Welcome Login

For current information from GSA about COVID19 please click HERE

You are here

What makes a purchase "sustainable"?

What makes a purchase "sustainable"? In the Federal Acquisition Service, we have been piloting the introduction of sustainability considerations into our procurements, particularly into the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative solutions. In addition to green product requirements, we've been looking at distribution networks, product takeback, and packaging reduction. Keeping in mind that more than 75% of our vendors are small businesses and that we want to be consistent with commercial practices, what else do you think we should be specifying to make a purchase "sustainable"?  Should we look at vendor practices and if so, which ones?

Groups audience: 
- Private group -

Views: 1834


<p style="padding-left: 30px;">A few more thoughts:</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">&quot;Adopting a sustainable purchasing policy can help your organization:</p><blockquote><ul><li><em>Reduce purchasing and transportation costs</em></li><li><em>Create and promote a green image</em></li><li><em>Reduce generic waste and hazardous waste</em></li><li><em>Forge relationships with other local businesses</em></li><li><em>Bolster the local economy</em></li></ul></blockquote><p style="padding-left: 30px;">The benefits of green and sustainable purchasing policies can reach beyond your organization and local community too. &ldquo;Green purchasing policies have the power to [make] large-scale environmental changes,&rdquo; and&nbsp; &ldquo;as more companies green their [purchasing] policies, suppliers follow suit, benefiting the earth and business.&rdquo;[1] In addition, contrary to popular conception, green products are often less expensive than more traditional options.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">(By http://gogreenplus.org/nuts-and-bolts-guide/performance-nuts-and-bolts-guide/sustainability-management/sustainable-purchasing-policies/)</p><p>Here is a great article on the various costs of purchasing by Greenbiz.com:</p><p>http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2013/01/14/how-to-make-balanced-sustainable-purchasing-decisions?page=0%2C0</p><p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>Let us start with the Wikipedia definition of sustainable purchasing here at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_procurement:</p><p style="margin-left: 40px;">&quot;Organizations practicing sustainable procurement meet their needs for goods, services, utilities and works not on a private <a class="mw-redirect" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost-benefit_analysis" title="Cost-benefit analysis">cost-benefit analysis</a>, but with a view to maximising net benefits for themselves and the wider world.&nbsp; In doing so they must incorporate extrinsic cost considerations into decisions alongside the conventional <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procurement" title="Procurement">procurement</a> criteria of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price" title="Price">price</a> and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quality_%28business%29" title="Quality (business)">quality</a>, although in practice the sustainable impacts of a potential supplier&#39;s approach are often assessed as a form of quality consideration. These considerations are typically divided thus: environmental, economic and social (also known as the &ldquo;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_bottom_line" title="Triple bottom line">triple bottom line</a>&rdquo;).</p><p style="margin-left: 40px;">There is no single definition of sustainable procurement &ndash; not least because <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainability" title="Sustainability">sustainability</a> is a contested concept &ndash; and applications vary across organisational hierarchy and sector. However, there is a general acceptance that it involves a higher degree of collaboration and engagement between all parties in a supply chain. Many businesses have adopted a broad interpretation of sustainable procurement and have developed tools and techniques to support this engagement and collaboration.&quot;</p><p>I do not think it is wise to look at distribution networks at this point in time.&nbsp;&nbsp; I think you are about a decade ahead of your time.&nbsp; Vendors can not control the processes of their supplier&#39;s networks.&nbsp; I cannot control how or where my supplier&#39;s ship product.&nbsp; This lack of control is a fixed aspect of buiness.&nbsp; If one gets too much control over the processes we are penalized for being a monopoly. So you can&#39;t have it both ways - you can&#39;t both require (for being green) and prohibit (for market purposes) control!</p><p>By your phrase above being &quot;consistent with commercial practices&quot;, I interpret that you mean that you know you can&#39;t totally disrupt practices in a given industry with small businesses.&nbsp;&nbsp; If one values small businesses, disruptive green processes, or procurement policies which destroy small businesses, can be seen as requiring change which is way too rapid in a given sector. Hey we all want to change the world, but does the world change without cost?&nbsp; Should the taxpayers who ulitmately pay for the procurements bear this cost?</p><p>Packaging reduction is an excellent criteria.&nbsp;&nbsp; One can also look at what elements of the product are recyclable or reuasble after the use of the item is over.&nbsp; If the excess packaging is totally recyclable or reusable, then perhaps the purchase is more sustainable that first perceived.&nbsp; This is especially true is the excess packaging can be repurposed for a second requirement.&nbsp;&nbsp; So if one needs dozens of small widgets and large plastic storage filing boxes, why not buy the widgets in large plastic filing boxes which can later be reused?&nbsp; As long as the filing boxes do not have have to be shipped to where they can be used (costing gasoline), a double purpose is achieved.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>However, policy is a time consuming effort.&nbsp; So dwelling on the intricacies of policy alone is a costly effort and one which will always be an overhead activity as a government.&nbsp;&nbsp; In fact everything a government does is overhead, so for the good of the people who pay taxes for this policy formulation service to be done,&nbsp; no policies are better than too many policies, especially if they hurt small business.&nbsp; I think the simplest thing to do, is to encourage&nbsp; improvement and progress in what ever a business provides.&nbsp; Instead of ruling out non-green businesses by legislation or policy, let us reward and include all busnesses who are actively moving towards green. I am a great believer in Progress not Perfection.&nbsp; Wherever you are, move forward.&nbsp; Give businesses time to redo their processes.&nbsp; Make very clear policies on what you will judge them on: price or eco-responsibility?&nbsp; These methods of judgement need to the match the misison of the buyng organization.</p><p>Many who seriously focus on being more green are unproductively tied up with guilt and the paralysis of analysis.&nbsp; Which is better? Paper drinking cups or glass cups?&nbsp; Paper can be renewable if the trees are sustainable.&nbsp; If not, the glasses have to be washed which takes water and energy anyway.&nbsp; No matter what path one takes, there is energy and physical matter involved.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>Having seen the destruction of small businesses in the OS2 whereby the FSSI BPAs were awarded to only 15 vendors, 13 of which were classified as small businesses, I have devoted my research to evaluating the impact of the FSSI on the remaining 550+ non-winners, and the results are not pretty.</p><p>The results are shocking and should be addressed before the FSSI is implemented further. I have seen significant job losses and closures of small businesses who could not sustain their existance having lost nearly 60 percent of their government sales due to this FSSI which was implemented in June 2010. The impact on the US economy has yet to be determined, but my research and the Bornstein &amp; Song FSSI National Surveys to Assess the Impact of the OS2 paints a very disturbing picture. GSA should consider that as a select few are awarded the FSSI BPAs, this will have an anti-competitive impact on any future RFQs as there will only be a few remaining small business to compete, while the vast majority have either closed their doors or completely stopped doing business with the federal government.</p><p>I suggest that GSA perform a Cost-Benefit Analysis ASAP, in order to determine the &quot;true net savings&quot; of the FSSI before it moves forward with the 10 new FSSIs in FY 2013-2014.</p>
  • melissa.donaldson's picture
  • michael.tucker's picture
  • mbrown@rhythmlink.com's picture