The Need For Social Procurement


In Vancouver a quiet transformation is underway – one that tries to think beyond GDP and embrace creating social value. This movement is part of a journey of learning that is growing from the partnership between Destination Vancouver and Buy Social Canada, organizations who see the opportunity to catalyze change through the shared development of a Guide to Social Procurement for tourism, hospitality, and events.

The origin of this initiative traces back to the Hopeful Economics Conference of 2017, hosted by Simon Fraser University. Here, amidst discussions on social business practices, meeting professionals were invited to learn of the concept of social procurement. Visionary leaders of the social procurement movement in Canada like David LePage, challenged us with the idea that events might be catalysts for change and could create traction among social enterprises. Recognizing its potential to enhance community well-being and foster meaningful connections, an inaugural social procurement meeting brought stakeholders together and sparked a movement.

Central to this shift was the creation of the Social Procurement Roundtable, a collaborative platform that brings together partnered procurement professionals and social enterprises. Hosted in the downtown east side of Vancouver, by the community economic development organization Exchange Inner City and Buy Social Canada. The roundtable created a space for fostering partnerships that challenge people to consider the full potential of procurement practices to create value in communities. Through sharing of experiences and innovative solutions, this forum empowers participants to discover how their purchasing can be a power for positive social impact. The social procurement roundtable is creating a community of practice.

Destination Vancouver, driven by the commitment in its purpose to “transform communities and visitors through the power of travel”, embarked on a journey to formalize its social procurement practices. Recognizing the pivotal role of events as a catalyst for prototyping new practices and engaging with a specific audience, Destination Vancouver began initiatives such as the design of centerpieces showcasing social enterprise products at each table of the annual holiday luncheon for 850 people. It is evolving into a structured approach, with guidelines that help to consider the social value created through local social procurement.

Thinking of scaling change and engaging with its membership Destination Vancouver launched a survey in 2022, which benchmarked the level of social procurement within Vancouver’s tourism, hospitality, and events industry. The survey revealed a diversity of understanding with some gaps and it underscored the need for guidance tailored to meeting professionals. In response to these insights, Destination Vancouver, in collaboration with Buy Social Canada, embarked on the development of a comprehensive resource – the Guide to Social Procurement for tourism, hospitality and events.

More than just a manual, the guide serves as a tool for tourism, hospitality and meeting professionals, offering a practical framework, insights and actionable strategies for integrating social value into practice like event procurement. Drawing upon real-world examples and best practices, it equips professionals with the knowledge and tools needed to make informed decisions that align with their organizational values. The organizations have since launched the guide, set up webinars and workshops to allow tourism and event professionals to deepen their understanding and start developing their own procurement strategies.

At its core, the Guide to Social Procurement is an open-source resource that can be applied in any destination. To embody the evolving priorities of the tourism, hospitality, and events industry, a guide like this requires building relationships with local social value businesses of all types. This is where industry associations have a unique role to play to help make connections and discover all the potential products and services available. By empowering professionals across the industry to prioritize social value in their procurement decisions and a framework that helps to report systematically, it paves the way for tourism and events that will leave a lasting impression and contribute to the lifting of communities.

As Vancouver continues to evolve, the Guide to Social Procurement serves as a starting point to connect on a journey to leave a growing positive social legacy in the community.


Gwendal Castellan is manager, sustainable destination development at Destination Vancouver.



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