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Sustainable Procurement

What is Sustainable Procurement?

Sustainable procurement is an effort to procure products and services in a way that seeks to optimize net environmental, social and economic benefits for society. The goal of sustainable procurement is to incorporate criteria related to environmental, social and economic sustainability into agency procurements.

The Sustainability Act of 2001 established the foundation for sustainable procurement in Oregon. It defined sustainability goals for the state, including procurement, and established the Oregon Sustainability Board. One of the Sustainability Act’s procurement goals is to make state purchases serve the broad, long-term financial interests of Oregonians and to ensure that environmental, economic and societal improvements are made to enhance their well-being. Other procurement sustainability goals described in statute include:
  • Investments in facilities, equipment and durable goods should reflect the highest feasible efficiency and lowest life cycle costs.
  • Investments and expenditures should help promote improvements in the efficient use of energy, water and resources.
  • State operations should:
    • be located in diverse locations, including rural and distressed communities.
    • reflect partnerships with communities and businesses.
    • help reduce adverse impacts on native habitats and species and help restore ecological processes.
    • be conducted in ways that significantly increase the efficient use of energy, water and resources
  • State operations and purchases should:
    • help maintain vital and active downtown and main street communities.
    • support opportunities for economically distressed communities and historically underemployed people.
    • reflect the efficient use and reuse of resources and reduction of contaminants released into the environment.

Using a Life Cycle Approach in Sustainable Procurement

An agency must consider the use of life cycle costing for all Competitive Sealed Bidding and proposal methods and may optionally consider this cost analysis for other sourcing methods (refer to OAR 125-247-0170). Life cycle costing calculates the cost to acquire, operate, support, and dispose of a product over its useful life, and considers sustainability and total cost of ownership as part of the best value analysis of the product and the services that impact or use the product.

If an agency determines that it will use life cycle costing, it must specify the requirements, terms, conditions, and evaluation criteria related to the procurement in its solicitation documents and should begin this process during the Plan stage.

A procurement professional can gain an understanding of the industry, production disposal methods and options available to promote sustainable procurement when conducting market research. A procurement professional can also engage the supplier community to understand its role in promoting sustainable procurement practices in their industry.

How to Employ Sustainable Procurement Practices

An agency should strive to meet the state’s goals and objectives for sustainability through its procurement practices. The following section describes the general practices that an agency can employ to advance these goals and objectives, and satisfy specific requirements and guidance for procuring environmentally sustainable products.

General Practices

To advance sustainability, consider the following questions during the planning and conducting of a procurement:

Environmentally Preferable Procurement
The definition of Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) is products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products for services that serve the same purpose. Methods of waste reduction tackle the amount of waste generated through waste prevention, recycling, or purchasing recycled and environmentally preferable products.

Oregon law specifies preferences for products that are recycled, are capable of being reused or recycled and are safer and less hazardous. DAS statewide policy (refer to 107-009-0080-PO) describes methods an agency can use to procure safer products and provides an expansive list of resources that an agency can use to implement a sound program around sustainability in procurement.

Safer alternatives to toxic chemicals are products that comply with specified sustainability criteria and usually have an identification label. The sustainability criteria are not standardized, and there are numerous certifications and claims in the marketplace. The most robust and credible ones are those independently verified through third parties (“third party certifications”).

An agency can either seek a safe product certification through a third-party or obtain assurance based on another agency’s third-party certification. An agency should not accept a supplier or manufacturer’s self-certification unless the agency exercises due diligence to verify manufacturer’s claims, specifically those that raise serious environmental or health concerns about risks of injury to health and the environment.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a list of specifications, standards and eco-labels that they have deemed trustworthy for distinguishing environmentally sustainable products. Although limited in scope, the list is a credible resource for identifying environmentally sustainable products.

An agency must use DAS Statewide Price Agreements according to the Buy Decision described in Determine Procurement Method. Some of these price agreements satisfy state requirements for procuring safer alternatives to toxic chemicals. For example, DAS mandatory price agreements for janitorial and industrial products that meet DAS “green chemistry” requirements are in place. Information about these price agreements is available on OregonBuys.

A procuring agency must develop specifications that seek to promote optimal value and suitability for the purposes intended, and to reasonably encourage competition in satisfying the agency’s needs (refer to ORS 279B.205).

Open market specifications must include in its criteria the mandatory and discretionary requirements for sustainable products described in the next section. Additionally, to evaluate the environmental burdens of a product, an agency can specify a life cycle cost analysis as a requirement in its solicitation documents.

Click here to read sustainable procurement requirements >>