Avilés , Spain

Socially Responsible City

Ayuntamiento de Avilés

March 28, 2018

Including social criteria in public recruitment procedures helps disadvantaged people access the labour market in Avilés

In 2009, the city of Avilés, located in the Asturias region in Spain, approved the introduction of “social clauses in public procurement” in municipal contracts, known by its Spanish acronym ICSA. Simply put, the city made its primary goal the full participation and complete integration of all  members of its diverse community in the ongoing work of building, maintaining and serving an inclusive city.

In Spain, the use of social clauses in public tenders is relatively widespread. Many municipalities include ‘green’ (eco-friendly) and social criteria in the public procurement of works, supplies and services. Referred to as socially responsible public procurement (SRPP), the notion is embedded in the European Union’s governing principles. The Lisbon Treaty states that “in defining policies and activities the Union shall take into account requirements linked to the promotion of high level of employment, the adequate social protection, the fight against social exclusion, and a high level of education, training and protection of human health.”

SRPP policies are based on a number of principles, including promoting employment opportunities for those detached from the labour market (for example, youth, women, long-term unemployed, migrants, people with disabilities) and promoting decent work (employment quality and stability).

In 2013, former Avilés Mayor Pilar Varela said: “Aviles is committed to making the city a place where everyone can live and thrive. We’re looking to create a place that grows in a sustained way, and where social cohesion grows as well. Everyone in the city, regardless of origin or challenges, has opportunity.”

Avilés public policies are people centred, aimed at reducing social exclusion.

Elements of socially responsible public procurement (SRPP)

Avilés’ ICSA rules require the inclusion of social criteria in municipal tenders for contract over EUR 100,000 and and longer than 4 months. The rules apply to all types of contracts, including public works, supplies and services.

Core to the program is the support for unemployed people currently accessing social benefits from the city. The city works with “Insertion Companies” and Special Employment Centres that “insert” people who would find it more difficult to access the labour market without supports. It allows for more active monitoring and support for both workers and employers. The unemployed find work, advocates encourage equal employment opportunities and employers contribute to the social fabric of their city.

Companies that include social clauses in their hiring gain access to public sector contracts under more favourable conditions. Employers that engage in practices that promote equal opportunities are rewarded. As part of their procurement bids, companies are evaluated on their ability to create employment opportunity, support gender balance, create high quality jobs, and will work with insertion companies and employment centres.

In practice, for example, a company presents in its bid a commitment of a certain number of hours of work carried out by people with difficulties accessing the labour market. The ideal target audience for the city would be unemployed people who are accessing city benefit programs and connected to local employment centres.

Being socially responsible means being successful

Since its approval in 2009, 420 people with various difficulties in accessing employment have found employment, including 39 immigrants. Most of these people were previously on social benefits. According to Avilés Councillor Manuel Campa, “it is essential to give the opportunity to work to all the people have the capacity for it because work is an element of fundamental social and economic integration.” ICSA created the conditions to hire people with difficulties accessing the labor market who otherwise might be beneficiaries of passive income and benefits as their wage.

Because it was simply a shift in how they did business, there were no new costs for the City administration. Rather, it aims at changing the behaviour of the economic agents involved in recruitment toward a higher social provision of goods and service. In fact, it has increased efficiencies in how the City manages resources and procurement. The level of uptake of ICSA in the municipality increased overall because it became easier and faster for city administrators to apply ICSA to all tenders than to have multiple internal tendering processes.

At the same time it raises awareness of more inclusive and sustainable development models and  contributes to the stability and sustainability of local social enterprises, such as the special employment centres (SECs) and Social Insertion Companies (SICs).


Avilés move to SICSA also had a positive side-effect on the procurement below the EUR 100,000 threshold. Companies submitting tenders adapted the same processes, documents and templates. They now incorporate social criteria in a vast majority of tenders, even if they are not obliged to do so.

By turning passive policies into active policies for inclusion, contributing to social policies and economic sustainability, particularly around employability and socio-occupational issues, it has had a direct economic impact on the city.

Recently, the procurement policies of the Spanish city Avilés were recognized by URBACT as a good practice with the potential to be replicated by other European cities. Avilés has shown how the incorporation of social clauses gives rise to a snowball effect in terms of impact across the city, its partners, and, most importantly, its residents.

Making it Work for You:

  • Cities have power and influence in their vast procurement policies, to make life better and more socially inclusive for their residents.
  • Working cooperatively with labour and business means creating a better city for all. It is important to foster and build these relationships in a way that all city actors can perceive the benefits of SRPP in their context.
  • There are many examples of SRPP and other similar policies that city governments can learn from and potentially replicate. Look at how one city’s experience, example and context may have lessons and ideas for you to build on.

For this Good Idea contact:

Ana Isabel Riesgo Pérez, Ayuntamiento de Avilés
Avilés, Spain ,

Recent Good Ideas

Leamington, Canada
From Survival Jobs to Rich Harvest
Highline Mushrooms  

Brandon, Canada
Industry Leaders Connect to Recruit Newcomers
Maple Leaf Foods  

Halifax, Canada
Welcomed in Halifax
Halifax Regional Municipality  

Toronto, Canada
Eliminating Barriers for Displaced Individuals
WES Gateway Program  

Kuopio, Finland
Encouraging Cities to Bring Locals and Immigrants Together
City of Kuopio  

View all