It's not only important to buy local, it's good to buy social, according to former politician Cheryl Kernot.
Ms Kernot, now the director of social business at the Centre for Social Impact, was in Wollongong yesterday for the launch of the NSW Social Procurement Guide.
The guide encourages NSW councils to buy goods and services from businesses or organisations which offer a social benefit, or have social objectives such as employment, training and sustainability.
Statewide, local governments spend more than $7 billion annually on goods and services, with Wollongong City Council spending more than $80 million.
Ms Kernot said Wollongong council, a member of the Social Procurement Action group, was leading the way by entering into partnerships with companies with a social conscience.
"The Illawarra has been a little hub of social enterprise activity and is pioneering the way with programs like Soft Landings which deliver social value, not just financial value," she said.
"If all local councils made an effort to follow these guidelines, it would make a huge difference to the role of local government, their relationship with local communities and their capacity to stimulate local economies."
Soft Landings is a Bellambi-based social enterprise owned and managed by Mission Australia which recycles and refurbishes mattresses.
Mission Australia spokesman Bill Dibley said the program - one of the case studies in the new guide - won a waste management contract from Wollongong council in 2009, and had since gone from strength to strength.
"We originally received funding for 10 local jobs, now we employ 67 people and our goal is 150 people within the next 18 months," Mr Dibley said.
"People we have employed include the long-term unemployed, indigenous people and those coming out of the corrective services environment [jail].
"These new guidelines help all not-for-profit organisations compete in a price-competitive way and win contracts, enabling them to put money back into their local area and create jobs."
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the council was developing a "road map" to help establish a sustainable social procurement framework for the city.
"By having social principles within our procurement policy, we can position ourselves as a responsible, fair and just player in our community," he said.
"We don't want our city to be part of that process where there are those who consider themselves left out. We want to stimulate sectors of our local economy endeavouring to bring about social justice."
Social issues have always been important to Ms Kernot, the former leader of the Australian Democrats and Labor MP.
"Social procurement is a fantastic alternative to the old-world view that value for taxpayers' money comes from a financial dimension only," she said.