What can we do to keep more of our spending in the region? By this we mean both the money we spend as individuals and businesses, and the public money spent by local authorities and major organisations.

Did you know if every individual and business in South West Wales spent an extra £100 a year with regional businesses we’d have an extra £108m circulating and multiplying in our economy? This doesn’t just keep more wealth in our local economy. Buying more from each other helps develop supply chains and creates more opportunities for people and businesses.

This principle is already well understand, for example the Well-being of Future Generations Act says public organisations should spend 95% of their budgets within Wales. But there remain a lot of barriers to buying locally. Local businesses struggle to compete against online shopping and out of town retail parks. Tendering processes are complicated and place a lot of pressure on suppliers.

So what’s working well in the region?

Swansea Council has been able to put out contracts worth under £140,000 to local businesses, and recently announced that firms in the Swansea Bay City Region benefitted from £34.6m from the construction of Copr Bay phase one, with £17.9m benefitting Swansea based businesses.

Community wealth building means local economies are reorganised so that more wealth is retained locally and income is recirculated. It’s emerged as a powerful approach to local economic development, with progressive procurement as one of its main pillars. Progressive procurement can develop dense local supply chains, SMEs, employee owned businesses, social enterprises and cooperatives and other forms of community business. These types of businesses are more likely to support local employment and to retain wealth and surplus locally.

Hywel Dda University Health Board want to adopt a more locally focused approach to procurement, driven by community wealth building principles. They recognise the potential of working with other anchor institutions (organisations which have an important local presence, such as councils and universities) in areas of common spending, such as food procurement and collaborative working, in order to maximise the local impact of £2.5bn in total spending in the Health Board area.

So what more can we do?

There are clearly some areas the government would need to lead on, for example taxation of big corporations to help create a level playing field for local businesses. But there are also things we can do as businesses, communities and individuals. It’s been great to see the creation of a directory like South Wales Food & Drink, which helps connect people with local food and drink producers! Food and drink are relatively easy to procure locally, but how do we improve procurement of other local goods and services such as clothes and stationery? Could they have their own directories to connect suppliers with customers? And what if we had local distribution centres for food, clothes and stationery, operating in a similar way to an Amazon Fulfilment Centre?

We also need to consider the environmental impact of what we buy. Natural Resources Wales estimates nearly 90% of our carbon emissions are from procurement. And this isn’t just an issue for the public sector. By producing, distributing and purchasing the things we need as locally as possible we can all help reduce carbon emissions. Think of all those empty offices. Imagine if they were vertical farms providing local communities with nutritious locally grown food!

At 4theRegion, we know that if businesses and organisations in South West Wales buy more from each other, we can keep more wealth here in our local economy, develop our supply chains, and create more opportunities for people and businesses.

If you agree that buying locally is important, and want to be part of an alliance that work proactively to enable more local sourcing at all levels, please join us! Subscribe to our newsletter, become a member, come along to our events, or get in touch!