Sustainable Products

A Guide to Seeking Sustainability This Halloween

The sustainability issues associated with Halloween may be spooky, but don’t let them scare you. Whether it’s a full-blown office party, or a low-value purchase, don’t forget about sustainable procurement while planning your Halloween festivities. Here is a quick guide to help you make your Halloween purchases more sustainable this year.

 

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5 Tips for Buying Sustainable IT Products

Will you be writing RFPs for computers or printers in the next 3-6 months but are unsure of what sustainability criteria to evaluate? Do you have trouble understanding if your IT purchases are in fact the most sustainable options?

 

On November 5, 2020, members of the Canadian Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement (CCSP) learn how to improve the social and environmental impact of their IT purchasing from expert speakers Clare Hobby, Director Purchaser Engagement at TCO Certified, and Frances Edmonds, Head of Sustainable Impact at HP Canada.

Find below a summary of tips to apply when purchasing IT materials for your organization.READ MORE

5 Tips for Purchasing Greener Building Materials

Image of a green building at UBC.

 

Recognizing the global building sector contributes 39% of global carbon emissions, public organizations have had a strong focus on embedding sustainability into the design, construction, maintenance, operation, and demolition of both vertical and horizontal infrastructure. There have been great strides in adopting standards and certifications like LEED, WELL, and Envision as well as increasing the energy efficiency of buildings but there is lots more work to be done. Notably, experts are now calling to reduce embodied carbon of building materials like concrete, steel, mass timber, and insulation – an often hidden cost of building.

Many of us are familiar with the concept of operational carbon: greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted when operating and maintaining a building. Embodied carbon represents the carbon footprint of materials. It considers all GHGs released throughout the material’s supply chain, including extraction, manufacturing, assembly, maintenance, and demolition (World Green Building Council). Embodied carbon is taken into account when doing a life cycle analysis (LCA) of a building (Bringing Embodied Carbon Upfront, 2019).

Embodied carbon of building materials is currently responsible for 11% of global GHG emissions (see right; Carbon Leadership Forum Website, 2019). However, as buildings become more efficient and utilize clean energy, embodied carbon is expected to represent 49% of all carbon emissions of buildings by 2050 (Embodied Carbon Review, 2018).

Find 5 tips for how procurement professionals can incorporate green building best practices and consider the embodied carbon of materials in upcoming infrastructure projects below. A special thank you to our 4 industry expert who shared these insights at the Canadian Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement (CCSP) last Peer Exchange webinar on May 14, 2020:

 

1.   Learn your building policies and sustainability plans

Get up to speed on 1) the building policies and codes in your region and 2) your organization’s sustainability plans to understand what goals and targets need to be met. In Vancouver, there’s a number of relevant policies and codes including the BC Energy Step Code, the Green Buildings Policy for Rezoning, and the City’s  Big Move #5 from the City’s Climate Emergency declaration.

 

2.   Get to know who’s responsible for green building 

It’s rare for a public organization to buy building materials themselves. The contractor is typically responsible for purchasing the materials and the designer guides what materials the contractor uses. Get to know who’s responsible for green building and ask to join the conversation in the early stages of the project – before specifications for designers are developed.

Look for opportunities to collaborate internally. Increasingly organizations are using integrated design processes (CMHC, 2020), which allow engineers, costing specialists, operations people, energy specialists, and other relevant actors to provide input to architects at early design stages (iiSBE, 2020).

 

3.   Use standards and certification to set performance-based targets

For example, use the LEED scorecard to signal where the design team should focus (see Figure 1). Provide rewards for achieving higher scores over the minimum thresholds and penalties for not meeting the thresholds.

 

Figure 1: LEED Scorecard for Materials and Resources

Other great green building standards and certifications include WELL, Living Building Challenge, Passive House Canada, Zero Carbon Building Standard by the Canada Green Building Council, ASHRAE, and EnerGuide by Natural Resources Canada. Find comprehensive lists on the National Institute of Building Sciences and the Ecolabel Index websites.

 

4.   Leverage Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) to avoid greenwashing

Ask designers and contractors to provide Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for a few priority materials. EPDs document the embodied carbon associated of specific materials. They act like food nutritional labels – either providing an industry average or a manufacturer-, product-, or plant-specific calculation. They are Third Party Verified, which helps avoid greenwashing, and are ISO 14044 & EN 15804 compliant.

Where can you find EPDs? EC3 is a new, free, open-source tool that compiles EPDs for building materials, created by a non-profit alliance of AEC firms, manufacturers, foundations, and building owners.

 

5.   Engage your suppliers to discover sustainability innovations

Engage your suppliers to learn about the sustainability features of particular products. Learn about new products and emerging technologies and set collaborative goals to buy greener materials. For example, concrete and cement contribute to sustainable, resilient buildings because they:

  • are most often extracted and manufactured within 100 miles,
  • contain recycled materials and are recyclable,
  • create durable, long-lasting structures,
  • require less finishes and use less energy in buildings, and
  • have a light colour which reduces heat island effect.

 

 

Lafarge Canada has worked to increase the sustainability of its cement by adding limestone into its mix. This small change leads to a 5 to 10% reduction in carbon, while maintaining competitive quality and price. They are also increasing the sustainability of their organization by investing in emerging technologies around:

  • alternative fuels,
  • alternative, low-carbon binders,
  • collecting and capturing CO2 to be used for other purposes, and
  • converting CO2 into other materials through mineralization.

Find out more about the sustainability of cement and concrete in these EPDs:

 

Bonus Tip: Carefully review your consultants and designers’ green credentials

Check out Calgary’s green building resources for more information on how to attract and onboard the right team.

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Written by: Alyssa McDonald, Program Manager at the Canadian Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement (CCSP)
Want to stay up to date with other sustainable procurement news in Canada? Follow the CCSP on LinkedIn and sign-up to the CCSP’s monthly newsletter.

TRU launches next phase of sustainable procurement

This spring, the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement (MCSP) launched its latest Annual Report on the State of Sustainable Public Procurement in Canada containing 9 success stories from members including this story from Thompson Rivers University. Download the full report here

Thompson Rivers University (TRU) is home to 14,000 students across several campuses in interior BC. TRU is proud of its platinum AASHE STARS sustainability score–the highest designation available–which credits its commitment to sustainable procurement. TRU will be releasing a new campus sustainability plan this fall.

Reeve kicked off the next phase of sustainable procurement work for TRU this week. We’ll be working with a variety of departments—from the Bookstore to Facilities and Operations—to define the highest impact procurement opportunities and align procurement with the environmental and social priorities emerging from the sustainability planning process. We’ll then develop product guides and an action plan, and bring buyers across campuses together for hands-on training.

This project builds on our work with TRU earlier this spring to develop a Sustainable Procurement Guidebook for buying staff at the university. The Guidebook offers simple decision frameworks, tools and resources on how to include sustainability within PCard, multiple quotes, and Request for Proposal procurement processes.

The Draft Guide was presented to TRU’s Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee in February 2019, and they were pleased with the results. Project lead Jim Gudjonson, Director of the Office of Environment and Sustainability observed that creating the Guide renewed the important conversation among key stakeholders about implementing sustainable procurement at TRU.

This second phase will now define the priority product and service categories for sustainable procurement and equip buyers across TRU’s campuses and regional centres with focused information and training on these procurement categories.

Where We’ll Be in May: SPLC’s 2016 Summit

Reeve is heading to Washington DC in May to attend and run a session at the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council’s 2016 Summit. The Summit runs from May 24th to 26th, but there are also pre-summit short courses that will happen on May 23rd.

What’s the 2016 Summit? Following up on the Council’s well-reviewed 2015 Summit, the 2016 Summit will bring together 300 leading sustainable purchasing experts and practitioners from a wide variety of sectors and regions for two days of best practice sharing, training, and relationship building. This year’s Summit features 100+ speakers, 45+ interactive workshops, and a Leadership Awards banquet.

What are some of the things we’re excited about at the 2016 Summit?

Our roundtable, “Wider Training for Improved Results: Engaging P-Card Holders in Sustainable Purchasing” at the Innovation Accelerator session: The Innovation Accelerator session takes place from 10:40 AM – 12:10 PM, on Thursday, May 26, and features thirty roundtable presentations and discussions about innovative projects and concepts that are ready to be launched, joined, expanded, replicated, or shared for thoughtful feedback! Reeve will be running a roundtable to share the benefits of eLearning as a tool for engaging employees across the organization in sustainable purchasing activities, how to roll out this training, and the initial results of a pilot project we have been conducting with the Green Learning Centre. The best possible results of sustainable purchasing initiatives come from employees across the organization who are engaged and informed – our roundtable will help participants learn how to make this happen in their own workplaces. (Learn more about the Innovation Accelerator’s purpose and format)

Pre-Summit Short Courses: Short Courses will give participants an opportunity to go in-depth on a number of topics: Fostering Sustainable Purchasing Behavior, Supply Chain & Climate, Spend Analysis for Sustainability Leadership, Evaluating the Credibility of Sustainable Product/Services Claims, and Building a Renewable Energy Purchasing Strategy. (Summit registration is not a requirement for participating in the short courses, which take place on Monday, May 23rd).

We think the Summit will be a valuable networking and educational experience for us, and we think you’d benefit from attending too! In the hope that we’ll see you there, we’d like to extend a discount code for your use: input the MCSP2016 discount code to get 10% off when registering as a non-member.

 

Not just another fluff piece

Winter is on the way and with it, racks and racks of high-end down filled jackets, slippers and blankets promising to keep you cozy all season long. Generally speaking these are high-priced items, but a recent article has left us wondering, what is the real cost of all this down?

A review of the video attached tells you everything you didn’t want to know about how down is usually sourced. None of it is surprising for anyone who is versed in large factory farming methods, but it’s sure to bring a chill to anyone cuddle up in their down duvet! Force feeding, plucked alive, terrible conditions all suffered by these harmless birds to keep us warm and cozy.

Enter Patagonia, an outdoor apparel company who has just launched its “Responsible Apparel” campaign along with its intention to offer Fair Trade Clothing. This week they announced the launch of Patagonia® Traceable Down. The company says that the birds are neither force feed for fois gras or plucked during their lifetime. In fact, Wendy Savage, social and environmental responsibility manager for Patagonia says “Patagonia’s traceability program is hands-on every step of the way. We begin our audit at the parent farm, where the eggs are laid, and follow it all the way to the garment factory, where the down is placed in our garments. We need to understand every single part of the supply chain – otherwise we can’t truly feel comfortable claiming the down as traceable.”

Down is lightweight and efficient insulation, with Patagonia creating and following these traceability standards; it is now sustainable and a lot more ethical. Considering it already has organic cotton and recycled polyester, they are leading the charge towards sustainable apparel and should be an inspiration to other companies to utilize the holistic model set forth by Patagonia.

Sustainability at the 4th Green Sports Alliance Summit

Green Sports Alliance SummitI am excited to speak at the 4th Green Sports Alliance Summit http://summit.greensportsalliance.org/ on July 21-22 in Santa Clara, California. More than 600 industry stakeholders will be listening to 80+ industry leaders, discussing how companies can promote better environmental sustainability, engage in community outreach, and advance the green sports movement. Pivotal issues to be explored by a wide selection of dedicated individuals.READ MORE

Message from Earth: Organic Matters

This week we’re bringing you a re-post from our friends at Fairware, a distributor of ethical and sustainable promotional products. Reading some of the latest posts on the Product with Purpose blog, we were particularly taken with the following video by Fairware supplier Anvil Organics. Highlighting the sustainability merits of organic over conventional cotton, we thought it was a nice summary of the issue and of particular relevance to our readers considering sustainable programming for uniforms, corporate gifts and give-aways.

We were impressed by this digital short created by one of our suppliers, Anvil Knitwear. The short video released at Farm Aid 25 last October, highlights the impacts of pesticide use on the environment and farmers, encouraging consumers to support organic farming practices.

Anvil Knitwear has made a commitment to double organic cotton production in the US through an agreement with the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative. Along with Disney LLC, they’re hoping to encourage conventional cotton farmers to switch to organic methods by offering a premium for their yield.  Anvil will also purchase any of the cotton making the transition to organic at a price close to that offered for organic. Read more about Anvil’s project to plant the seeds of change HERE.

Fairware is proud to carry a full line of Anvil organic apparel. Browse our site or contact us for more information.

New Research Helping Define the “Sustainability Consumer”

This week we’re bringing you a re-post from our colleagues at Ecolabel Index, an online database that offers the largest global directory of ecolabels.

With raw data showing demand for greener products staying robust in spite of a major recession, researchers are working to question old assumptions about who sustainability consumers are and how they behave. Recently, we have learned about a number of innovative studies, including researching online auction behaviour, that are helping to get a more accurate read on this audience.

Perhaps the most comprehensive is a new primer by Dr. Remi Trudel of Boston U. and released by The Network for Business Sustainability that analysed 91 different studies to understand if consumers will pay more for sustainable products. Interestingly, the answer is yes, and the average premiums being paid are 10%. This is contrary to prevailing wisdom that consumers are not willing to pay a premium for environmental and social goods.

Regardless, a gap continues to exist between the number of consumers with good intentions and the number who actually make greener purchases. What is behind that gap? According to this work, the main issues are:

  1. Confusion about the product’s sustainability benefits,
  2. Confusing packaging,
  3. Trade-offs required to buy the product (like a price premium), and
  4. Competition between brands.

One of the recommendations for future research is to investigate when and how much companies should communicate their sustainability performance given the risk of being called greenwashers due to over-promoting and the abundance of information now available at people’s fingertips.

We agree more research is needed, and are interested in what benefits consumers value most and whether those benefits match up with the sustainability needs further up the value chain.

In the short term the sector can take action to more clearly communicate to sustainability consumers:

  1. List a product’s specific sustainability benefits (what makes it better?)
  2. State the amount that benefit costs (how much more am I paying for that? 5%? 15%?)

Two simple steps that could help grow a market.

GoodGuide.com for Sustainable Purchasing Programs

Good Guide

Our clients regularly ask us where they can find a list of green products or sustainable suppliers. While there is no silver-bullet-one-stop shopping list for ethical and sustainable options, there are an increasing number of online tools to help buyers evaluate the environmental and social attributes of products.

While these tools are user-friendly and convenient (often accessible from mobile devices) they’re only useful if they draw from credible data.

Recently at Reeve Consulting we’ve been investigating GoodGuide.com, an online database of information on the health, environmental and social impacts of over 100,000 consumer products.

While the GoodGuide is mainly targeted to consumer audiences, we see some value in this tool for corporate purchasers, and even more so for staff at large in organizations with a sustainable purchasing policy.

Where we see this tool could be particularly useful is for staff making smaller, un-tendered purchases. For example, an administrative employee buying office or cleaning supplies may find it useful to compare attributes of one product to another to determine which is greener or healthier.

What is the GoodGuide?
GoodGuide is an online platform that allows user’s to search specific products to find a rating based on health, environment and society measures attributed to the product or manufacturer. An overall rating for each product is provided, and user’s can drill down for specifics on health and sustainability features by clicking on a rating for more details.

Screen shot of Dawn ultra-concentrated dish soap on GoodGuide.com

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10. A score of 10 means the product rates very well relative to other products in a category or other companies in an industrial sector.

Similar to the EnerGuide label on appliances, GoodGuide doesn’t approve or certify products as meeting specific sustainability standards, it only provides information that can be used to compare one product to another.

Highlights of the GoodGuide
A major strength of the GoodGuide is that it’s easy to use. Primarily, directed at the consumer market, with a mission to help consumers make purchasing decisions that reflect their preferences and values, the tool has been set-up with a user-friendly interface and colour-coded rating system. There’s also a GoodGuide’s smart phone app, which allows one to access the full product database from the shopping aisle by simply scanning product barcodes.

Mobile barcode look-up; Flickr / Lauren C.

Another benefit purchasers will find with GoodGuide is that it covers many more products than those qualifying for ecolabels. At the same time, if a searched product does feature an ecolabel, this information is shared in GoodGuide’s product description.

Regarding the data behind the ratings, GoodGuide conducts regular stakeholder consultation and relies on third-party experts to develop and continuously improve their rating and metrics system. Their executive team and advisors are leading academics in product lifecycle analysis and other related fields, which brings some added credibility to the tool. Further, GoodGuide clearly outlines their data quality control procedures and acknowledge where there are gaps in data and value judgments.

B CorporationAs an organization, GoodGuide is certified as a “for Benefit” Corporation by BCorporation, a recognized body which provides third-party verification of GoodGuide’s sustainability and transparency performance. It requires that GoodGuide meet a comprehensive set of transparent social and environmental performance standards. As a result, GoodGuide has made their metrics and ratings system publicly available, which provides legitimacy to their rating system for products.

Areas for consideration
Recognizing that the GoodGuide is a relatively new tool, we’re impressed by the large number of products that have been rated to date and the level of information we’re able to access. As the GoodGuide continues to develop, there are a couple areas where we feel the tool could be strengthened.

From early use with the tool we found that the transparency of raw data behind the ratings could be improved. While it appears you can take an extra step to contact GoodGuide and request detailed data for a given product, we’d prefer that the data be easily accessible, in real-time, while using the tool online.

Another area where we feel there’s some room for improvement is in GoodGuide’s social ratings. Currently the tool appears to take corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance for companies and apply it at the product-level. For example, a company’s support of local community groups could be recorded as a social impact of a product produced by that company, even if the two aren’t directly related.

We believe this approach could be improved, and that presenting the social impact of a product requires a look at the social impacts of the given product’s supply chain. We encourage GoodGuide to develop social supply chain criteria (similar to the Fair Trade model) rather than apply general company CSR performance to individual products.

No replacement for ecolabels, but a useful tool
Overall, companies and organizations with a sustainable purchasing program will find GoodGuide useful for initial product research and informing less formal purchasing decisions.

While use of the GoodGuide can’t replace consideration of ecolabel certifications for mandatory product specifications, it may facilitate initial product research and help engage more staff by making daily sustainable purchasing decisions easier.

Let us know in the comments section below if you’ve had a chance to use the GoodGuide. If so, what has your experience been? Where did you find it useful? What do you feel could be improved?