5 Tips for Measuring and Reporting Your Sustainable Procurement Progress

5 Tips for Measuring and Reporting Your Sustainable Procurement Progress

Do you have a sustainable procurement policy but struggle to make meaningful changes in how you buy? Do you have trouble understanding if your actions are positively impacting your community?

On October 15, 2020, members of the Canadian Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement (CCSP) gathered to learn how to set, monitor, and report on their program performance from expert speakers Andrea Westfall, Sustainable Procurement Coordinator at the City of Mississauga and John Bys, Public Sector Specialist at EcoVadis. Find below a summary of tips to apply in your organization!


The Basics

Measurement and reporting allows you to take regular stock of your progress towards achieving your goals. An effective measurement and evaluation system:

  • Helps define sustainability within an organization,
  • Highlights what’s working well,
  • Identifies areas for improvement, and
  • Creates accountability for staff.


It’s imperative to set strategic Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that align with your overall goals. These KPIs fall into two categories:

1. Process indicators – how well an organization is aligning practices with your sustainable procurement strategy, action plan, and policy. For example, some may track percentage of bids included sustainability, number of supplier audits, or number of staff trained in sustainable procurement.

2. Outcome indicators – specific social, environmental, or economic impacts. For example, this could include number of jobs created or amount of waste diverted from landfills.


Under outcome indicators, you can choose to assess two different types of sustainability performance:

1. Product- or service-level sustainability – specific features of the purchase, such as toxic chemicals, recycled content, or number of people employed from a target group.

2. Enterprise-level sustainability – leadership practices of the organization as a whole, such as less waste in their dumpsters, less energy consumed, best practice health and safety policies, or diversity and inclusions practices, etc.


5 Tips for Measuring and Reporting


1. Start by assessing your reporting capabilities

Do you already have dedicated purchasing reports that collect useful data? What can you easily start monitoring? You’ll want to find a few initial KPIs to start monitoring ASAP.

Once those initial KPIs are being tracked, assess what’s possible in the medium- and long-term. Do you have the ability to request new reports? Do you have budget for a better reporting server or dedicated IT support? Choose your KPIs while keeping in mind that the cost of manually collecting data must equal the benefit of the KPI to your organization. If it’s not useful or meaningful to your team, leadership, Council/Board, or the public, it’s not likely something worth tracking.

If you’re a CCSP member, follow the lead of the City of Calgary who presents the CCSP’s Annual Report to Council, showcasing their benchmarking ratings and success story as a testament to their progress. No additional work necessary!


2. Move from process to outcomes indicators

Start by measuring process indicators. They are easier to track and will help show progress quickly. Outcome indicators are often harder to track and may require certain infrastructure and/or training to accurately measure.

The City of Mississauga launched Phase 1 of their Sustainable Procurement Implementation Plan in 2018. The Plan has three overarching goals and six objectives to help reach those goals. To measure how successful, they set and monitored 13 KPIs related to their goals and objectives. The focus is largely process outcomes such as the percentage of buyers, client departments staff, and suppliers trained. However, they included training outcome indicators using pre- and post-surveys to measure comprehension and likelihood to apply knowledge. As the implementation comes to a close, the City plans to integrate more outcome indicators for Phase 2.


3. Avoid greenwashing by leveraging third-party verification

According to a CCSP poll, 89% of members did not have a way of consistently measuring their suppliers’ enterprise-level sustainability practices, while the remaining 11% use self-report sustainability questionnaires. Leveraging third-party assessments, who collect and assess sustainability data from globally recognized sources, can:

  • Can validate and compare suppliers claims
  • Track suppliers’ results over time
  • Provide recommendations for improvement
  • Engage sustainable suppliers to further innovate

Learn more about EcoVadis in their 3-minute Ratings Solution Overview video, SPLC’s Whitepaper on Strategies to Maximize Engagement in Sustainable Public Purchasing EcoVadis’ library of sustainable sourcing resources for public actors.


4. Share info externally and internally

KPIs that no one looks at aren’t useful. Make sure you have a plan of how you’re going to communicate your results. Can they be integrated into existing reports and communications? Do you have an intranet with a section where they could be posted? Show your key stakeholders that your efforts are driving organizational goals. Use your results to inspire action and make a case for more resources.

At the City of Mississauga, these KPI’s are uploaded to an internal dashboard to create visibility. Approved staff have access to view the dashboard in real-time and data is pulled from here into larger reports. The dashboard in particular creates visibility for the work and provides proof of concept, answer questions like: What is the program for? Is time being used effectively? Are they on track to meet our goals? For greater accountability, visibility and impact, mandate annual public reports within your policy like the City of Vancouver or the State of Maryland.


5. Leverage success stories to go beyond the numbers

Collect and share engaging success story stories that include humor, graphics, and inspiring messages. This is a friendly way showcase progress to folks who aren’t used to looking at data all day. It will make your program come to life!

City of Mississauga shares success stories like it’s “Ice, Ice Baby” example whereby the fleet team used a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) tool to discover that purchasing electronic ice resurfacers was cheaper over the total lifespan and reduced it’s emissions by 832 tonnes (eCO2)—equivalent to taking 255 cards off the road.


Bonus Tip

It’s not enough to simply measure and report KPIs, you should review and update your KPIs as your expertise and program evolves and verify and benchmark your progress using third parties like the CCSP, SDGs, and SPLC to align with best practices.