York’s social procurement program in full swing at Markham Campus

York University is one of Canada’s first universities to establish a comprehensive Social Procurement Policy. York is a leader in understanding how a community-leading institution can positively drive social change and inclusive economic growth.

Dexter King, York’s procurement services director, is spearheading this innovative drive to change how the university buys goods and services, which is highlighted by how York is building its new Markham Campus.

Markham campus construction
Social procurement seeks to increase community benefit by being intentional about how an organization buys its goods and services.

Located in the heart of one of the country’s fastest-growing cities, the project involves the construction of a 10-storey, 400,000-square-foot campus, which will increase access to high-quality, research-intensive and inclusive learning experiences for nearly 4,200 students.

Through the new policy, vendors are being drawn from across the community. And it is making a difference.

“It takes a team of dedicated and talented people to successfully build a campus,” King says. “We’ve been proud to extend our Social Procurement Policy to vendors in the GTA and York Region as we continue to supply goods and services towards this groundbreaking project – bringing to life Markham’s first university campus.”

Social procurement seeks to increase community benefit by being intentional about how an organization buys its goods and services. Effort is made to consider vendors from the local community to provide opportunities to participate in the construction of Markham Campus. The premise is simple: as York benefits, local communities should share in the success.

But it’s not just local communities who can benefit from social procurement. York’s social procurement also seeks to positively impact historically disadvantaged and marginalized equity-seeking people and their communities. By keeping community economic development as a core principle, social procurement will create healthy and sustainable communities.

“The University’s Social Procurement Policy is underpinned by its pillars of accessibility, connectedness, excellence and impact, and reflects its values of equity, inclusivity and social justice, values which have propelled the university forward for more than 60 years,” says Carol McAulay, York’s vice-president finance and administration. “We have successfully implemented the policy through several construction projects, and we look forward to further implementing it as a key part of Markham Campus’s success.”

In July 2020, the Ontario government announced its approval for York to proceed with the $275.5-million project planned to help meet the future skills needs of the province. Together with the project’s construction manager Stuart Olson, York is ensuring the campus’s construction is a catalyst for economic growth for the residents of Markham and York Region. To date, in response to the Social Procurement Policy, Stuart Olson and their subcontractors have hired nine apprentices on the project.

Speaking about the opportunity to work on Markham Campus with Stuart Olson, local apprentice Zoe Scott said: “I feel like York is behind me as I go through my apprenticeship to fulfil my career goals. And with places like York putting such a heavy emphasis on diversity and ensuring that these opportunities exist, I feel like my eyes are opened to the future possibilities that exist for me.”

Investments are also being directed towards local businesses as part of the building’s construction. So far, more than $1 million has been spent at businesses headquartered and operated in York Region in diverse fields like concrete, building supplies and technical consultations.

“Offering these opportunities in the spirit of social procurement is one way we can show our commitment to York Region,” McAulay says. “We look forward to continuing to build meaningful, long-term relationships with the community.”


Main photo: “I feel like York is behind me as I go through my apprenticeship to fulfil my career goals,” says Zoe Scott.

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