Leveraging Tools in your Procurement Process to Achieve Greater Sustainability Impact

CCSP’s April Peer Exchange focused on how tools support processes for sustainable procurement. Read this blog to learn more.

Many procurement teams struggle with consistent and meaningful consideration of sustainability within procurement practices. Tools are tangible resources – like checklists, worksheets, guides, or other reference materials – that you can get into the hands of buyers and business units to make sustainable procurement more accessible and standardized. Tools act as guidance throughout the procurement process which enables staff to integrate sustainability more meaningfully into their purchasing decisions.

The relationship between tools and procedures can be thought of as a reinforcing hierarchy. Where procedures are the set of steps to complete the procurement cycle, tools guide how sustainability should be considered during each phase of the procurement cycle – from planning, to creating relevant specifications, to evaluation.

At the April Peer Exchange, CCSP members heard from Kristie Ritchie, Business Analyst from the City of Ottawa, and Darren Tomkins, Purchasing Manager for the City of Kelowna, share examples from their institutions.

Optimizing Accessibility of Tools at the City of Ottawa

The City of Ottawa recently revamped their sustainable procurement toolkit to improve user-friendliness of the tools, while ensuring content was up to date. They didn’t need to reinvent the wheel, instead choosing to tailor their existing tools as well as those that were available from the CCSP Resource Library.

The real transformation came about as Kristie and her team decided to leverage the City’s SharePoint site to increase accessibility to the tools for all city departments, and organize the tools based on how they fit into the procurement cycle:

Phase 1 – Sustainable Procurement Strategy Development
Phase 1 is for identifying opportunities to improve sustainability during business case, project planning, and overall procurement strategy development for each department. The tools available for this phase include:

  • Pathways to Sustainable Procurement Worksheet
  • Sustainability Assessment Questionnaire

Phase 2 – Research

Phase 2 is for market research, engaging with current or prospective suppliers, and determining the strategy for embedding sustainability into the chosen procurement activity. The tools available for this phase include:

  • Market Research Tools
  • Vendor Engagement: Sustainability Questions Tool
  • Vendor Engagement: Quick questions for emails or calls
  • Total Cost of Ownership Tools

Phase 3: Sustainable Procurement Process

Phase 3 tools assist staff in selecting and developing sustainability related questions and evaluation criteria to insert into their competitive bids. The tools available for this phase include:

  • Sustainability Criteria & Questions for Bid Solicitation Documents
  • Social Impact Evaluation Criteria
  • Sample Sustainability Leadership Questionnaire

By using SharePoint, the City of Ottawa has been able to make the tools available in a centralized place, create easy-to access fillable documents, and track KPIs on uptake of the tools.

The City’s procurement team has also been implementing a communications plan to engage various client departments to increase awareness of the tools and encourage them to implement sustainable procurement. They found this has been a great avenue to learn about the unique sustainability considerations and goals that each department has in place, and how procurement can support them.

Using Tools to Operationalize Sustainable Procurement at the City of Kelowna

Tools are useful for operationalizing an organizations broader sustainable procurement goals. The City of Kelowna especially found this after introducing a brand-new tool which allows staff to select more relevant sustainability questions and evaluation criteria.

Previously, the City used three standard sustainability questions for most RFP’s. This approach meant they weren’t always evaluating suppliers on sustainability issues that were most impactful for a specific purchase. The City has now evolved their approach by creating:

  1. A Matrix: suggested weighting for sustainability, organized by different commodity categories.
  2. A Question Library: pre-built RFx questions grouped by sustainability topic (i.e. environmental, social, and governance).
  3. An Evaluator Rationale: pre-built out explanations to guide evaluators for more effective scoring.

The City has found the adoption of this suite of tools resulting in a cascade of benefits, including

  • Culture. Tools have fostered a culture of more routinely discussing and incorporating sustainability into procurement.
  • Proactive Conversations. Conversations around sustainable procurement don’t have to start from scratch. These tools give teams a way to plan and adopt sustainability in a way that they may not have previously thought to do so.
  • Program Advancement. Elevating the resources available to staff, enables incremental advancements to take place for the City’s overall sustainable procurement program.


What Next?

The adoption of tools into your procurement process may just be the leverage you need to increase uptake of sustainable procurement in your organization. Consider this as you get started:

  • Adapt resources that are already available. No need to reinvent the wheel! There are many frameworks and tools in place that can support your procurement process. We recommend joining the CCSP if you need help with where to start.
  • Human-centred design and frameworks. Meeting your teams where they’re at in the design of your tool can ultimately support its resourcefulness and adoption. The Evaluator Rationale at the City of Kelowna and using SharePoint as a central system at the City of Ottawa are great examples of this!
  • Use Tools to Leverage Conversations. Both presenters found they could use tools as a reason to initiate more engagement with client departments and thus create more awareness and action on sustainable procurement.