Driving sustainable procurement

From the August 2023 print edition

With numerous risks and opportunities woven into our supply chains, procurement is well positioned to be an engine for achieving sustainability outcomes. Sustainable procurement should therefore not be overlooked as a crucial element of a broader corporate sustainability program.

Members of the Canadian Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement (CCSP) are doing just that – over 46 municipalities, crown corporations, and post-secondary institutions across Canada are repurposing used products, contracting with Indigenous businesses, building net-zero facilities and more. The CCSP’s 13th Annual Report on the State of Sustainable Public Procurement in Canada highlights trends, best practices, and case studies from this network.

Amanda Chouinard is program manager, Canadian Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement (CCSP).

Drawing from highlights in the CCSP 2022 Annual Report, here are five sustainable procurement trends public sector organizations should leverage to make a positive impact:

Leverage reuse to advance circularity and save money
Circularity is about more than just limiting landfill waste. It helps reduce overall consumption, resulting in decreased resource extraction, habitat destruction, GHG emissions and even spending money. “Reuse” is not a new concept. However, this year we saw many Canadian public sector institutions using meaningful initiatives to enable reuse on an ongoing basis, to support their circular economy agendas.

Thompson Rivers University (TRU) first established its TRU RE-USE platform to reallocate surplus products within the university in 2018. In 2022, they surpassed half-a-million dollars in cost savings. Simon Fraser University (SFU) unveiled the development of two new software platforms: SFU Marketplace and Rencyclopedia. SFU Marketplace will help facilitate the reuse of assets so university staff can avoid purchasing new items, while Rencyclopedia is a public directory to help the broader community dispose of, or repair, their products responsibly. The City of Ottawa also embraced circularity and reuse this year by contracting a local social enterprise to purchase its second-life IT hardware and redistribute it to community members in need.

Focus on low-carbon construction to reduce GHG emissions
In Canada, the public sector is responsible for releasing eight million tonnes of GHG emissions annually associated with construction materials, according to one Clean Energy Canada Report. The public sector is making moves to address this area of high impact. The federal government released a new Standard on Embodied Carbon in Construction, which sets minimum requirements for the procurement of design and construction services to disclose and reduce the embodied carbon footprint of major construction projects. The District of Saanich is designing a new firehall to be made of wood (a naturally lower-carbon material) and meeting the LEED Platinum standard with a net zero construction target. The City of Brampton completed a procurement to retrofit a major recreation centre to become the City’s first zero-carbon facility. The City of Charlottetown also has a city works building under construction that has been specified to meet net zero targets.

Operationalize social procurement with supplier directories
In the last few years, social priorities within procurement have been rising to level with the longer standing focus on environmental considerations. This year, many procurement practitioners built on their commitments to social procurement by implementing tools to connect directly with social value suppliers.

Introducing: the supplier portal. Several organizations have begun using third-party supplier directories, or building their own, to facilitate quick access to a list of social value suppliers. For example, York University has set up a publicly facing directory of local social value vendors. The University of Toronto has also implemented a diverse supplier portal as part of its efforts to support diversity in its supply chain. Notable third-party software’s offering directory services include Tealbook, Supplier.io, and B2Gnow in addition to Canada’s various diverse supplier councils such as: CAMSC, CCAB, CGLCC, and WBE.

Commit to increased spending with indigenous businesses
Public organizations are increasingly implementing Indigenous procurement activities to advance reconciliation with, and actively support the economic vibrancy of, Indigenous peoples. A significant milestone was the Federal government’s 2021 Procurement Strategy for Indigenous Business (PSIB), which sets a mandatory target that at least five per cent of federal spend go toward Indigenous business. However, other levels of government are also taking action.
City of Saskatoon also increased its Indigenous spend target to five per cent (approximately $17 million in Indigenous spend annually) and embraced Indigenous art and culture through the procurement of bus shelters and bike racks that incorporated art pieces from local Indigenous artists displaying meaningful symbols and stories from Indigenous culture and history.

The cities of Edmonton and Regina both invested time in engaging with Indigenous stakeholders
to inform the development of their Indigenous procurement policies. The Province of Yukon applied
a bid value reduction mechanism, which increases the competitiveness of bids from Yukon First Nation (YFN) businesses. As a result, a YFN business was the successful proponent for a demolition contract in 2022, providing employment in the local community.

Formalize sustainable procurement through a strategy and action plan
A strategy and action plan is an important element of a sustainable procurement program. It outlines the long-term vision for an organization’s program and provides a clear course of action for implementing and managing it. In 2022, there was a surge of effort put towards developing and approving strategies, frameworks, and action plans for sustainable procurement.

The City of Winnipeg announced its three-year Sustainable Procurement Action Plan, outlining key activities across environmental, ethical, social, and Indigenous pillars. The City of Brampton passed a Sustainable Procurement Strategy that commits to three key principles and recommended policies to develop. The City of Charlottetown and Town of Stratford received funding from the Canadian Federation of Municipalities to work together on their Sustainable Procurement Strategy and Action Plan. This is a clear indication that the public sector is formalizing sustainable procurement activities and moving away from the decentralized ad hoc approach.

The Canadian Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement
The Canadian Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement (CCSP) is a member-based network of Canadian public-sector institutions working to align their spending with their values and commitments on sustainability. Members meet virtually to network, share information, and co-create tools to address environmental, social, Indigenous, and ethical opportunities and risks in their supply chains. Reeve Consulting is the secretariat to CCSP and supports program management.