Tim Coldwell is President of Chandos Construction Ltd., the largest B-Corp Certified commercial builder in North America.
There are people in life who need a chance: a single mother balancing two jobs to pay the bills, an ex-convict ready to be reintroduced to society, people in drug or alcohol recovery or an at-risk youth. Some people just need an opportunity to get back on their feet, and when they get that chance, they often run circles around everybody else.
Businesses can help. They can be a force for good in the world. Corporate leaders can do more than just create profit; we have a collective responsibility to leverage our combined power and influence to help solve some of our greatest social problems. You can hire anyone for an entry-level position—office staff or labourers—for $19 an hour. But being thoughtful about who you’re hiring and why can make a significant impact.
The construction industry in Canada spends $140 billion dollars a year, employs over 1 million people, and is set to keep growing. The federal government’s infrastructure budget for the next 10 years is $180 billion and that doesn’t include COVID-19 stimulus spending. As we look to “build back better,” we need to leverage public and private sector buying power to achieve positive social and environmental outcomes.
Social procurement has been a central part of the public sector agenda for some time. This is potentially game changing since Canadian governments alone spend $200 billion annually on purchasing goods and services. As we look at awarding stimulus projects, governments need to move social procurement forward—at no premium capital cost—by making it a significant selection criterion.
Thankfully, this approach is also gaining traction in the private sector, as businesses recognize that integrating social value into purchasing and supply chain decisions can make them more competitive and sustainable.
As a Certified B Corp, Chandos Construction considers ways we can use our business to make a positive impact on the world. As a general contractor, we have a multi-layered supply chain that we leverage to support local economies and social enterprises. When we enter a community, we work with local governments and trades to source labour from the community. We choose trade partners and vendors willing to do the same and seek out partners that prioritize environmental and social causes.
Over the next five years, we have committed to shifting at least five percent of our addressable spend to social impact organizations including certified social enterprises, fellow B Corp Certified companies, certified Indigenous businesses, and other diverse-owned companies.
Our work with Embers in Vancouver and Women Building Futures in Edmonton are examples of how our dollars are shifting towards social procurement. These two social enterprises help people facing barriers find meaningful employment. Through our partnership with these organizations, we’ve helped dozens of people on their journey to full-time employment and have hired some of these temporary workers into full-time roles.
What we’ve seen is that tapping into a more diverse talent pool is leading to highly motivated and loyal workers and creating larger opportunities for marginalized members of the community we work in. This is desperately needed in an industry suffering from decreasing enrolment and social stigma.
Our employees feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. Since embarking on our social procurement journey, we’ve seen morale lift and productivity increase. And in the construction industry, when productivity increases, it goes straight to the bottom line.
Admittedly, private businesses are not equipped to do social work, but social enterprises are. An entire ecosystem of certified social enterprises and equity seeking businesses exist across Canada. They offer a range of goods and services beyond just labour: training, cleaning, catering, landscaping, courier services, janitorial services, renovations, waste recycling and junk removal, you name it.
We are just a mid-sized contractor in Canada. Imagine if the 10 largest contractors in the country took the same approach. Our industry can reverse a potential path towards crime and poverty by giving people a chance. This reduces strain on the social system and creates local jobs. It’s a very powerful idea—working together for the greater good of Canadian society.
Buying goods and services should no longer be just a financial transaction focused on the lowest possible price. Your purchases have more power than you think. Supporting companies that use their profits to build a better society creates value and economic opportunities for everyone involved—developers, contractors, local suppliers and the community. It creates a better world.
For more insights on social procurement, check out the GLOBE Capital session that Tim Coldwell is speaking at: Leverage Your Purchasing Power: Procurement to Build Back Better