City of Toronto Leads the Way in Changing the Culture of Procurement

Michael Pacholok, Chief Purchasing Officer, City of Toronto

WBE Canada’s annual awards celebrate and recognize the significant achievements of Canadian women owned businesses, corporate and government leaders. These awards ultimately increase awareness and visibility of the impact supplier diversity initiatives create to inspire further achievement.

2019 Award nominations are currently open, and as we are collecting applications, we wanted to share with you accomplishments of the winner of 2018 Corporation of the Year award – the City of Toronto.

Recognizing the importance and value of supplier diversity can be a big change for a corporation, especially one the scale of Canada’s largest municipality. Successfully developing and implementing their program was an incredibly complex and multi-layered initiative, and Toronto is leading a way in social procurement.

City of Toronto Social Procurement Program

When the City of Toronto was awarded 2018 Corporation of the Year, their “Social Procurement program” was in its second year. Toronto wanted to create positive social impact by providing businesses run by underrepresented groups with a greater economic opportunity. So what did they do? They piloted the idea during the 2015 Pan Am Games.

What was the outcome? 

  • 20% of the game’s suppliers were owned by one of the diverse classifications (women, LGBT, Aboriginal, newcomers, racial minorities, and persons with disabilities) 
  • 9% of the total spend was with diverse suppliers.

While this may seem small, it was a first step that the City leveraged in the following years, and in 2017-18:

  • 168 low dollar value contracts valued between $3,000 and $100,000 were awarded to 32 diverse suppliers at a value of approximately $3 million dollars 
  • One supplier received 20 bid invitations, won 10 of them, with a total value of $200,000.

This is a great step forward, and other municipalities across the country can learn from the City of Toronto as they implement their own supplier diversity goals. Toronto was recognized and celebrated for its achievements in supplier diversity not only by WBE Canada, but also by ProcureCon, MBE Magazine and other organizations and magazines across North America.

City of Toronto procurement team
City of Toronto procurement team at the 3rd Annual Networking with Diverse Suppliers Event in 2019.

The City of Toronto continues to be a big champion of supply chain diversification, encouraging municipalities and governments across Canada to join the movement and make a difference in diverse communities.

Lessons Learned

Here are a few useful tips for other jurisdictions from Toronto’s success over the past two years… 

  • Small contracts can be a big help for smaller businesses and start-ups as they can become stepping stones towards larger opportunities and provide solutions for socio-economic challenges
  • Include a diverse supplier in 1 of 3 bids 
  • Prepare for change friction as some staff can fear risking ongoing relationships with existing vendors. Emphasize that supplier diversity is about shifting procurement culture in the long-term 
  • If suppliers don’t receive invitations to bid, staff might need to assist them with re-classification of products and services 
Diverse suppliers networking with representatives of City of Toronto divisions.

Certifying councils such as WBE Canada play a key role in supporting large-scale initiatives such as that of the City of Toronto. We provide WBEs with training and resources to better understand public procurement. As such, we are proud to enable the City of Toronto’s Social Procurement Program, and share their vision to make social procurement standard practice. 

To start supporting women-owned businesses through your procurement opportunities, review our Corporate Membership page or join us at our upcoming Annual Conference