Toby Johnson
21 January 2015

Guidelines for social clauses in public procurement (Belgium)

In a climate of restricted public appending, there is much that governments can do to improve the effectiveness of their existing spending. In the EU, public expenditure on goods, works and services makes up 15% of GDP, totalling some €2,000 billion a year. Through socially respons­ible public procurement (SRPP), governments can use the way they purchase goods and services to further many different policy goals.

The reformed EU public procurement directives that were adopted in February 2014 are currently being implemented by the Member States. They make it clear that public authorities have consid­erable scope for using public procurement to benefit their citizens. The Buying Green and Buying Social guides explain how this can be done. However one barrier in the way of faster uptake of these suggestions is the lack of practical guidance on how to procure more effectively.

Case description Read full version

In Belgium, responsibility for the social economy policy is divided between the state and the regions. Over ten years ago its Federal Public Planning Service for Social Integration, the Fight against Poverty and Social Economy established a permanent Working Group on Social Economy, through which it dialogues with the organisations representing social enterprises. It was in this committee that the idea of publishing a guide to how to use social clauses was raised. The planning office agreed to support the project financially with a budget of €65,000, which allowed experts to be employed to ensure a high-quality result.

The guide was published in 2013 and is to be followed up with promotional and training activities.

Lessons on guidelines for social clauses

  • The best results in developing policy for the social economy will be obtained when public authorities develop proposals in partnership with representative organisations of the sector;
  • In developing high-quality practical tools it is effective to bring in expert organisations and experts from the social enterprise field who have extensive contacts and are familiar with the needs on the ground;
  • The publishing of a guide is only one step in a broader process. It should be followed up by promotional campaigns, seminars and training for public officials and social enterprises in how to use it productively;
  • Collaboration on a concrete project such as this guide is itself part of building a partnership approach in developing policy for social enterprise, which can lead to further collaboration;
  • The guide serves as a good promotional tool using which social enterprises can approach public authorities with offers of collaboration.