Sustainable procurement is an opportunity to make a lasting impact on the world around us, and local governments have a unique opportunity. From capital purchases to office supplies, procurement coordinators have a choice in where they invest their funds. Cities can affect positive change in their communities and are able to adopt innovative practices that might not be feasible on a larger scale.
Consider these five criteria when making purchasing decisions:
- environmental impact
- buying local
- supplier diversity
- worker ownership
- high road workplace practices
The growth of sustainable procurement is impacted by both demand and supply. Procurement specialists often have limited time and resources to dedicate to determining whether current suppliers meet sustainability requirements, and even less time available to seek alternatives. In addition, a lack of knowledge about the contract process and lack of access can negatively impact smaller, local, and diverse suppliers.
While recent innovations have reduced costs and increased access to environmentally friendly products, there are several practices that can help protect the continued growth of sustainable procurement. An important first step is for government purchasers to establish requirements for how funds should be spent, such as requiring that specific percentages be directed toward small, minority-owned, or woman-owned businesses.
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What Cities Can Do
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Phoenix, AZ has developed a Sustainable Purchasing Policy (SPP), which lays out steps the city takes to “purchase products and services that have a reduced effect on human health and the environment.”
Portland, OR created the “Sustainable City Principles,” which, like Phoenix, helps guide the City on sustainable procurement practices. They have also developed a “Subcontractor Equity Program” for all city improvement contracts.
Supporting Local, Minority-owned, and Women-owned Businesses
Chicago, IL works with Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy, which helps “foster strategic relationships between anchor institutions and small businesses who can supply their needs, to build economic vitality across Chicago’s neighborhoods.”
The Minneapolis, MN city government has developed the Small Underutilized Business Program or SUBP, which helps “create opportunities for Minority-owned Business Enterprises (MBEs) and Women-owned Business Enterprises (WBEs).” And have strong policies, statues, and ordinances around purchasing and procurement.