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The social value scorecard for community benefit agreements

By David LePage

Real estate development and major infrastructure projects can have a profound impact on the communities in which they take place. Large developments have the capability to change the character of a neighbourhood as they exert economic, social, and environmental externalities upon the local environment in which residents and businesses exist.

But who decides on what will be the ‘changed’ character and ‘new’ composition of a community during and after the construction phase of a development? Is it just undirected happenstance or can we create the means to identify community needs and priorities to achieve the preferred social, economic and environmental outcomes as an intentional result of a major development?

Community benefit agreements (CBAs) are a tool to allow for value to be defined by and to accrue to the neighbourhoods most directly affected by the new development. A CBA allows local residents, social enterprises, and businesses to share in the design of the future of their community.

CBA policies and models are evolving in many communities to create comprehensive community economic and social development plans from development projects and infrastructure investments. In this evolution of CBA policy and practice, we realized a real gap of effective and practical tools to assist communities, governments, and developers in the design, implementation, and evaluation of CBAs. The identification of this need has led to the building of the inaugural Buy Social Canada ‘Social Value Scorecard for Community Benefit Agreements’.

What is a Community Benefit Agreement?

Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) are contracts that define the social value outcomes that will be delivered as part of a major infrastructure or land development project. Through a CBA the community, government and developer agree upon some social value deliverables such as job training, local targeted employment, apprenticeship opportunities, incorporating local businesses and social enterprises into the supply chain during construction, post-construction service and supply contracts and access to commercial space for social or locally-based enterprises.

It is during the design stage that a CBA is co-created and negotiated by key stakeholders (community, government, and developers) involved in or affected by a development project. The engagement and negotiation of a CBA should occur early enough in the process to allow the community to prepare and present its case, and for the developer to plan, prepare and budget for how to meet its requirements through the construction and operation stages.

David LePage is Managing Partner of Buy Social Canada, which brings together socially- driven purchasers and social enterprise suppliers, building business relationships that generate community value. He can be reached at