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Sustainable Procurement Trends

wilson, michael, afflinkThere is no doubt that many facility managers are now taking the next step in making their facilities more sustainable. On their agendas are ways to achieve “zero waste” and significantly reduce water and energy consumption—all while reducing facility operating costs.

To achieve these goals, many are turning to their facility maintenance distributors, who are in turn becoming increasingly astute about the ways in which facilities can be not only healthier but also more sustainable. Historically, some facility managers held little value for this kind of knowledge. But today, as more facilities seek ways to reduce their environmental footprint, these distributors are becoming much more important. Often, such individuals are now viewed as leaders in what has become known as sustainable procurement.

Sustainable procurement is a complicated term that is often misunderstood. In fact, according to Wikipedia:

There is no single definition of sustainable procurement—and applications vary across organizational hierarchy and sector. However, there is a general acceptance that it involves a higher degree of collaboration and engagement between all parties in a supply chain. Many businesses have adopted a broad interpretation of sustainable procurement and have developed tools and techniques to support this engagement and collaboration.

The following definition, however, may come closer to the heart of the matter:

While it is certainly a part of the puzzle, sustainable procurement is not simply about selecting green products. It’s about finding ways to enhance operational efficiency, realize cost reductions, reduce a facility’s use of natural resources and their overall environmental footprint, and expand relationships between managers and their facility maintenance distributors.

The benefits a facility can reap via implementing a sustainable procurement program are many. Some of the core benefits include:

  • Transforming the facility or business into a sustainability leader
  • Creating good PR for the organization
  • Attracting higher-quality and longer-lasting tenants
  • Making the business a more desirable place to work, thereby attracting a higher caliber of workers who share the company’s views on sustainability and environmental issues
  • Allowing facilities to meet new regulations or goals concerning waste and natural resource use reduction, while also promoting community wide green and sustainability objectives
  • Selecting products that result in less lifecycle waste, that are both recycled and recyclable, consume less energy, and use less energy to manufacture

But how does a facility or organization go about developing a sustainable procurement program? Not surprisingly, the process is very similar to developing a green cleaning strategy or taking other steps to green operations. Some of the components include:

  • Clearly defining the word sustainable and what a sustainable procurement program would look like for the organization. In some cases, becoming sustainable refers to the more traditional definition of using products in such a way that does not prevent future generations from having access to the same natural resources.It can also reference the much broader “triple-bottom line” concept, which prioritizes people and the planet as well as profits.
  • Forming a team with the goal of developing a sustainable procurement strategy and action plan that will evolve into the organization’s ongoing sustainable procurement policy.
  • Communicating information about the program and why it is being implemented to staff and building users.
  • Working with facility maintenance distributors to help select products that meet the new sustainable procurement guidelines.
  • Training staff and others regarding how to use any new products selected for the program.
  • Verifying the performance of any products selected under the program.
  • Creating stewardship, delegating one person or group to ensure that the program is enforced and enabled to evolve, grow, and change as necessary.

As referenced earlier, working with astute facility maintenance distributors is crucial to a successful sustainable procurement program. The value of these individuals as partners in this process is now recognized and appreciated. Without these distributors, how else could building managers get information quickly in order to make solid, fact-based purchasing decisions?

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