Every euro you spend is a vote: buy social at work and at home!

By Diana Van Der-Stelt - BLOGGER(Trinity Software Center) | September 2017.

More and more politicians and government organizations in Europe are embracing Social Return On Investment and Fair Trade principles in their policy documents and coalition agreements. This week I was proud and happy to attend the meeting of my own city council in Bodegraven-Reeuwijk, who has also adopted those policies and will soon have the status of “Fair Trade city”.

But the next day, when I visited the conference “Social enterprise: business partner of local government” , the daily practice proved to be very difficult. Most entrepreneurs I met were loved dearly by the policy makers in their city. But at the same time they struggle to get any contracts from the government. Big and bureaucratic European procedures are dominating the government procurement market, leaving small and medium sized enterprises out of this business, even if they are directly contributing to the policies of the government.

The road to social procurement is not legally impossible though. Government organizations should just try harder and use the existing possibilities in legislation like

  • Smaller contracts (usually under € 25.000) do not need tender procedures at all
  • Requirement documents should be more explicit on social or sustainability goals; you can simply require a contract to be fairtrade or organic!
  • Contractors can be required to subcontract part of their work to a social enterprise
  • Contracts can contain a social paragraph where a contractor has to show his own social procurement activities.
  • Open challenges can be launched where the creative entrepreneur with the best idea wins and gets the contract.

Unfortunately most government organizations are unaware of these possibilities and stick to large contracts, especially when they are collaborating in so-called “ shared service-organizations”. Many in the public sector also feel insecure and reluctant to change their procurement practices. They do not know what reactions to expect from stakeholders in the market. Sometimes these big contracts are more advantageous in price or customer conditions but this is not always the case. Obviously, the road to social procurement for the government will be long and difficult. It will need a learning process for those who are involved in public procurement.

At the same time I feel encouraged. Individual consumers and businessmen are not hindered by procurement legislation. They can make a choice to buy social or sustainable and many of them do that more and more.

There are so many inspiring examples of social businesses who are making a big impact in society and the daily lives of people, creating new jobs targeting those who would otherwise be unemployed, like award winning lunchroom Happy Tosti in the Netherlands or Greyston Bakeryin the US.These are companies with a mission to create happiness and meaning in people’s lives.

They target a minimum viable profit rather than the classic business norm of profit maximization. They prove that you can make a difference in the world when you decide where to have lunch or what cookies to buy. In fact, every day we make decisions that can make a difference in the world. Each of these decisions can be a vote for a different type of economy.

Our own social enterprise, Trinity Software Center, is also grateful for those businesses in the Netherlands who have decided to work with us, like Eurobizz Academy in the Hague. First, of course,because they know we build good software and really listen to our customers.

Second, because they know it is our mission to fight youth unemployment in the metropolitan cities of Ghana, where we contract our software developers. We are full of hope that we will continue to grow and make a difference.