How will SPLC ensure that federal procurement laws and requirements are met? In other words, the SPLC may be limited in its ability to guide federal agency action because of federal procurement requirements. How will these be monitored and met?
We see institutional purchasing by government as one of the most significant and potentially influential leverage points in the economy. Accordingly, it is extremely important that our guidance integrate well with existing federal procurement laws and requirements, and we will ensure that all major guidance meets this standard. That said, in cases where federal laws and requirements fail to adequately recognize leadership, the higher tiers of our recognition program may go beyond the compliance requirements in existing government procurement documents.
Are you considering the GRI framework as part of the tools that will translate into best practices?
Yes. We expect that our guidance eventually will be cross-referenced with the GRI program, but the process of harmonization likely will not commence until after v1.0 of the rating system has been developed.
One of the main obstacles buyers mention in buying responsibly is the pressure and obligation to reduce costs, which means contracts often go to the lowest bidders. Will the SPLC provide solutions for cost savings and responsible procurement at the same time?
Absolutely. Our guidance only will be useful -- and used -- if it makes economic sense. We see economic viability as a precondition for any definition of leadership in sustainable purchasing, and we even expect that some users will adopt our guidance exclusively for its cost-saving benefits. Most negative social and environmental impacts are related to hidden costs and other risk factors that organizations can save money by avoiding. The council’s guidance will help organizations identify those opportunities and capitalize on them with proven strategies.
Many purchasers are finding clever ways to deliver high sustainability performance within incumbent business practices, and the council hopes to spread those techniques. However, the council also hopes to be a community from which stakeholders can push for changes in business-as-usual approaches, much in the way that USGBC enabled thousands of purpose-driven professionals to advocate for important changes to local building codes. Once considered a hurdle to sustainability by many, local building codes in some areas are now driving improvements in sustainability.
What makes the SPLC different from The Sustainability Consortium?
Most notably, The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) focuses on the sustainability performance of consumer products (goods with attributes), whereas we focus on the sustainability performance of an institution’s overall purchasing (spending decisions with consequent impacts). As such, the SPLC will provide organizations with guidance on a number of areas not covered by TSC, including spend analysis and prioritization, procurement of services and non-consumer products, and procurement processes and best practices. Additionally, the council will provide a rating system for recognizing institutions that achieve outstanding performance in sustainable purchasing, and a credentialing program for procurement and supplier professionals that demonstrate mastery of sustainable purchasing knowledge and skills.
Will you work with TSC?
We are actively seeking a collaborative relationship with TSC. We have had several conversations with TSC senior staff about opportunities for alignment, and we are optimistic that a constructive relationship can be forged. At a minimum, assuming that TSC-developed category guidance achieves credibility and acceptance in the marketplace, we would seek to integrate that guidance into our proposed leadership program.
Will the SPLC purchasing guidelines look beyond just product itself to the manufacturing processes used to determine the consequences?
Absolutely. We aspire to develop guidance that addresses the most significant life cycle consequences of goods and services purchasing. Depending upon the type of goods or services, this could include upstream impacts, such as manufacturing-related impacts, or downstream impacts, such as energy usage or disposal costs.
Will SPLC be U.S.- or North America-focused initially or start with a global perspective?
SPLC is launching with a global perspective from the start. We are represented on UNEP’s Sustainable Public Procurement Initiative (SPPI); ICLEI is a partner on the basis of its EU-based Procura+ program and the U.K.-based CIPS Sustainability Index is a member of our Founders Circle. Our guidance will benefit from international guidance and will address the global supply chains of purchasers. Several work streams we intend to kick off at the Founding Summit will produce guidance with international applicability, such as the development of principles for leadership in sustainable purchasing and guidance on spend-related impact assessment. When developing the first version of the rating system, it is likely that the council's limited resources will require a focus on the leadership standards available within a manageable scope. Given the origins of the council and the relative scale and homogeneity of the North American institutional purchasing marketplace, it is likely that leadership criteria available to purchasers in North America will be the scope for version 1.0 of the rating system. However, it will be designed for adaptation to other markets.
How is the SPLC looking to work with the National Minority Supplier Development Council and the Women's Business Enterprise National Council? They don't seem listed, yet there is a lot of discussion around diverse vendors.
We are committed to engaging these organizations and their members as stakeholders in our work. We recognize that the continuing underuse of minority- and women-owned businesses has profound impacts on the security, health and enfranchisement of households and whole communities. For us, any definition of leadership in sustainable purchasing must reward actions by institutional purchasers to support women- and minority-owned businesses. We recognize NMSDC and WBENC as leaders in the effort to define and accelerate leadership in diversity spending, and seek their guidance in how to best support and advance the supplier diversity movement. We have initiated conversations about strategic partnership with both organizations.
One way we believe the council can add value to the supplier diversity movement is by supporting efforts to prepare diverse suppliers to meet the sustainability needs of purchasers. As reflected in the webcast, a number of the council’s founding members recognize that providing technical assistance to diverse suppliers is essential to ensuring that those suppliers are prepared to compete and thrive when sustainable purchasing efforts are ramped up. Today, purchasing organizations wanting to provide such technical assistance to their diverse suppliers typically must develop their own training curricula and organize their own training events. Some purchasing organizations don’t have the capacity to create and run such programs themselves. The council hopes that the training curricula it will develop to support its guidance program can be tailored for use by organizations like NMSDC and WBENC in their regularly scheduled training events, to which purchasers can refer or sponsor their suppliers to attend. In addition to preparing diverse suppliers to meet the sustainability needs of purchasers, the council’s training curricula further could be used to support diverse suppliers in examining their own purchasing practices and performance. (The council’s curricula similarly could serve as a foundation for providing technical assistance to any small and medium enterprise supplier, as well as veteran-owned and disability-owned suppliers.)
How will SPLC address social side issues, both locally and internationally?
The SPLC places equal weight on social, environmental and economic aspects of leadership in sustainable purchasing. However, because the SPLC emerged from an earlier initiative, the Green Products Roundtable (GPR), which focused on green or environmentally preferable products, its initial stakeholders brought more expertise on environmental than social issues. For that reason, we are now actively recruiting stakeholders with expertise on social issues to provide a balanced complement of expertise and perspective. We expect that these new voices will help us to define leadership broadly, to include not only social responsibility to the immediate community, but also social responsibility to all people affected by the extended life cycles and supply chains of goods and services.
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