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Social procurement - frequently asked questions

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What is social procurement?

Social procurement, sometimes called “impact spending”, refers to how government buyers can generate social value, such as creating employment opportunities for people with disability, by using purchasing power.

It can be described simply as:

Social procurement is using the government’s purchasing power to generate social benefits, adding value to procurement outcomes and supporting supplier and workforce diversity.

What is a social benefit (or social value)?

Social benefit from procurement, can be described as:

The positive impacts on people, places or communities generated through procurement practices.

Social benefits might include:

  • promoting more diverse and inclusive workforces
  • creating training and employment opportunities
  • addressing complex local challenges, such as intergenerational unemployment, crime, vandalism and economic decline in local communities or amongst disengaged groups
  • encouraging local economic development and growth
  • helping people to participate in the community and the economy
  • engaging small-to-medium enterprises and social benefit suppliers, providing them with the same opportunities as other businesses.

Which social benefit(s) should I focus on?

It is important to make your aims relevant to the community as social benefits may differ between communities. You should also consider government and agency goals.

Why should I consider social benefits?

Including social benefits in the way you buy can make a big difference in Queensland communities, particularly to vulnerable or disadvantaged Queenslanders.

Who are social benefit suppliers?

Social benefit suppliers are organisations which have a social purpose or mission at the core of their operations, they are often owned or managed by disadvantaged groups. For example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owned businesses can be considered social benefit suppliers.

Social enterprises

Social enterprises are another example of social benefit suppliers. Social enterprises are:

Organisations led by an economic, social, cultural, or environmental purpose consistent with a public or community benefit, social enterprises reinvest the majority of any profit or surplus into the fulfilment of their purpose.

Use these resources to understand the social benefit supplier market:

  • Visit Social Traders to use their ‘Connect’ service, which links certified social enterprises with procurement opportunities.
  • Social Ventures Australia works with social investment, venture philanthropy and the community sector.
  • Use the membership list and information at the Queensland Social Enterprise Council. They support the development of a vibrant, innovative and capable social enterprise sector in Queensland. 
  • Check the interactive map of Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) created by Buyability.
  • Check the articles and membership list at Supply Nation. They aim to bring together corporate and government organisations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owned businesses across Australia
  • Use the Black Business Finder that links Queensland based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owned businesses with procurement opportunities.

How do I add social benefit to procurements?

1. Small purchases

Low value, low risk purchases via quotes or corporate credit cards are a great way to have an impact when buying goods or services like catering or printing. These smaller purchases will often suit buying directly from local social benefit providers. They play an important role in promoting social procurement practice within government agencies, help social benefit suppliers remain viable, prove their capacity as suppliers and ‘scale up’ as they gain more regular access to government jobs. It helps if you know who the social benefit suppliers are in your region and what they can provide.

2. Significant procurements

There are different ways to add social value to a procurement project. It is important to plan early and carefully.

  • Set-asides -A set aside is a practice whereby a specific procurement initiative or portion of a procurement spend is ‘quarantined’ and offered, in the first instance, to a particular grouping or type of business, such as social enterprises. Set-asides must still involve a competitive process.
  • Social clauses - You can include social benefit requirements as clauses in tender and contract documents. For example, a clause might require indigenous trainees to be engaged on a project.
  • Breaking down large procurements - Sometimes it is possible to break down larger procurements into smaller components, this might be done by region or by function. Breaking down a contract may make it possible for social benefit suppliers and small businesses to bid for government work, increasing supplier diversity.

For more information about adding social value when buying for government, refer to the Social Procurement Guide (734KB).

Is social procurement consistent with the Queensland Procurement Policy (QPP)?

Yes, achieving value for money is central to procurement practice for government buyers; garnering the best value for Queensland is more than just the ‘price paid’. Opportunities to advance economic, environmental and social objectives must be considered as part of a broader context of value for money.

For detailed information about how social procurement is consistent with the QPP, see principle 2 (page 4) and clause 2.2 (page 5) of the QPP (476KB).

Will it cost my department (or agency) more money?

All procurements, including those which have social benefit requirements, must be built upon best value for money principles. It is important, when assessing value for money, that the best outcomes for the community are considered, as well as price and other non-cost factors, such as service and quality. Any supplier wanting to do business with Queensland Government needs to make a competitive offering.

Does it require a compromise on the quality of goods and services?

No. Social procurement need never compromise on quality. Any supplier must be able to provide the product or service to the specified quality. Quality requirements must be stipulated in tender specifications and contractual provisions.

Will it be an additional burden to include social benefits?

No. You do not need to make significant structural or organisational changes to your procurement policies and processes to include social benefits. Social procurement is an opportunity to add value to government spending and achieve real benefits in communities.

Can social benefits be delivered by any supplier?

Yes. Suppliers of all types are embracing the opportunity to contribute to their communities. This helps them meet their corporate social responsibilities and to promote their businesses.

Many mainstream businesses are leading the way when it comes to delivering social outcomes. Some do this by including social benefit suppliers in their supply chains or by directly addressing government priorities, such as creating opportunities for apprentices, or employing young people and long-term unemployed people.

Engaging with potential suppliers early in the procurement planning stage will help you understand social procurement opportunities and the market’s capacity to deliver.

What evaluation weighting should be given to social clauses? 

There is no policy requirement to apply either a minimum or maximum weighting to social clauses. Weightings should be decided on a case-by-case basis, relative to other evaluation criteria and the outcomes being sought.

Weighted criteria have a greater influence on suppliers, increasing the impact buyers are likely to have. As with other contractual requirements, active contract management is critical to success.

For more information about weighting and evaluating social clauses, refer to the Social Procurement Guide (735KB).

Need more information or advice?

Read consider social procurement for contact details and additional advice and resources.