ECPAR | Espace québécois de concertation sur les pratiques d'approvisionnement responsable

Sustainable Procurement

Sustainable procurement is the integration of sustainable development and social responsibility into the acquisition processes of private and public organizations. It consists of integrating environmental, social and economic criteria into the procurement processes of goods and services, as a means of reducing the impact on the environment, increasing social benefits and enhancing the economic sustainability of organizations throughout the product life cycle.

Where to start?

One of the biggest issues with implementing sustainable procurement is that must of the time, it relies on a champion, or a leader. If the senior executive who implemented the policies leaves, the practices can fall back to zero. This applies to government as well. So where to start? 

The most important thing is to closely collaborate with every organization and get familiar with their business realities and then ensure all senior managers are educated on the sustainable procurement guidelines of the organisation.

The next big advancement will be pushing for the adoption of policies and internal process that ensure managers are held accountable through things like visibility, incentives, bonuses, etc. Because if implementation remains a matter of goodwill, sustainable procurement will remain wishful thinking.

Time is the secret. Procurement has a lot of rules and guidelines and using the environment or social criteria can be an issue if there isn’t enough time to apply them properly.

And if it’s not done, the most ecological products or suppliers won’t be selected. With big negative impact for the innovative suppliers who have been putting time, money and energy to propose alternative products on the market. 

Sustainable procurement practices

The standard practices to ensure the integration of sustainable development principles into procurement processes are listed below :

  1. Sustainable procurement policy
  2. Supplier code of conduct
  3. Determination of environmental, social and economic issues according to product, service, and production point categories (ideally based on the life cycle approach)
  4. Calculation of total ownership costs
  5. Integration of sustainable development criteria into calls for tenders and in other phases in the procurement process
  6. Use of a preferential margin
  7. Use of certifications
  8. Supplier assessments
  9. Production point audits
  10. Support for SME suppliers
  11. Support and training for suppliers

 A sustainable procurement process involves two distinct but complementary approaches :

  • Select the products that post the best environmental or social performances throughout their life cycles or in the life cycle phases in which the impacts are the most significant (product approach)
  • Mobilize and select (when appropriate) suppliers to foster the gradual management of the sustainable development issues in the sector (supplier approach)