2012 – A Turning Point in Municipal Sustainable Purchasing in Canada

Sustainable purchasing is gaining ground in the Canadian municipal sector as municipalities realize its contribution to existing ‘green’ objectives, such as zero waste and climate neutrality, and corporate ones, such as risk management or operational efficiency. As a relatively new practice within the Canadian public sector, many municipalities are reaching out to their peers to share resources on sustainable purchasing. A cross-country peer network that is a front-runner in setting new benchmarks and best practices in sustainable purchasing in Canada is the Municipal Collaboration on Sustainable Purchasing (MCSP).

The MCSP, for which Reeve Consulting serves as secretariat and technical expert, allows municipalities to share sustainable purchasing lessons, best practices, “tricks of the trade”, and other resources to fast-track their individual programs. The group recently launched a publication co-authored by Reeve on, ‘The State of Municipal Sustainable Procurement in Canada’. Through consultations with MCSP participants and extensive literature review, the study reports on the current state of municipal sustainable procurement in Canada.

The study found that 2012 was an important year for municipalities with many strategically approaching their programs:

  • In response to increased staffing and resource constraints, municipalities enhanced their collaboration with MCSP peer and other agencies and strategically leveraged existing relationships and shared resources
  • Inter-departmental collaborations were also strengthened especially between Procurement and Sustainability. Other departments were also engaged via, for example the formation of inter-department green teams, to increase program buy-in and instill behavioural change on municipal spending
  • Greater focus on implementation. Recognizing that it takes 2 to 5 years to form a comprehensive program, many municipalities took a dual-track approach, dividing resources between building program elements and targeting key contracts such as copy paper (that has a mature sustainability market)

Overall, 2012 is considered to be a turning point in municipal sustainable procurement in Canada due to the focus on collaboration. Next year, municipalities have reported that they will be implementing their programs more widely and developing measurement and reporting frameworks. With insufficient levels in their resource pools, forming stronger and wider collaborations for sustainable purchasing will be more important than ever.

>> Download a full copy of the 2012 State of Municipal Sustainable Purchasing report from the Resources page.

To learn more about the MCSP, contact Tim Reeve @:                           tim@reeveconsulting.com or by phone at 604-763-6829.

Reeve Insights from Sustainable Brands 2011

Flickr / kevincole

Corporate America was out in full force at Sustainable Brands 2011 (#SB11) recently held in Monterey, CA, and so were we!

Bringing together concepts of business strategy, sustainability and innovation, the 4-day event focused on the connections between sustainability as a driver of product design as well as a mechanism for engaging with customers and employees.

We had a great time, made some wonderful connections and were exposed to inspiring initiatives and concepts in the realm of corporate social responsibility.

Below we’ve summarized a few of our insights.

Sustainability case studies – a closer look at some inspiring initiatives

While the week was full of inspiring sustainability stories, there were a few case studies that particularly stood out for us (click on the links for more information).

  • Panera Bread, pay-what-you-can model – This American restaurant chain allows customers to choose the amount they pay for their meals. CEO Ronald Shaich shared that 20% of his customers pay more than the suggested donation while 20% leave less. By opening stores in diverse communities, Shaich has found higher-income people will offset the costs for their lower-income neighbours.
  • Hewlitt Packard, building the energy-smart home – Taking a closer look at home energy management, HP Labs has developed sensing technology and a cloud-based application that clearly illustrates a home’s energy use, allowing homeowners to easily monitor and manage energy consumption from their dishwasher to TV.
  • Nike, better world project – Earlier this year Nike launched the website nikebetterworld.com which highlights the company’s green programs such as the use of environmentally preferred rubber, jerseys made from recycled bottles, responsible packaging and more. The site also highlights the value of sport for addressing social issues, like HIV AIDS, obesity, even war.

Supply chains are a sustainability starting point

Supply chains were a prominent topic of discussion throughout the event and we were pleased to hear our colleagues recognizing supply chains as a key starting point for driving sustainability both vertically, through a business, and horizontally with customers.

One of the most encouraging supply chain initiatives we heard about was the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the goal of which is to improve the sustainability of apparel and footwear products by developing an industry-wide index for businesses to measure and evaluate their products’ social and environmental impacts. By pooling resources and knowledge, member companies hope to develop more sophisticated and uniform tools for evaluating their supply chains and engaging with suppliers on improvements. Founding members include Patagonia, Nike, Levis, Gap Inc., Mountain Equipment Co-op, Environmental Defense Fund and many others spread across North America, Asia, Europe and the U.K.

Collaboration is making sustainability initiatives stronger

As demonstrated by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, we found that collaboration was a strong theme throughout the event.

We attended a great session by Bonnie Nixon, Executive Director of the Sustainability Consortium, a mixed-discipline group that develops READ MORE

Reeve Consulting and the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Purchasing

Reeve Consulting recently initiated the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Purchasing (MCSP). The aim of this project is to leverage the collective experience of municipalities to advance their sustainable purchasing initiatives by sharing ethical and sustainable purchasing (ESP) resources and lessons learned.

The value of ethical and sustainable purchasing for municipalities

Ethical and sustainable purchasing (ESP) is becoming an increasingly important element in the sustainability sections of municipal strategic plans. Few other programs can directly contribute to multiple civic agendas around zero waste, climate leadership, local economic development, strategic sourcing and staff engagement. Among the advantages of an effective ESP program are mitigating legal and brand risks, enhancing the municipal brand as a sustainability leader, reducing costs by selecting products with less waste, energy consumption and product related health risks and building staff engagement around sustainability.

Facilitating ESP with the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Purchasing

Recognizing that ESP is a new and evolving field, Reeve Consulting understands that municipalities need access to tools and information to help them make the right decisions. Through regular conference calls, webinars, expert consultations and sharing of electronic tools, we’re facilitating the development of results-oriented ESP programs that make the best use of limited resources.

Specific initiatives undertaken by participating municipalities include reducing municipal waste by demanding products with minimal packaging, reducing carbon emissions by selecting energy efficient certified electronics, and limiting toxins by sourcing green cleaning supplies. At the same time, participating municipalities are considering the social impacts of their procurement by demanding products that meet international labour standards for fair and safe working conditions.

According to Jeff Byrne, Chief Procurement Officer, City of Ottawa, there are many benefits to participating in the MCSP program including increased access to information and lessons learned, developing civic partnership and leadership, and advancing sustainability performance in the public sector. Another active participant in the group, Shannon Clohosey, Sustainability Projects Manager, City of Whitehorse, has said she’s very optimistic about where the MCSP project is going and wants to remain active in 2011.

To date nine Canadian municipalities have joined the MCSP project, which would not be possible without the lead sponsorship support of the City of Saskatoon, City of Edmonton and City of Ottawa. We are also pleased to have additional support from the following participating members: Halifax Regional Municipality, City of London, City of Guelph, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, Town of Olds and City of Whitehorse.

If you’re interested in joining the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Purchasing, please contact Tim Reeve, President of Reeve Consulting at 604-763-6829 or tim@reeveconsulting.com.