How organisations spend their money, who they purchase from, and what they purchase, can have profound social impacts. Companies whose suppliers have poor labour standards, or organisations whose purchases result in social and environmental degradation (or even catastrophes) are now publicly questioned and criticised. Conversely there are increasing examples of purchase and procurement decisions resulting in large-scale positive impacts: companies who are promoting fair trade by procuring all their tea and coffee supplies from fair trade suppliers; public bodies who are generating higher levels of Indigenous employment by specifying this in their contracts for public works; and nonprofit sector organisations who are ensuring that their purchases are aligned with their values and also generate positive outcomes for their clients and constituents.
This study examines the concept and the practice of social procurement, the term now used to refer to the generation of social impacts from purchasing and tendering processes. Essentially, social procurement is a dimension of sustainable and responsible purchasing and procurement practices. It adds the social facets of sustainability which have often been overshadowed by environmental and economic dimensions.