Sustainable Products

Buy Sustainably With Confidence: Understanding Eco-Labels

Ecolabels are meant to ease the process of purchasing more sustainable products by providing a certification that buyers can recognize as meeting environmentally, ethically, or socially responsible criteria. The goal of ecolabels is to promote sustainable products to buyers while providing the burgeoning market for sustainable products with a sense of assurance. However not all ecolabels use the same stringent criteria, thus allowing for deviations in standards for sustainable certification and casting a seed of doubt on what ecolabels can do for you.

Eco Labels

The Canadian Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement (CCSP) hosted their Ecolabels and Certifications Deep Dive Peer Exchange to an audience of over 80 members in late October. Two experts joined us from TCO Development: Clare Hobby, Director of Global Purchaser Engagement, and Stephen Fuller, Senior Criteria Manager. Our member presenter was Tori Grant, Advisor in Sustainability Reporting at the University of Calgary. These experts shared tips, outlined below, to ensure ecolabels provide the ease and assurance we want, and ways to leverage the best ecolabels to make more sustainable product choices right away.

Demand the Best from your Ecolabel:

Not all ecolabels are created equal. There are 3 types of ecolabels with different characteristics that affect their efficacy, dependability, and diligence.

Type 1 ecolabels are a third-party assessment of a product based on the environmental and social impacts of a product or material throughout its life cycle. Evaluation and selection requirements of type 1 ecolabels are available to the public.

Type 2 ecolabels are self-declared claims made by manufacturers or distributors and are not independently verified. These tend to focus on a particular quality of product e.g compostable or ‘dolphin safe’.

Type 3 ecolabels are voluntary declarations of the sustainability of a product or service.

 

Buyers can rely on Type 1 ecolabels to enforce strict sustainability standards and provide truly sustainable options. Buyers should beware of ecolabels that do not verify a specific quality of product, include vague claims, or that rely on the buyer’s own conclusions about the sustainability of the product.

While Type 1s are the cream of the crop, buyers should also ask two things of their ecolabels to get the most hidden impact out of their supply chains:

  1. Does this ecolabel certify environmental AND social responsibility?
  2. Does this ecolabel require mandatory independent verification?

 

Demanding independent verification of ecolabels is the sure-fire way to safeguard one’s supply chains against risk. Without independent verification, ecolabels cannot guarantee that a manufacturer is upholding its promise to obey sustainable criteria. Certain ecolabels will provide the option for independent verification but do not enforce it, thus allowing manufacturers to slip through a loophole.

Our Favourite Ecolabels:

We’ve created a list of recommended Type 1 ecolabels to look for when you’re next purchasing from any of these 4 categories: Information Technology, Furniture, Cleaning Products, or Paper.

Reeve Favourite Eco-Labels

 

Each of these ecolabels is accessible, diligent, and provides assurance on a product. Leverage these ecolabels, or your own preferred list, to start making more sustainable choices today. Consider the low-hanging fruit of low value procurement or less costly purchases; can you look for the TCO Development sticker when shopping online for a new laptop, or consider products with the Ecologo sticker when shopping for a more all-purpose cleaner for your office kitchen? Let a top tier ecolabel do the work to verify your purchasing options and make the easy switch today to pick a product that will leverage your spend.

Getting Dialed into Sustainable IT Procurement

Would you like to know how procuring sustainable IT can actually help you achieve best value for your spend? Read on to find out why sustainable considerations can be the best options for your budget!

The IT space is fraught with ethical and environmental sustainability considerations, including but not limited to e-waste, worker safety, and energy and resource usage. With many issues to consider, procuring sustainable IT can seem like a daunting challenge. Buyers want the best value for their spend, while retaining quality, longevity of their devices, and efficiency.

While it may seem counterintuitive, including sustainable considerations into the procurement process can in fact help buyers achieve best value for their money and increase the lifespan of their electronics, while avoiding significant risks in their supply chain.

The Canadian Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement hosted their Trends and Tenders in Sustainable IT Peer Exchange to an audience of 100 members in late September. Two experts, Frances Edmonds, Head of Sustainable Impact at HP, and Terminder Singh, Contracts Officer at the City of Winnipeg shared their top considerations for sustainable IT procurement. We’ve collated their advice into the following 3 steps.

1. Identify your Opportunities:

Staying abreast of the opportunities and risks in your supply chain is a tried-and-true CCSP best practice element. At CCSP we call it a High Impact Procurement Opportunities list, or HIPO list. Conducting a self-assessment of your current procurement processes and products will enlighten you to potentially unforeseen and underutilized opportunities. You may be able to achieve greater value for your spend by taking advantage of sustainable opportunities such as lower device energy usage, reparability, and higher quality materials that will not only have good sustainable impact, but also ensure a high-preforming product.

Through a series of 15 pilots, Canada HP and Green Economy Canada created a free Self-Assessment Tool to help public sector organizations identify and implement sustainable procurement practices. It includes categories on hardware and supplies such as paper, ink and toner, energy usage, and ecolabels.

Find the Self-Assessment Tool Here.

2. Ask the Best of your Supplier:

While suppliers are the ones implementing and creating more sustainable standards for IT, buyers are the enforcers of effective and timely sustainable impact. Including questions and awarding points for supplier transparency in addition to product specific requirements is a sure way to ensure you’re receiving the most sustainable options, and that your suppliers are actively seeking new ways to provide better quality sustainable products. Some questions to ask your supplier include:

  1. Does the company disclose their carbon footprint to CDP under “Climate” disclosure? If so, what is the score?
  2. Does the company disclose to Forests, Water, and Supply Chain CDP disclosures? If so, what are the scores?
  3. Does the company have set science-based targets through the Science Based Targets Initiative?

3. Buy your Product as a Service:

Perhaps the most important trend today in sustainable IT is the movement to buy the Product as a Service (PaaS). Suppliers such as HP are restructuring how they manufacture and sell to support the circular economy by increasing the longevity of their devices, reducing weight and packaging, including reparability as part of the product’s initial cost, and much more. PaaS ensures that you get best value for you spend by increasing the lifespan of devices, introducing higher quality materials, reducing energy consumption, and more. Certain specifications to consider if you’re interested in asking for PaaS from your supplier include:

  1. Does the product include recycled content?
  2. Does the supplier offer device reparability and/or take-back programs?
  3. Does the device comply with EPEAT standards?
  4. Can the supplier offer a calculation of the carbon footprint of the device over its service life?
  5. Does the supplier offer sustainability support, to help you reduce your organization’s impact?

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As buyers there is a lot we can do to contribute to a circular economy and increase our sustainable impact, whilst still obtaining high-preforming IT products for a good price. Armed with the knowledge that many suppliers are moving towards a more sustainable production model, be confident that your sustainable specifications and questions are not demanding too much. With demand comes great supply!

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.

 

1. Leverage independently verified certifications to avoid greenwashing  

Leverage certifications like TCO Certified, which independently verifies the environmental, ethical and social sustainability of computers, displays, mobile devices, and 5 other IT hardware categories.

Certifications do the hard work for you. TCO Development spent 200,000+ hours on verifying and certifying 3500+ models and 27 brands in 2019 alone—representing a total of 100+ million certified devices.

Want to learn more? Check out TCO Certified’s fact sheet, browse their product finder, and join their Basics for Purchasers webinar on November 18, 2020 for a live introduction and Q&A.

 

 

2. Ask IT companies to disclose their sustainability impact

According to TCO Certified’s Impacts and Insights Report on Circular IT Management in Practice, 86.6% of all emissions related to notebooks (or laptops) are associated with manufacturing and transportation so don’t stop at evaluating the product’s sustainability performance (see left). Assure that vendors are being transparent about their operational sustainability. Ask for an EcoVadis assessment, CDP scores, proof of material sourcing, and the like.

See examples of the Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP) scoring of IT companies based on their water-, forest-, and climate-related performance.

 

 

 

3. Extend the IT product’s lifecycle

E-waste is the world’s fastest-growing waste stream with over 50 million metric tonnes generated annually and only 20% of the stream safely recycled. Avoid buying new if you can! Extend the lifecycle of your devices by ensuring products are highly durable, have standardized connectors, can be easily repaired, come with strong warranties, and ensure data can be easily wiped for reuse.

When possible, buy a service rather than a product. Suppliers then become responsible for repairing, reusing, and recycling the product!

 

4. Ask for post-consumer recycled content

When a sample of CCSP members were polled in the webinar, only 8% stated they asked for recycled content in their IT RFPs. The average percentage of post-recycled plastics in IT is 0-3%. Procurement can signal to suppliers to do more by asking about post-consumer recycled content, reducing plastics in our landfills, oceansnatural environment, and perhaps even our bodies. It is possible! In 2020, HP announced it aims to increase its use of recycled plastics from 9% now to 30% by 2025.

 

5. Don’t reinvent the wheel

There are tons of resources out there to help you along the way! Here are a few to get started:

  1. TCO Purchaser Guide
  2. WWF & HP Buying Responsibly Guide
  3. HP’s Sustainable IT Purchasing Guide
  4. Impacts and Insights Report – Circular IT Management in Practice
  5. HP’s Carbon Footprint Calculator

 

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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.

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.

Green Sports Alliance Summit

Sustainability at the 4th Green Sports Alliance Summit

I 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.

Throughout history, sports have proven an effective way to bring people together in camaraderie. Whether it’s the baseball field, the hockey rink, or the ski slope, the environment is an important participant in any sport. This gives the industry strong motivation to preserve natural spaces, not only for athletes but for the children of future generations eager to experience the games themselves.

As a strategic advisor for ethical and sustainable business practices, I am always enthusiastic about industries making the green choice. It’s not just great for the environment but makes smart business sense as well. Sustainable purchasing helps you become a leading sports organization by eliminating waste and creating more efficient use of resources. For example, by forming partnerships with sustainable food providers, you have steady access to an efficient quality food source and by avoiding sweat-shop labour, you are selling better products to your clients, ones produced with skill and care.

That so many dedicated sports professionals have come together for the Green Sports Alliance is incredibly heartening, hopefully a prophecy of things to come. I look forward to helping the Alliance transform the whole sports environment and look forward to seeing you at the summit.

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.