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Sustainable Purchasing Supports Municipalities Green Strategies and Helps Manage their Bottom Line

March 12, 2012

Sustainable purchasing and supply chains are on municipal agendas across Canada. Increasingly, decision-makers are recognizing that sustainable procurement practices add value to their carbon neutral programs, zero waste goals, economic development opportunities, risk management, leadership, efficiency and innovation while positively engaging their staff and the communities they serve. Sustainable procurement practice is relatively new to municipal governance.

To efficiently manage the learning curve, municipalities are joining together. One successful example is the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Purchasing (MCSP).  A newly released report from Reeve Consulting, The State of Municipal Sustainable Procurement in Canada is co-authored with representatives of the MCSP. This report details the current state of sustainable purchasing practices in Canada including ratings and rankings of municipal programs from the MCSP’s member cities such as Halifax, Vancouver, Whitehorse, Grand Prairie, Guelph and Saskatoon.

The MCSP pilot project was formed in 2010 and currently members represent fourteen Canadian municipalities. By leveraging their collective experiences, knowledge and resources, they are strengthening their respective sustainable purchasing programs. The steering committee includes representatives from Whitehorse, Ottawa, Edmonton, London and Victoria. Five new members were welcomed in 2011.

The 2012 report, authored by Reeve Consulting and the MCSP, details their investigation into the depth of policy development and implementation across the country. Further, where there is under leveraging, what is holding municipalities back?  There are useful insights for municipal decision-makers, discussion of the top five emerging trends in this sector, and an overview of the main challenges and top priorities for 2012.

10 Key Program Areas for Successful Sustainable Purchasing

Municipalities fast tracking their efforts will find great value in the 10 Key Program Areas for Successful Sustainable Purchasing, which includes the ingredients for a comprehensive sustainable procurement program. One key element is developing a Supplier Code of Conduct. The City of Edmonton advanced the verification framework for their Supplier Code by providing public disclosure of their apparel factory locations. Training sessions were held in 2011 for staff of the City of Halifax introducing them to sustainable procurement concepts.

A clear demonstration of leadership is the collaboration between the City of Whitehorse and the Yukon Intergovernmental Committee on Environmental Sustainability. These, and other key program areas for successful sustainable purchasing, are presented in this report along with tangible examples of implementation.

Top 5 Emerging Trends in Municipal Sustainable Procurement

The State of Municipal Sustainable Procurement in Canada features a detailed discussion of the Top Five Emerging Trends in Municipal Sustainable Procurement including supplier innovations, emerging social programming and collaboration building. Findings show that policy development is advancing and most municipalities are in the early stages of their strategic program development.

However, current resource levels, in comparison with expectations of the programs, are miss-matched. Sustainable purchasing programs have insufficient resources to capitalize on many opportunities. As a result, implementation of the majority of programs is still a challenge.

On the positive side, Finance and Sustainability Departments are increasingly realizing synergies between their financial objectives and sustainable procurement programs and are building powerful teams at the senior management and executive levels.

Despite solid progress in these areas, a major finding in The State of Municipal Sustainable Procurement in Canada, is the disproportionate amount of time spent creating policies, procedures, tools and the capacity to implement sustainable procurement practices compared to the actual application. Another area where gains should be made is de-constructing robust measurement and reporting frameworks.

2012 Program for the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Purchasing: join us!

All local governments are encouraged to participate in the MCSP no matter the size of the community they serve. Current member municipalities send representatives such as a Director of Supply Management, Procurement Manager, Senior Environment or a Sustainability Manager.

All members participate in networking teleconferences, webinars and action planning sessions held over the course of each calendar year. They share sustainable procurement lessons, best practices and tools enabling them to streamline implementation of their municipal program development. A sustainable procurement expert facilitates each discussion, the training sessions and provides project secretariat services to the collaboration.

If you would like to join this project or require more information, contact Tim Reeve by email at tim@reeveconsulting.com or by phone at 604-763-6829.

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