Sustainable Procurement Summit

There was a bounty of beneficial and actionable information at the second annual Sustainable Procurement Summit held on March 14, 2018, at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum. Attendees enjoyed a lively exchange of ideas and information, complemented by the quiet calm and natural beauty of the Arboretum’s surrounding greenery.

The UC Sustainable Procurement Working Group hosted a well-planned event with a variety of sessions to raise awareness and educate about 40 UC procurement professionals on the ins and outs of sustainable procurement.

In opening remarks, Elida Erickson, UC Santa Cruz Sustainability Director, highlighted the measures UCSC has already implemented, including the recent introduction of a Sustainability Certificate Program that teaches a broad range of sustainability and social justice strategies (including sustainable procurement) in its curriculum. Darin Matthews, UC Santa Cruz Director of Procurement, stressed the importance and benefits of buying local, including: supporting local jobs, contributing to the local tax base, improved service and product delivery, and creating a more connected community.

William Cooper, UC Chief Procurement Officer, reviewed the remarkable UC-wide progress made in 2017, including:

  • Relaunching the Sustainable Procurement Working Group
  • Systemwide membership in the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council
  • Updating the UCOP website with sustainable procurement information (coming soon)
  • Kicking off the Small and Diverse Business Advisory Council
  • Incorporating sustainability into all systemwide RFPs
  • Sustainability as a priority in the Supply Chain 500 (SC500) initiative.

Hilary Bekmann, Associate Director of Sustainability (UCOP), Heather Perry, Procurement Sustainability Analyst (UCSB), and Stephanie Lopez, Special Programs Manager (UCOP), reviewed the proposed Sustainable Practices Policy updates, and led small group breakout sessions on specific aspects of the Policy to strategize on optimal implementation at various locations.

One of the most eye-opening sessions was from Allison Paradise, Executive Director of ‘My Green Lab,’ an organization dedicated to developing sustainable practices within scientific research labs. Lab environments are extremely resource-intensive, consuming five times more energy per square-foot than typical offices and discarding over 12 billion pounds of plastic annually. At research universities like ours, lab products can account for 25% of total annual procurement spend – offering an immense opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of labs through smarter purchasing and energy saving practices.

Also notable was the emphasis on social justice in UC sustainability efforts. Jimmy Donelson III and Vitoria Paykar, fellows from ‘The Greenlining Institute’ (as a solution to redlining) made a case for the importance of supplier diversity and fair labor practices in creating an inclusive clean-energy economy. Anthony Singleton, Chief Small Business Officer (UC San Diego), outlined the successful strategies and techniques his team uses in their inclusive business approach. A particularly compelling strategy is tying employee job performance to the seeking out of diverse suppliers.

Stephanie Lopez and Justin Sullivan, Director of Strategic Sourcing (UCOP), introduced the UC Supplier Scorecard Initiative which includes evaluating the sustainability of our supply chains, aligning our suppliers with our vision and goals, helping them improve practices over time, and simplifying and streamlining our messaging to suppliers. This initiative will involve working with ‘EcoVadis,’ a third-party supplier assessment/scorecard platform to evaluate our suppliers’ economic, social and environmental policies and practices so we can make more informed purchasing decisions. The first phase of this initiative will roll out in April with the Scorecard review process, and the second phase will launch in June with the pilot program of evaluating 150 suppliers using the new tool.

Sustainable Spend Analysis (a.k.a. Sustainability Impact Assessment or Life Cycle Assessment) was another important focus. This process refers to the identification and measurement of environmental and/or social impact of an organization’s expenses. Highlights included: definitions and phases involved in this process, the benefits and value, the barriers and challenges, and UC-specific challenges. An interesting and unique approach to this topic was a debate featuring Karen Cook (Sustainability Project Manager, County of Alameda), Professor Sangwon Suh (UC Santa Barbara, Corporate Environmental Management, Industrial Ecology) and Hilary Bekmann, on the question: ‘Should UC Conduct a Spend Analysis?’

And there was more! Additional topics included: Best Practices for Flagging Green Products, a Green Lab Deep Dive, and more on the Sustainable Practices Policy and Guidelines.

This article offers a quick summary of a chock-full event. The sheer volume of valuable information and high level of interest made it clear that we need more in-depth coverage. To meet that demand, we’re planning a special edition of the UC Procurement Services newsletter dedicated to these topics. Stay tuned for the ‘Sustainable Procurement’ edition coming soon!