New UN Report Showcases Sustainable Public Procurement Practices Around the Globe

Version 2The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently released the 2017 Global Review of Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP), which provides and in-depth look at how governments and public institutions around the world are improving the sustainability of their supply chains and procurement practices.

Building on the first Global Review, published in 2013, this report draws on research conducted in 2015 and 2016 to present a comprehensive picture of global progress in advancing SPP and to elucidate the opportunities, needs, challenges, and innovations in SPP in the last five years.

The 2017 Global Review is unique in its breadth of coverage on SPP, incorporating thoughts, opinions, and data from more than 200 stakeholders across 41 countries. The report found that, although there continue to be significant challenges, awareness and implementation of SPP principles continues to grow around the world. Countries are working toward implementing SPP mainly through capacity-building activities for staff and stakeholders, and through integrating SPP principles and practices into existing procurement and management-related processes, procedures, and tools.

The report also discusses persistent challenges related to SPP implementation, including the perception that sustainable products are more expensive and a lack of expertise on sustainable purchasing. Countries are actively working to overcome these challenges, particularly through awareness-raising and knowledge-sharing activities.

Reeve is proud to have been a part of this project, which will be a useful source of information and experience on SPP, and can contribute to greater implementation and ultimately greater impacts through sustainable procurement activities.

The 2017 Global Review was published as part of UNEP’s 10YFP Programme on Sustainable Public Procurement, a “global multi- stakeholder platform that supports the implementation of SPP around the world. The Programme builds synergies between diverse partners to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target on SPP, i.e. to promote public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities. The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) leads the 10YFP SPP Programme with ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) and the Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute (KEITI) as co-leads.”

How are Municipalities Benefiting from Sustainable Supply Chain Collaboration?

Flickr / toolstop

It has nearly been a year since a group of Canadian municipalities came together to create the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Purchasing (MCSP), a project aimed at leveraging the collective experience of municipalities to advance their sustainable purchasing initiatives.

So, is the idea of sharing best practices and collaborating on special projects really paying off?

Reeve Consulting is facilitating the MCSP which is governed by a Steering Committee comprised of the cities of Ottawa, Victoria, Edmonton, London and Whitehorse. This year there are fifteen municipalities from across Canada (a number of which recently ranked highly in the U.S. and Canada Green City Index) participating in the program. A handful more, including a few from the United States, are participating on a limited basis.

Together, municipalities in the MCSP are advancing their broader sustainability agendas. Through the strategic purchase of goods and services, they’re addressing municipal targets around zero waste, climate leadership, local economic development, staff engagement and more.

Webinar: the value of municipal sustainable purchasing programs
And the work is getting noticed. Reeve Consulting, on behalf of the MCSP, was recently invited to deliver a webinar to the Clean Air Council, a group of municipalities in South Western Ontario focused on greenhouse gas reduction.

Examining the value of sustainable purchasing programs, the webinar gave participants a closer look at ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through purchasing. For example, buying energy efficient equipment or looking at transportation contracts with reduced emissions.

We’ve included the presentation in its entirety below.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/29971115 w=400&h=300]

Building on the good reception from this webinar, the MCSP will be presenting another webinar October 20. Delivered by Reeve Consulting, the session will be focused on emerging green product specifications for common municipal purchases including cleaning products, paper products, electronics and more.

Next Steps for the MCSP
Municipalities participating in the MCSP are currently measuring their 2011 progress and sustainable purchasing achievements, using the results to develop Action Plans for 2012.

At the same time research is being conducted for the 2011 Municipal Trends Report on Sustainable Purchasing, which is scheduled for release in December 2011 and will build on the 2010 report to provide an updated national snapshot on the state of sustainable purchasing across Canadian municipalities.

Planning is also underway for the 2012 program with several new special projects under consideration to help municipalities deepen the impact of their sustainable purchasing efforts including new staff education and training tools, collaborative verification programs, group subscription benefits to key ecolabeling resources and more.

Looking for more information?
Contact Tim Reeve via email or at 604.763.6829 to get a complimentary pass to an upcoming webinar or to learn more about the program.

Key tips & resources for effectively measuring sustainable purchasing programs

Flickr / Pink Sherbert

How many times have we heard it, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”? It’s  a management consulting mantra that is repeated so often you could almost tune it out.

“Yes, of course” we affirm to our peers and colleagues. But inwardly most of us would agree that developing good key performance indicators (KPI’s) and accurate tracking mechanisms are generally underdeveloped across the triple bottom line, and definitely in their infancy when it comes to sustainable purchasing.

Yet the reality is that metrics are a key success factor in building out a solid sustainable purchasing program, providing a clear indication of program strengths, weaknesses, and by extension, areas for future development and improvement.

Nonetheless, at Reeve Consulting our experience has been that the development and measurement of quality metrics is often overlooked or identified as a future priority.

We know clients face organizational challenges to implementing quality measurement systems, such as a prioritization of policy and procedure at the expense of performance tracking, or difficulty measuring the ‘green-ess’ of products and suppliers, which can be time intensive and confusing. Further, traditional accounting systems often don’t consider sustainability measures.

While we won’t attempt to address all these issues in a single blog post, some of our recent work has us compiling a set of useful resources for developing customized metrics for sustainable purchasing reporting and management systems, both for measuring overall program performance and specific aspects – such as purchasing categories (e.g. vehicles). We’ve shared a collection of these below.

To get started, we’ve also created a short list of key tips for developing effective metrics, which we encourage our clients to consider at the outset.

Key Tips for Developing Effective Metrics:


  1. Link to corporate sustainability initiatives – An important step in customizing a set of metrics is to ensure they are linked to corporate sustainability objectives and reporting systems. For example, if your corporation is concerned with minimizing waste, then sustainable purchasing metrics should include performance measures related to the amount of waste diverted by buying products with reusable or reduced packaging.
  1. Realistic to measure – Also, ensure that you will be able to realistically measure the outcomes of all metrics overtime. Building on the earlier example, if waste reduction is measured at the corporate level, set a metric that requires measurement of packaging reduction in a few product categories, rather than all product categories, the latter being more time consuming and difficult to measure.
  1. Plan to expand – Don’t get bogged down in the development stage by trying to define a comprehensive set of metrics and reporting processes. Plan to expand your metrics and performance reporting with time. Start with realistic metrics to ensure early success in reporting.

 Helpful Resources for Developing Customized Metrics


   Metrics for tracking at the Sustainable Purchasing Program Level

  • The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) provides high-level performance indicators that have been adopted by many corporations across the globe. You can also view the GRI Product Responsibility Indicator guide HERE. You may want to align your tracking and reporting systems with relevant GRI metrics.
  • Kaiser Permanente, a USA-based healthcare organization that Reeve Consulting has interviewed on a few occasions around their best practices, has recently developed the PS Annual EPP Success Story Achievements document that outlines the metrics they’re tracking and reporting with regards to EPP (environmental preferable purchasing). This includes metrics for vehicles and office IT equipment.

   Metrics for tracking impacts at the Product Level

  • Third-party Ecolabel standards can also be used to identify metrics. For example, the key environmental attributes (e.g. toxicity, material utilization) of the individual standards developed by Canada’s EcoLogo program for different products could be used to determine what you track for specific product categories, such as office equipment, furniture, etc. The Responsible Purchasing Network has outlined a detailed list of other third-party ecolabel standards that you may want to consider.
  • The Responsible Purchasing Network also has a wide variety of calculators that can be used to measure the impacts of your sustainable purchasing practices. They are product specific. It is recommended that you try using existing online calculators to help you measure the impacts of specific product categories as a starting point. For example, they have an Office Electronics Calculator, so you may want to develop metrics for this product category, knowing there is a calculator in place to help you assess outcomes.
  • E3 Fleet Rating is designed to evaluate and recognize performance, and allows fleets to be rated at the Bronze, Silver or Gold level of performance. E3 Fleet Rating uses a point-based Rating System Checklist for rating fleet performance, with points for fleet management practices and energy/emissions performance.
  • Look to your suppliers to help develop reasonable metrics. Many of your suppliers may already be tracking the environmental impacts of their products. Consult them to learn what data they can provide and then set metrics related to this data. For example, Cascades is tracking valuable data related to their paper products (e.g. tissue) that could be used to measure the impacts of buying more green cleaning products. As the following link shows, Cascades can provide data for water usage, recycled content in packaging, reduction in the use of trees, etc. that is related to the products they manufacture. Click HERE for details.

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?

Canada votes: party platforms pass the buck on responsible purchasing

Flickr / alexindigo

While the economy and healthcare are receiving the most airtime during this Canadian federal election, polls show that the environment remains a top election issue. However, meaningful discussion of environmental concerns has been seriously lacking within the overall debate.

After reviewing the environmental and sustainability components of the main parties’ election platforms (Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Green Party) we were sadly disappointed to see little mention of sustainable purchasing as a key component of their strategy (we did find a short section at the end of the Green Party’s Vision Green – section 6.4 to be exact)

Not surprisingly, all the parties have environmental promises in the area of action against climate change and supporting cleaner forms of energy. While support for a green economy varies across the parties, all show favour for employment in the environmental sector, whether it’s through investment in renewable energy, clean technologies, energy efficiency or related research and development.

Missed opportunity: ethical and sustainable purchasing investment

The Canadian Government spends over $20 billion per year on goods and services on behalf of Canadians – a huge opportunity to contribute directly to a green economy.

Flickr / waferboard

Beyond supporting environmental protection, purchasing decisions that consider labour conditions and support a local economy would round out a purchasing program to its fullest triple-bottom line potential. Among the advantages of an effective ethical and sustainable purchasing program are enhancing the image of the national government as a sustainability leader, mitigating legal and brand risks, reducing costs by selecting products with less waste, energy consumption and product related health concerns.

While the government of Canada currently has a green purchasing policy, Reeve Consulting knows from our experience working with the public sector across Canada that policy alone does not necessarily equate to significant impact and benefits. What’s needed is a clear plan for implementation, and perhaps most importantly, training and staff capacity to ensure success. Basically, a level of investment that would fit well in the environment section of an election platform.

Large investment for even larger returns

While we fully acknowledge it takes resources to achieve an effective ethical and sustainable purchasing program, the potential results are huge.

Few other programs can directly contribute to multiple sustainability agendas around climate leadership, energy efficiency, waste reduction, local economic development, strategic sourcing and government employee engagement.

Moving in the right direction

We realize that transitioning $20 billion in spending to responsible and sustainable procurement program takes time. However we can’t help but notice the lucrative opportunities to support green products and technologies that continue to pass the government by, including low hanging fruit in the form of the G20 dignitary gifts, and more complex, but full of potential, stimulus spending in Canada’s Economic Action Plan.

Flickr / Muffet

Adoption of the Government of Canada’s green purchasing policy is a good first step and suggests Ottawa is on the right track, but we’d like to see far more – from both the current Conservative Government (oops! Harper Government) as well as those that would like to assume a leadership position within parliament.

Be sure to get out and vote on May 2 and next time you run into your MP raise the issue of responsible purchasing and sustainable supply chains

Cotton Supply Chain: organic & fair trade sustainability in the global market

2010 was a record-breaking year for cotton prices in global markets. In this post, Reeve Consulting presents an overview of recent market activity, considers the implications for working and environmental conditions in the supply chain and takes a look at how organic and fair-trade cotton sectors are fairing. We finish with a few suggestions for corporate and governmental purchasers looking to reduce brand risk and improve ethical and sustainable purchasing practices when it comes to cotton goods.


Flickr / kimberlykv

Cotton is the largest non-food crop in the world with over 24.3 million tonnes consumed worldwide annually. Did you know it’s also the largest employer? From farm workers to retail employees, an estimated 1 billion people are involved in the growing, processing and selling stages.

Given the ubiquity of cotton, it’s significant that 2010 was an unprecedented year for the commodity in global markets. The price doubled in a year and broke the $1 (U.S.) per pound level for the first time in 15 years.

Globe and Mail / Bloomberg

Rising prices affects the entire supply chain

A number of factors have been attributed to the sudden price increase, a main one being poor weather conditions in top growing regions, including floods in Pakistan, a severe cold snap in China, crop-killing hailstorms in Texas and, more recently, flooding in Australia. Speculation has played a significant role, as well as export restrictions put in place by India (the second-largest cotton producer) to protect domestic supplies and prices.

Consequently, the clothing sector is feeling the squeeze of both increasing input costs and a weak consumer environment. According to media reports, the prices of jeans, t-shirts and other cotton apparel will likely increase 2 – 15% in 2011.

Clean Clothes Campaign

To avoid passing a price hike to consumers, clothing companies may reduce costs by mixing in less expensive, synthetic fibers or by decreasing pack sizes on smaller bulk products like socks. Of greater concern is that companies will move production to lower wage countries with lower duty tariffs and weaker environmental restrictions. As examples, consider how garment workers demanding a fair minimum wage are currently being treated in Cambodia and Bangladesh. Anticipating such tactics, the Ethical Trade Initiative released a statement in late-September urging retail buyers to factor in the cost of a living wage for workers in their price negotiations with garment suppliers.

Organic cotton prices are linked to conventional cotton prices

A recent edition of Engage, an e-newsletter published by the Organic Exchange, takes a close look at the organic cotton industry. The opening article suggests the extraordinary times experienced by conventional cotton have on the one hand created a beneficial seller’s market. At the same time these conditions have had a potentially damaging impact on the sector by leveling the price of organic and conventional cotton. As the Organic Exchange (OE) puts it:

“Farmers are seeing their carefully tended organic harvest end up in conventional supply chains. Organic cotton procurers are struggling to meet their usual premium commitments (which don’t make sense anymore) and on top of this the lag time for organic buyers to respond to the market is adding a further complication.”

The article concludes that if organic cotton is to be secure in a stable, appropriate value chain it needs protection from the dramatically changing commodity price. This could come in the form of working partnerships that deliver benefit to farmers as well as buyers.

This concept is further covered in a recent article in the World of Organic Agriculture – Statistics and Emerging Trends 2010 journal:

“The sector must address the protection of the farm and fiber business model to ensure farmers and those who work with them receive sufficient returns to maintain investment in farmer development and productivity.”

Protection from the commodity market rollercoaster

A number of programs have attempted to protect cotton from market conditions. Perhaps the best known is the fair trade movement.  We’ve written a number of posts on the Reeve Consulting blog about the new garment certification program unveiled in 2010 by Fair Trade USA. For the first time the full supply chain of a product, not just the agricultural inputs, can receive fair trade certification ensuring workers are paid a fair, living wage for their goods and services. While only a handful of brands have completed the certification process, recent reports indicate more companies are working with Fair Trade USA to acquire certification.

Flickr / kimberlykv

Another example can be found in the recent commitment by Anvil Knitwear to double the production of organic cotton in the U.S. Through the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative, Anvil will pay a premium for organic cotton as well as purchase any cotton making a transition to organic at a price close to the premium. The hope is that having a guaranteed buyer will encourage conventional cotton farmers to switch to organic production.

Social Alterations, an online education lab for socially responsible fashion design, has also focused on this issue and recently shared a post outlining approaches undertaken by two other global commodities – coffee and cocoa – that have similarly attempted to address the volatility of global commodity prices.

Purchasing cotton responsibly: ethical and sustainable purchasing considerations

When it comes buying cotton goods, purchasing departments can reduce risk and improve supply chain practices by considering the following:

  • Making a formal commitment to specify and support sustainable forms of cotton in purchasing decisions (e.g. organic, fair trade, ethically sourced)
  • Considering the origins of cotton goods including. More specifically, the working and environmental conditions under which they were made
  • Investing in long-term relationships with suppliers and focusing on continued improvement

To learn more about how our clients and organizations are benefitting from these and other sustainable supply chain practices contact us.