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Thoughts on social buying in Lithuania

Lithuania, having made its procurement green in the last three years, is now working to make it socially responsible. We at OCP are supporting the design, data, and technology through our Lift impact accelerator. Six months into the reform to drive social value through better jobs, inclusion of the marginalized, equality and access to procurement, here are a few early thoughts on how it is going.

Let’s not fall into the trap of facade. Let’s care less about performance figures; let’s think about creating better lives for our people.

Ana Selčinskienė, Chancellor at the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, Lithuania

That’s why the government is using a bottom-up rather than a mandatory top-down approach. The Public Procurement Office developed a set of non-mandatory social criteria, including equal pay, inclusion of people with disability, and work-life balance. It has been promoting the uptake through:

The Public Procurement Office (Viešųjų pirkimų tarnyba) is setting up systems to collect data about social criteria use in real time to account for its uptake publicly. It intends to use this data to incentivize institutions to increase adoption through positive competition.

The government plans to use the lessons learned this year to decide on the next steps in developing the policy further.

There is dilemma is between dictating change mandatory from the top-down and a bottom-up, non-mandatory approach. The government is struggling with this shift in mindset. As procurement has been used increasingly to pursue multiple policy objectives, especially environmental ones, procurers talk about excessive requirements. Some have been overwhelmed with balancing environmental, social and more traditional procurement objectives (i.e. effectiveness, efficiency, competition, etc.).

It is also hard to avoid a compliance-driven approach. Public buyers have been traditionally particularly compliance-driven, so encouraging going the extra step is hard.

But making social procurement optional and energizing social buying bottom-up is a feasible option.

Here are some social procurement-specific tips I heard recently, especially from Livija Šepetytė and Lina Siksniute-Vaitiekuniene, whom I met at a recent social procurement training by Lithuanian Social Business Association in Vilnius:

If you’ve read this piece and have ideas about accelerating social procurement in Europe, you know where to find me. Till then, keep it social!

Photo credit: Dan Villef

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