Sustainable Purchasing Management Plan

Strategic planning for a comprehensive sustainable purchasing plan includes 11 essential steps to either creating or enhancing your EPP (environmentally preferable purchasing) and supply chain management program:

  1. Understand your organizational readiness. A realistic assessment of your organization's readiness will help you develop a reasonable, successful and effective sustainable purchasing plan. Your assessment should include:
    1. The current state of the sustainability effort. Does your facility have a green team, a recycling program? Are you at a basic or more advanced level of performance? What are the current priorities, particularly within supply chain functions, mission statements, and policies?
    2. The drivers and barriers within your organization that may compel action while understanding issues that could present challenges. Understanding these will help inform the design of goals and action plans.
    3. The list of staff with knowledge and/or enthusiasm to learn and help drive this process. Every effort requires a champion, and the more champions in the supply chain area or throughout the facility the better.

  2. Assess your current contracts for products or services that use environmentally preferable criteria and for those coming up for renewal to prepare for inclusion of EPP criteria.

  3. Ensure full control of the supply chain. If this is not already the case in your facility, establish the purchasing department as responsible for the purchasing of all products (perhaps with the exception of construction and project-related expenditures that are typically the responsibility of the facilities department). Policy language could include:

    Purchasing is responsible for the purchasing of all equipment, supplies and services required by XXX Hospital and its amalgamated sites. Only authorized purchasing personnel are permitted to issue an official purchase order to purchase equipment, supplies, and services.1

  4. Review current policies to determine whether any show preference for the purchasing of sustainable materials (e.g., green cleaners in housekeeping, reusable items in the OR, electronics and e-waste service contracts). Make sure your policies are in alignment with each other and with your purchasing contract language (see #7 below). If a sustainable purchasing policy does not exist, create one. (View a sample EPP policy.)

  5. Build teams, get leadership support, assign dedicated resources. Create a multi-stakeholder purchasing/green/value analysis team with representatives from departments that have responsibility for purchasing, management, and/or disposal of particular waste materials. If your facility or health network has an existing green team, ensure a representative from the supply chain is on it. Ensure you have clinical representation, preferably from surgical services as this department often produce the largest percentage of hospital waste. Highly functioning teams have good leaders. Assign dedicated resources to the role of “EPP coordinator” who will ensure focused effort to meet your new EPP goals. Finally, work on getting leadership support. Some products may have a larger first cost and will require leadership buy-in to make a change. In that case, work with vendors, and the green purchasing community to ensure you’ve got the information you need to make the business case.

  6. Work with the vendors on making the case financially, environmentally, and relating to staff impact. Ask your vendors to provide detailed environmental and health improvements (e.g., wastes avoided, energy saved, trees preserved, chemical reductions, IAQ improvements such as low-VOC content, water conservation, and any other environmental benefits of their products).

    Likewise, then require ongoing validation of these claims. Metrics will vary depending up on material or service but once you have determined the appropriate one, require that vendors provide that information regularly. That data should be gathered and reported upon on a regular basis. You cannot manage what you don't know you have and reporting on your operations and data as part of a scorecard or dashboard will help define your program's traction.

  7. Require full disclosure of chemical ingredients. Ask that vendors demonstrate (with objective measures such as lab tests) that their product does not contain substances you have set as undesirable (for example PVC or mercury). In your RFPs set this disclosure as a requirement. Manufacturers can also identify what products contain recycled or low toxicity materials. The sample EPP policy noted above includes this language and it can be incorporated into your RFPs. For example:

    For products that contain lead or mercury, [the Organization] will give preference to those products with lower quantities of these metals and to vendors with established lead and mercury recovery programs. (EPP Model Policy 3.6.7)

For more information on chemical policy, visit the Chemicals page.

  1. Implement standard EPP language for all RFIs, RFPs, and/or contracts. Understand where to find standard language to include for specific products and services. Language may include that the vendor provides training, educational materials, measurement and verification, packaging take back, end-of-life considerations, etc. Contract language is shared in the sustainable purchasing community so you don't have to start from scratch.

  2. Set targets/goals and develop action plans for improvement. It is important to set both short- and long-term goals for sustainable purchasing programs and integrate them into meaningful and achievable plans. Target setting allows an organization to establish reasonable, SMART goals that are consistent with a basic, intermediate or advance approach. Finally, the goals will inform which purchasing performance improvement measures to implement to achieve the goals.

  3. Track, measure, and report. It’s important to begin to track your purchases for several reasons: (1) to verify they are meeting the intended goal, (2) to track cost and operational savings, (3) to monitor staff satisfaction, and (4) to report on all of these successes, or failures, to inform your next steps. Use newsletters, regular reports to leadership (a quarterly sustainability dashboard report card works well), e-blasts, and other communication channels to keep staff and the community informed of your commitments and progress.

  4. Train, educate, and celebrate. Users must be educated of the reasons for any changes, trained on work practice changes, and informed with ongoing feedback to how the action plan’s progress is meeting the goals. Training and education is both formal, with specific learning objectives, (compliance or policy-related training should be documented), and informal with educational materials that includes posters, information sharing in newsletters, e-blasts, and a variety of media. Informed staff are engaged staff. Recognizing individual and collective efforts through awards or other recognition programs also provides opportunities to celebrate and communicate the valuable work being accomplished. Don't let a success go unrecognized.


Language in the purchasing policy of Interior Health. (Back)

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