers, Chick believes that social procurement could be a great way to unlock talent from underrepresented groups. 

“We’re talking about opening up a pipeline of people and businesses that you may not have encountered before and so really this is an opportunity as the industry is facing a skill shortage, as we’re experiencing these supply chain issues,” she said. “These are people and businesses that are ready to serve you and work with you on that project to ensure that you are both successful and we are really seeing that.”

Chick explained that Buy Social Canada offers education and training on what social procurement is and provides the tools that are needed to put it into practice. They also do consulting and partnerships with the public and private sector and then help put that into practice on the ground.

One of the key tools Buy Social Canada has produced to aid these efforts has been a guide to community benefits and construction. The group also plans to release an updated guide to social enterprise this September. 

Those looking for a way to remember LePage and his legacy have been asked to consider donating to the Social Enterprise Policy Fund which he established.


Get smarter on the 🇨🇦 construction industry in just 5 minutes

Sign up for the free weekly newsletter for news, trends and insights in the Canadian construction industry.

Construction job board

Discover senior-level construction jobs at leading companies in Canada.

Find a jobPost a job



Get the 5-minute, weekly newsletter about the Canadian construction industry.

© SiteNews 2024. All rights reserved. SiteNews is an independently-operated news website. Views expressed are that of the editor's and are based on publicly available information unless otherwise noted through sponsored content.