The four pillars of Social Return

By Giancarlo Carboni (Manager Bureau Social Return Amsterdam)

The application of social return in Amsterdam has a 'foundation' with four pillars. Below is an overview and brief explanation.


1. CRS.
Social return is an aspect of Corporate Social Responsibility in procurement and contracting (CSR). The vision of the Amsterdam municipality is outlined in the document "Inkopen met Invloed" (Buying with Influence). 'Social' is one of the societal themes/goals of CSR in Amsterdam, alongside Inclusion & Diversity, Sustainability, Health, Innovation, and Regional and SME-friendly procurement.

How the Amsterdam municipality implements the 'Social' theme is documented in the "Leidraad Sociaal Opdrachtgeverschap" (Guideline for Social Contracting, formerly Social Return). Social return and social procurement are the key themes. The guideline also includes the urban process of Social Return. The guideline is expected to be renewed in mid-2023.

The urban Social Return process is an integral part of the "Leidraad Sociaal Opdrachtgeverschap" (Guideline for Social Contracting). This process outlines the roles and responsibilities in the application and execution of social return. The process has two perspectives: internal (for contracting authorities and buyers) and external (for contractors with a social return obligation). An animation explaining the Amsterdam process has been created: "HOW DOES SOCIAL RETURN WORK." See: Link

The implementation of social return is often described as custom-made, which is true but within certain parameters. These parameters are determined by the procurement rules (European and national), municipal policies (as mentioned above), specifics of a particular tender, and agreements with individual contractors after the award of the contract. The range and declaration rules for special execution conditions are outlined in the "Factsheet Social Return" from the Amsterdam municipality. In essence, these are the Amsterdam 'Building Blocks for SROI' (Social Return on Investment).



The four pillars together constitute the foundation of social return agreements with contractors (and their partners or subcontractors) and the execution of social return in Amsterdam. The 4 Pillars are periodically maintained and adjusted to new circumstances and insights: Amsterdam policy. Currently, a multi-year scientific study on 'social and inclusive procurement' is ongoing in collaboration with the Centre for Public Procurement (UUCePP): Link


To understand how these pillars have been translated into the implementation practice of Amsterdam, read the post by Bureau Social Return Amsterdam here: Link. The article also contains links to the key documents and collaborative partners of Bureau Social Return Amsterdam.

Additional info

Image credits

Icon image: Vier pijlers van Social Return