Bridging the Gap Between Local Action and Global Impact

Engineers Without Borders / Bridging the Gap

Mohandas Ghandi once said: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” This was the inspiration behind this year’s Engineers Without Borders’ (EWB) Bridging the Gap Conference held at UBC on March 27th.

Compelling keynote presentations delivered by Shauna Sylvester and Dr. Hans Rosling and several breakout sessions cut across four main themes: EWB’s Values and Capacity Building, Advocacy, Serving Global Society, and Connecting to the Developing World. According to Rogayeh Tabrizi, event organizer extraordinaire, “we came together to create a space for dialogue, for understanding, for sharing the passion, for helping each other see the world around us better.”

The Fair Trade breakout session encouraged critical discussion by walking participants through what it means to “trade fairly.” Workshop facilitators Stacey Toews, of Level Ground Trading, and Randy Hooper, of Discovery Organics, talked candidly about how true fair trade has to go beyond just putting a Fair Trade Certified logo on a package. From their perspective, building direct relationships with producers that are based in transparency, dialogue and respect is really what fair trade is about.

This contention resonates across the field of ethical and sustainable purchasing. Countless examples of successful ethical and sustainable purchasing (ESP) programs demonstrate that focusing on supplier or producer relationships is imperative. In interviewing leaders and pioneers in this field, Reeve has heard procurement professionals say time and time again that without building strong relationships with suppliers their ESP initiatives would have been less successful.

When you buy products or services do you just look for a third-party ecolabel to ease your conscious or do you go beyond to learn more about the supplier or producer who is behind the product? You may not have time to build longterm relationships with all your suppliers, but even just asking a few simple questions about their business practices or their relationships with their contractors will facilitate understanding and greater success in achieving your sustainability goals. To paraphrase Toews and Hooper, go beyond product labelling and dig deeper…get to know the people behind your products and enter into dialogue with them.

Who Sets the Standards for Ecolabels?

It is common practice to rely on third-party ecolabels to define environmental criteria for particular purchasing categories.  Ecolabels provide third-party verification of the environmental and social standards related to a particular product or service category and can be used to reduce the onus of creating environmental criteria.  By understanding how to identify a mature and credible ecolabel purchasers can rely on these pre-determined criteria and simply specify that the product or service in question carry this ecolabel, removing the burden of developing criteria.

There are over 350 ecolabels in the global marketplace so it important to understand how to identify mature and credible ecolabel standards, as all are not created equally.  There are three main international expert sources that provide definitions of different types of ecolabels and set out parameters for developing high quality ecolabels that consumers can trust.  The following provides an introduction to these organizations and briefly describes their efforts to set international parameters for ecolabelling.

International Parameters for Ecolabels: Key Organizations and Definitions

The following organizations have set international definitions and parameters for ecolabels:

  1. Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN)
  2. International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  3. ISEAL Alliance

Global Ecolabelling Network

GEN is a non-profit association of third-party environmental performance recognition, certification and labeling organizations founded in 1994 to improve, promote and develop the ecolabelling of products and services.  GEN defines different types of ecolabels, categorizes existing ecolabels, and sets generic environmental criteria for specific product and service categories.  As a membership based organization, GEN provides assurance that member organizations are meeting their parameters for ecolabelling.

For more detail visit: http://www.globalecolabelling.net/whatis.html

International Organization for Standardization

ISO is the world’s largest developer and publisher of international standards.  It brings together a network of national standards institutes from 159 countries to build consensus of global standard setting.  In particular, they have created the ISO 14020 series of standards that define parameters for developing environmental labels and declarations.  This series includes ISO 14024, 14021 and 14025, which define the parameters for Type I, II, and III ecolabels, respectively.

For more detail visit: http://www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=34425

ISEAL Alliance

ISEAL is a global association for social and environmental standards.  It works with established and emerging voluntary standard systems to develop guidance and strengthen the effectiveness of these standards.  They also work with companies, non-profits and governments to support their referencing and use of voluntary standards.  They have developed Codes of Good Practice that are applied to leading standards systems and are an ISEAL membership requirement.  As a membership based organization, ISEAL provides assurance that member organizations are meeting their parameters for ecolabelling.

For more detail visit: http://www.isealalliance.org/content/codes-good-practice

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What’s in a label? ISEAL Alliance aims for a gold medal with standard setting code.

Who’s certifying the certifiers?

Credible standards that define sustainable products is critical to ongoing work in sustainable supply chains.  Here’s an interesting presentation from a group that’s trying to bring more consistency to the standard setting process.  ISEAL is an organisation that is comprised of groups like FSC, Marine Stewardship Council, Rainforest Alliance and more.

Reeve is keen to see more developments like these.

Check out this quick and informative presentation on ISEAL Alliances Standard-Setting Code: Introduction to the ISEAL Standard-Setting Code

View more presentations from ISEAL Alliance.

Vancouver 2010 Olympic Medals: the Untold Story

Flickr / US Mission Canada

Did you know that the Vancouver 2010 Olympic medals are made of recycled gold, silver and bronze recovered from used electronics?  It’s true, the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) for the 2010 Games has worked with their domestic sponsor Teck Resources to ensure each of the 1,000+ medals contain recycled metals from electronic waste.  This is a great achievement worthy of its own medal and should be shared to inspire the world to take on similar initiatives.

With the 2010 Winter Olympic Games well underway, many Olympic champions have risen to the podium to accept their medals, how many know that the medals they receive symbolize more than an ultimate athletic achievement.  On Sunday, Kevin McCarty had the amazing opportunity to sit with the athletes’ families during the speed skating and cross country skiing Victory Ceremonies.  He reported that it was a powerful experience to witness their emotion as their loved one’s bowed to receive their medals.  However, he also noticed that the story of recycled metal in the medals wasn’t made apparent during the ceremonies.

Some might argue that the Victory Ceremonies are not about environmentalism and social responsibility, but during the beginning of the ceremonies information was projected on three large screens above the podium that proudly outlined VANOC’s commitment to being one of the most sustainable Games in Olympic history.  So there is a place in the Ceremonies for environmentalism and social responsibility, but unfortunately the story of the medals was not apparent.  Additionally, there was a short video shown about the artists who designed the medals, but again, the story of the recycled content was not told.

We here at Reeve Consulting strongly believe in the power of purchasing to change the world we live in and feel it would be a great opportunity to promote sustainable purchasing while the world is watching.  The story of the medals and their recycled metal content is a great example of how VANOC is helping to change the world.  The Victory Ceremonies would be a great place to share this story.

Check out these related blogs for more information on the Buy Smart Program and related success stories:  Buy Smart Program; Vancouver Olympics Sources Ethically Produced Flowers for Medal Ceremony

Beyond the Sexy Consequences of Giving Flowers for Valentine’s Day

Flickr / sophiea

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, flower shops across North America are about to buy and sell hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of cut flowers.

Are you planning on buying your special someone a bouquet?  Have you considered the consequences?  Many of them will likely be very positive, but there may be other related consequences that you wouldn’t want to share with your loved one.

Pause for a moment and imagine what is happening around the world as a result of Valentine’s Day.  North Americans are on the verge of demanding more long-stem roses than any other time of the year.  In response to this major demand, Latin America flower producers, in countries such as Ecuador and Colombia, are busy as can be cutting flowers and carefully packaging them so they survive the long journey north.  Boats, planes and trucks are gearing up to transport them all safely to your Valentine’s front door with a fairly large carbon footprint.

Sadly, as is the case with other tropical cash crops, such as coffee and chocolate, many flower producers across Latin America are reporting serious human rights violations in their workplace.  Acute pressure on production levels results in increased worker exploitation.  Did you know that the roses you may be buying this year might have been grown, cut and packaged by a woman who is working around the clock without breaks for very little money?

Don’t worry, I am not suggesting you avoid buying flowers for your loved one and try to explain the ethics behind it over a candle light dinner.  There are ethical and beautiful alternatives.

Here are two fairly simple solutions:

a) try to buy locally produced flowers (there are some green houses operating this time of year in North America), or

b) if you buy imported flowers from the south look for those that bear a FairTrade Certified Logo.

This year surprise your Valentine with a beautiful bouquet of flowers as well as a story of how these particular flowers are helping to make the world a better place.  This is sure to win you some extra points this Valentine’s Day!

See related blog entitled: Vancouver Olympics Sources Ethically Produced Flowers for Medal Ceremonies. This blog tells the story of how VANOC has made an effort to source flowers that meet ethical and environmental standards.

Vancouver Olympics Sources Ethically Produced Flowers for Medal Ceremonies

The Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) will soon be handing out 1800 ethically sourced bouquets of flowers to champion athletes during the medal ceremonies. At a time when men and women around North America will be buying flowers for Valentine’s Day, VANOC’s story of sourcing flowers from an ethically and environmentally minded company is timely.

VANOC awarded the contract to produce the bouquets for the ceremonies to Just Beginning Flowers, a Surrey-based non-profit social enterprise that sources ethically produced flowers from Ecuador and from local producers in the Fraser Valley. Although there has been some recent criticism about the Olympic bouquets not containing native plant species (see related article below), the owners and operators of Just Beginning Flowers state that the flowers they import from Ecuador are ethically sourced and meet Fair Trade standards.

Through their Buy Smart program, which Reeve helped develop, VANOC has set up protocols to ensure their suppliers are adhering to social and ethical standards. Just Beginning Flowers is considered one of the program’s success stories as they not only source locally and ethically from abroad, but they are also a social enterprise that has developed a training program for students that have barriers to employment. Furthermore, Just Beginning Flowers employs green business practices with the goal of minimizing the impact of their operations on the environment.

Check out the related Vancouver Sun  article which highlights the controversy about the lack of native plant species in the Olympic bouquets. This Valentine’s Day will you buy native plant species or imported flowers from Latin America?

For more detail on the VANOC Buy Smart program check out: Buy Smart Program Designed by Reeve Consulting Receives 2010 Games “Sustainability Star”

Purchasers Going Green

The Purchasing Management Association of Canada (PMAC) hosted two half-day Sustainable Procurement Showcases sponsored by Grand and Toy in November. Reeve Consulting was asked to participate in a panel discussion as the local expert on crafting Ethical and Sustainable Procurement (ESP) Policies and Procedures. Fellow panelists included Vicki Wakefield from UBC, Kevin Koertje from Boise Paper and Scott McDougall from TerraChoice.

In the form of a fireside chat panelists covered topics ranging from leveraging your buying power or creating buying groups to influence suppliers into offering sustainable options; the importance of looking at full life-cycle when calculating the true cost of purchasing green products; and looking beyond the recycled paper label and asking questions about source. Kevin McCarty, from Reeve Consulting, talked about the importance of considering ethical issues as well as sustainability and how Reeve works with clients to develop procurement policies and practices that not only allow them to purchase ethical and sustainable products, but reduce risk and strengthen their brand.

To view Reeve’s 10-Steps to Activating ESP Click Here or go to the PMAC website at www.pmac.ca and click on the Sustainable Procurement Showcase under Events.

Ethical & sustainable purchasing around the dinner table

What happens when you bring some of the leading policy makers and practitioners in ethical and sustainable purchasing together over dinner? Lively and informative discussion on maintaining VANOC’s Ethical and Sustainable Purchasing (ESP) momentum, the influence of larger contracts vs. smaller ones, concerns of audit fatigue, as well as the importance of supplier engagement and looking inward at your own practices were all subjects discussed in a recent congregation of Vancouver-based thought leaders.

On November 30th Reeve Consulting hosted an Ethical and Sustainable Purchasing dinner with the goal of facilitating conversation between some of Vancouver’s movers and shakers and exploring the opportunities and challenges facing the ESP movement.

The wide range of guests included:
• Kai Alderson, Fasken Martineau
• Rory Carr, RC Products
• Harvey Chan, Mountain Equipment Co-op
• Daryl Doyle, SAP
• Councilor Geoff Meggs, City of Vancouver
• Monica Netupsky, VANOC licensing
• Melorin Pouladian, Lululemon
• Denise Taschereau , Fairware
• Tim Reeve, Reeve Consulting
• Kevin McCarty, Reeve Consulting
• Amanda Mungal, Reeve Consulting

Over dinner, the desire to ensure the momentum created by VANOC is maintained post-Vancouver 2010 was discussed. Small licensees, in particular, have been able to leverage the VANOC license to encourage factory compliance and there is concern that the once the Olympics is over the influence small companies have on their supply chains will dwindle.

Common challenges raised by purchasers were both lack of buying power relative to overall factory production and audit fatigue on behalf of factory owners. Rory stated that he heard reports of one factory that had to conduct nearly one audit a week to keep up with the demands of factory compliance. Harvey suggested one possibility for addressing audit fatigue is to place more emphasis on direct engagement with suppliers and less emphasis on using a particular audit. If a factory has passed a standard audit then accepting those results while directly engaging the factory owner may bring about a more fruitful outcome. These comments lead into deep conversation on ways to share factory audit information without losing competitive edge and better ways to directly engage suppliers.

Monica and Denise both suggested that educating consumers needs to be a high priority in furthering the ESP momentum fueled by VANOC. Rory suggested that combining this with some kind of positive recognition for companies that practice ESP rather than negative recognition might help consumers make more informed choices. Often consumers are made aware of the companies they shouldn’t buy from rather than the good ones they should buy from.

Melorin and Daryl recognized the significant opportunity for large companies to move beyond “greening” their retail product by “greening” their operations. Denise agreed, stating that in her work she often finds that “green” companies have put so many resources into their retail product that they have none left for internal operations and often turn to her when they realize their promotional items are in direct contrast to their own retail product.

Also, there was a good discussion of how purchasing organizations can contribute to human rights violations by putting unreasonable demands on their suppliers. For example, when a large order is needed immediately, then it may be that employees are required to work longer days that are in violation with international labour conventions. It was agreed that it is important for purchasing organizations to recognize their influence on factory labour conditions in order to help their suppliers comply with international labour standards.

The dinner wound down with everyone feeling energized and more connected. The Reeve Team really enjoyed hearing what our industry colleagues had to say and looks forward to another opportunity to continue these discussions.

The Responsible Purchasing Network Releases their Annual Report: Responsible Purchasing Trends 2009

The Responsible Purchasing Network (RPN) recently published their annual Responsible Purchasing Trends 2009 report. This report summarizes socially responsible and environmentally sustainable purchasing practices and trends in 2008.

The RPN’s membership of 211 procurement and sustainability professionals was surveyed and 135 responded. Respondents included government agencies, educational institutions, non-profit organizations, religious congregations and corporations. Ninety-five percent of the respondents were from the United States and the remaining five percent were from Canada, Italy, Mexico and Spain.

It is interesting to note that the RPN’s membership more than doubled in 2008, and as result, responsible purchasing is on the rise! From January 2008 to January 2009 their membership grew from 97 to 211 members. Of the $53 billion dollars that is collectively spent annually by the 135 respondents, it is estimated that $4 – 10 billion of this was spent on socially and environmentally preferable goods and services in 2008.

Key Findings of the Responsible Purchasing Trends 2009 Report

The key findings of this survey are summarized in the Executive Summary of this report as follows:

Responsible Purchasing Policy & Criteria
Two out of three respondents have a responsible purchasing policy and two thirds of the rest say they expect to adopt one. Social and environmental concerns (e.g. energy efficiency, recycled content) are considered by many to be nearly as important as conventional procurement considerations such as cost, quality and supply.

Responsible Purchasing in Practice
The majority of respondents say they “actually consider” social and environmental criteria in most of their purchasing. Sustainability standards and certifications (e.g. eco-labels) are widely recognized and used. Many respondents report actually considering social or environmental issues even when they do not have a policy that specifically requires it.

New Members Bring Great Potential
While all but 11 respondents to the 2008 survey already had a formal or informal responsible purchasing policy, 43 of the 2009 respondents reported lacking such a policy – though 28 of those plan to adopt one. This show there is great potential to shift far more spending in a responsible direction.

Measuring & Reporting Impact
Respondents report minimal use of calculators that measure social, environmental or cost benefits related to their responsible purchasing. Similarly, fewer than one in four claim to publish an annual report summarizing their responsible purchasing activities.

Forecasting Future Trends & Opportunities
Nearly all respondents expect to do more responsible purchasing in the next two years. Factors they claim would increase their responsible purchasing include: more competitive pricing and better selection of responsible goods and services, and more training and education in responsible purchasing.

How Does this Compare to our Trend Research?

Reeve Consulting continuously conducts best practices and trends research related to responsible purchasing. The key findings of the RPN Responsible Purchasing Trends 2009 report are very similar to what we are identifying in our research. We agree that responsible purchasing is a rapidly growing trend and has moved to the forefront for many organizations as a strategy to help improve operational efficiency and reduce environmental impacts.

As stated in the RPN report, sustainability standards and certifications (e.g. eco-labels) are widely recognized and used. We have found that many organizations are using eco-logos to overcome the common challenge of identifying “green” products and services. This has lead to a boom in the development of eco-labels across North America, which is presenting a new layer of complexity. With the rapid influx of eco-labels in the marketplace, many purchasers are finding it difficult to sort through them all and identify the more trustworthy labels.

We have also discovered there is significant demand for more training and education in relation to responsible purchasing. Many purchasers would like a formal, accredited training program they could turn to in order to gain the knowledge they need to advance responsible purchasing within their organizations.

The RPN trends report is an important contribution to the field of responsible purchasing and Reeve looks forward to seeing how these trends advance overtime. By identifying and monitoring trends we can better understand how to support and advance responsible purchasing. For example, we see Reeve playing an important role in helping to meet the current demand that exists for training and education across North America.

Download this report:
www.ResponsiblePurchasing.org

LOCOG’s Sustainable Procurement Code ofConduct: An Emerging Trend in the Olympic Games

Firms who wish to do business with the London 2012 Organizing Committee (LOCOG http://www.london-2012.co.uk/) will have to meet relatively strict performance standards as outlined in its ‘Sustainable Procurement Code of Conduct’.

Similar to Vancouver 2010’s ground breaking ‘Supplier Code of Conduct for Social and Environmental Compliance,’ LOCOG has set requirements based on the following 4 principles:

  1. Responsible sourcing
  2. Use of secondary materials
  3. Minimising embodied impacts
  4. Healthy materials

Under each of these principles, the Code lays out preferences related to sustainable product specifications. Examples include requesting that a given product hold a third party eco-certification (see http://ecolabelling.org/).

The Code will be used by internal buyers as well as prospective suppliers and licensees to guide the procurement process in a way that will help to ensure the sustainability of the 2012 Games and set precedence for future games.

The initial priority categories on which the Code will focus include:

  • branded products;
  • products sourced from overseas, and;
  • labour providers

Procurement’s approach to sustainable sourcing will be based on the following questions:

1. Where does it come from?

2. Who made it?

3. What is it made of?

4. What is it wrapped in?

5. What will happen to it after the Games?

The answers to these questions will help the organizing committee determine how it will source specific products and sources. A trend is emerging in the Olympic Games in terms of sustainable purchasing and it will be interesting to see if other Olympic organizing committees will integrate similar questions into their approach to sustainable sourcing.

Related to verification of compliance to the Code, no specific action will be required on the part of suppliers and licensees beyond reading and understanding the Code. However, once a contract has been awarded, LOCOG may use various methods to ensure practices are aligned with the requirements of the tendering process.  Methods may include using ‘Supplier Ethical Data Exchange’ (https://www.sedex.org.uk) to disclose supply chain information as well as independent audits.

Thanks in large part to the work at VANOC, sustainable procurement has become an embedded component of the Games’ overall sustainability strategy. The LOCOG Code has definitely built upon this good work. VANOC, however, requires all
of its Licensees to be audited on a regular basis. LOCOG’s approach to verification seems somewhat less stringent. Reeve
Consulting will be interested to see how this all plays out and how it will influence other Olympic organizing committees in years to come.

For more information and to review the LOCOG Code, please go to:
http://www.london2012.com/news/archive/2008-11/london-2012-publishes-sustainable-sourcing-code.php

For moreinformation and to review the VANOC Code, please go to:http://www.vancouver2010.com/dl/00/55/84/-/55842/prop=data/3o3aaq/55842.pdf