Best Practice Framework Series #5: Tools: Bridging the Gap
A Sustainable Procurement Program is only as impactful as its executors allow. Best Practice Framework elements like Strategy and Action Plan, Staffing and Resources, Policy, and HIPO Lists are crucial for building the strong foundation of a Sustainable Procurement Program, but are not always utilized in day-to-day purchasing decisions. This is why Tools are a crucial element of high performing Sustainable Procurement Program: they provide a tangible starting point, empowering procurement staff to translate sustainable procurement principles into actionable steps.
A Tool for Every Occasion
Tools are reference materials – like guides and checklists – catered to internal buyers and departments to make the process of integrating sustainability into procurement more consistent and accessible. Unlike some of the broader elements of a Sustainable Procurement Program, Tools are useful across various stages: from planning, to adapting, to evaluating. While the primary purpose of tools is to help procurement staff and client departments effectively evaluate offerings against sustainability criteria, they also service specific niche functions, including:
- Assistance for creating strong bid documents, advising:
- Sustainability criteria,
- Language usage,
- Supplier questionnaires, and
- Supplier evaluation and scoring.
- Guidance for market research,
- Sustainability risk/opportunity prioritization in chosen HIPO categories,
- Low value purchasing tools – such as tip sheets, factsheets, and Eco Label guides, and
- Information collection about suppliers and their practices.
Tools are often confused with Procedures (blog to come). To help compare these two elements, consider a reinforcing hierarchy: Procedures provide a standardized approach for applying tools at various intervention points throughout the procurement cycle, whereas Tools offer guidance for sustainability considerations at specific stages in the procurement cycle (i.e; research, sustainability prioritization, or evaluation). Procedures are higher level than Tools, and often reference how and when to use specific tools.
Tools can be adapted to each organization and their unique needs, but Reeve has developed some that are commonly used by organizations for implementing sustainability criteria in procurements.
- Market Research Guides help client departments conduct market research to identify relevant sustainability risks and opportunities associated with a procurement when preparing a solicitation.
- Sustainability Issues Prioritization (SIP) Checklists help make decisions about which sustainability aspects (environmental, social, ethical, or Indigenous) are most relevant for the purchase at hand. Not all issues will be relevant to each product or service category, and there is often a blend of issues within each product or service.
- RFx Clauses Menus provide templated language corresponding to each issue area from the SIP checklist, that can be used or adapted into solicitation documents.
- Evaluation Scoring Guides provide content to help project evaluation teams form the scoring criteria related to the sustainability questions in a solicitation.
- Tip Sheets/Factsheets contain helpful information, leading questions, and certifications to look out for to support you with considering sustainability when making low-value direct award, single source, and credit card purchases.
- Eco Label Guides identify relevant eco-labels and certifications that may help companies address environmental, social, ethical, and Indigenous risks and opportunities in various product/service categories.
- Supplier Engagement Question Banks present a bank of templated questions that correspond to each sustainability issue area in the SIP Worksheet.
Optimizing Tools’ Impact
Tools are designed to be used by the staff who see procurement through on a day-to-day basis, which is why it is important to couple tools with Training and Communications for employees (blog to come). In order for staff to successfully use sustainable procurement Tools, they must understand their purpose and application. Adequate training helps increase the Tools’ use, and subsequently increases the impact of Sustainable Procurement across many product/service categories.
Some other important things to keep in mind when developing and implementing tools:
- Adapt existing resources: many resources are already in place to support your procurement processes. There is no need to reinvent the wheel; we recommend optimizing and adapting these existing resources. We also recommend joining the CCSP network if you are struggling with where to start.
- Ensure people-centered design: involve key users and internal teams in working when developing the resources. This ensures tools are tailored to the audience.
- Use tools to create conversations: tools are a great way to initiate more internal engagement and conversations about sustainable procurement. This will help create awareness and action.
Is your organization struggling to bridge the gap between management and procurement staff when it comes to sustainable procurement? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org: we can provide guidance, templates, and other resources to help you develop and adapt Tools, and advance your sustainable procurement program. Check back next month to learn about how Procedures are a crucial recipe for using Tools.