Charting a Path Forward in the Storm of COVID-19

Most mountaineers and backcountry explorers will tell you that when a storm descends that often the best thing to do is to actually do nothing. Conventional wisdom says settle in, get safe and ride it out. Scrambling around on the edge of a steep slope in the clouds and swirling snow is usually a recipe for disaster. But when a crisis occurs it’s hard to resist the urge to ‘do something’ – and to do it right now!

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global crisis. We’ve never experienced this paralyzing halt in our normal way of life. And so over the last six weeks, our team at Reeve Consulting has been trying our best to follow the sage advice of explorers and first responders to stay put, stay calm and listen. We’ve focused on our people, our projects and our partners while we wait out the storm. It’s been incredibly hard. The situation has been so dynamic – with an intensity to the crisis and economic shut down that was almost impossible to imagine.

As we begin to understand the enormity of the situation, we’ve been seeing huge needs within our supply chain and procurement communities. It has inspired us to take action and connect with our clients and our members of the Canadian Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement (CCSP) to see how we can help address the enormous supply chain challenges they are facing. Whether it’s securing adequate and reasonably priced PPE, ensuring the continuity of contracts with smaller suppliers who have seen global supply chains turned upside down, or simply managing the challenge of continuing to offer seamless procurement and supply chain services in the midst of a sudden and unexpected transition to remote work and telecommuting.

The recent CCSP Peer Exchange on April 16, 2020 highlighted how many challenges supply chain professionals are facing right now – and the incredible pressure they are under to secure adequate supply in a time of unprecedented competition for product. This has been further compounded by the fragility of global supply chains that bring certain benefits and efficiencies but leave many communities completely disconnected from some of the critical suppliers and inputs that are absolutely essential to us. It was amazing to see our members respond to the call to share information and resources to manage issues in real time – and then to be able to document those resources and make them available broadly to our members and others.

We know the first job is to stabilize the health and safety of workers and the public at large. But it’s coming with some direct sustainability costs and we are already hearing about the impacts of dysfunctional supply chains under pressure from COVID-19. As we scramble to assemble necessary supplies and PPE for front line workers from far flung regions around the world, one can only imagine the cost that will come in terms of packaging and waste and transportation emissions. The temptation to move towards more single-use and disposable products may be a huge step backwards in our efforts towards Zero Waste.

We’ll be monitoring these unintended consequences and hope that an outcome of this pandemic is an overhaul of how we think about our supply chains. Let’s continue to pause and reconsider the value of producing more products domestically, the role that small and local businesses play in our economy, what it means to really think about ‘best value’ and ‘total cost’ when it comes to how and where essential products like our food are produced, and the working conditions of people caring for our most vulnerable populations.

We know this storm isn’t over – but we do see skies brightening at the moment – and that’s giving us the chance to chart our course and take action. As we consider the post COVID-19 recovery let’s take this opportunity to rebuild our economy in a way that is more respectful of workers and the planet.

By: Tim Reeve, President of Reeve Consulting and Founder of the Canadian Collaboration of Sustainable Procurement 

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.

A Retrospective on the 2018 USA Special Olympics Games

It was great to see Lew Blaustein’s GreenSportsBlog post today that tells the story of our work to bring sustainability for the first time ever to a Special Olympics USA Games last July. It’s a nice prompt to share some lessons learned, now that the adrenaline rush of the Games is behind us. For this blog, I interviewed Tim Reeve to share some of his reflections.

The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Sustainability Impact Report was released last December. It shares the sustainability vision and achievements of this incredible 11 day event that brought over a hundred thousand people to Seattle to cheer on athletes with intellectual disabilities (ID). The report showcases the thoughtful and integrated approach to sustainability that amplified the social goals of the Special Olympics as well as reduced its environmental footprint. We were particularly impressed with how the Games hardwired inclusion into its operations and procurement by providing training and work opportunities and hosting a Job Fair for athletes and others with ID.

The biggest lesson learned for the organizing team was to reach out to stakeholders early to build a relationship and enlist them in the in the Sustainability Program. According to Tim Reeve, “The Special Olympics is a natural platform for progressive brands. The trick to being successful is to build the sustainability brand into the DNA of the event early on in the process, so sponsors see the opportunities to showcase their sustainability performance.” In Tim’s experience, partners and Sponsors are looking for platforms that allow them to communicate positive messages about their brand and their social purpose. Many are willing to contribute financial and technical resources to help the Games’ Organizing Committee activate, implement, and expand their sustainability goals. At the 2018 USA Games, both Coca Cola and SourceAmerica delivered major social impact in providing employment opportunities for individuals with ID at the Games and promoting inclusive hiring through the Job Fair.

Finally, encouraging a focus on responsible sourcing by the Games’ Organizing Committee, partners and sponsors can make a huge impact on the overall sustainability of the event. “Engage vendors and suppliers as early as possible on your sustainability goals and get some firm commitments,” Tim advises. “Planning for sustainability too late in the Games’ cycle means lost opportunities with sponsors, suppliers, staff, and volunteers.”

Reeve Consulting is a sustainability strategy firm that has worked with a wide variety of organizations to design and implement sustainable procurement strategies and programs, including the Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Canada Winter Games and the recent 2018 Special Olympics USA Games. We help our clients create winning Sustainability Strategies with clear impact goals and sourcing strategy that brings on side the creative solutions and full potential of their supply chain partners.