A network of nineteen leading public sector organizations has just released a report on their progress towards aligning their spending with their values and commitments on sustainability. “Sustainable procurement has reached a turning point in its relevance as a strategic tool to drive sustainability in the public sector,” says Tim Reeve, Managing Director of the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement (MCSP). “We are seeing a vibrant national conversation around sustainable procurement as a core strategy for the public sector to take action on climate change, poverty reduction, and building healthy communities.” Established in 2010, the MCSP supports Canadian public-sector institutions to work together to set and achieve sustainable purchasing goals.
The report highlights the country’s biggest sustainable procurement trends, showcases the popular ‘moon chart’, which benchmarks members against each other, and offers member updates and success stories around social and aboriginal procurement, green infrastructure, innovative training and communication initiatives, the circular economy, and more.
According to the report, there are some significant trends to watch. The Government of Canada and several provincial governments are creating an enabling environment for social purchasing and the use of community benefit agreements to provide employment and skills training opportunities for Canadians with barriers to employment. There are a growing number of hubs and networks supporting a standardized approach to sustainable and social procurement at a regional level. In 2018, the Coastal Communities Initiative launched on Vancouver Island to support social procurement through education, training and coaching. Finally, increasing awareness on the negative impacts of plastic waste has driven new commitments this year in government and industry, with new regulatory initiatives and industry-wide collaborations to consider investment in sustainable plastic alternatives and zero-waste strategies.
Members are enriching their sustainable procurement programs and applying sustainability to new procurement categories. They are developing innovative partnerships with certification organizations and academic researchers to design new approaches and engage supplier communities. In August 2018, Simon Fraser University became the first university in Canada to become an Aboriginal Procurement Champion, a special designation by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB). The university is now working to embed a clause on Aboriginal procurement into the university’s overall procurement policy. Mary Aylesworth, SFU’s Director of Financial Operations, is excited to see SFU take action on reconciliation by supporting Indigenous entrepreneurship and economic development. She says, “I want to see this grow, so that all public sector organizations think about how they can work with Aboriginal businesses before going out to the general market.”
On the environmental side, the Province of BC took a leap forward in supporting the transition to clean technology vehicles by making it more accessible for BC’s public sector to invest in charging infrastructure. It’s a big deal for action on climate change, as each electric vehicle on the road in BC displaces four tonnes of CO2 annually. The BC Procurement Services Branch collaborated with the BC Climate Action Secretariat to release a supply arrangement to purchase Electric Vehicle Charging Stations. The full service arrangement allows client departments to solicit bids from a pool of pre-qualified suppliers, including regional distributors and electricians.
The report highlights other innovative member initiatives—the University of Alberta’s new designation as a Fair Trade Campus, an innovative box spring recycling pilot with an Indigenous social enterprise by the City of Winnipeg, the recycling of used oil filters and containers, glycol and waste fuel at the City of Edmonton’s network of Eco Stations and an ambitious new Zero Waste Food Ware Strategy and series of plastic waste reduction initiatives by UBC’s Student Housing and Hospitality Services (SHHS).
Reeve is proud of member accomplishments and is excited about the growth of the network in 2019. “The MCSP fulfills a very important niche as the only known Canada-wide sustainable procurement network catering specifically to public procurement professionals,” he says. “We have a new strategic plan to chart our course to 2022 and are looking forward to supporting a diverse range of public sector organizations to gain better business and social value from sustainable procurement.”
The Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement (MCSP) is a member-based network of Canadian public-sector institutions working together to deliver better services and achieve better value through sustainable purchasing. Our member organizations meet virtually several times per year to share information, collaborate on tool development, and exchange lessons learned related to mitigating risks and improving social and environmental outcomes by considering sustainability in procurement.