For public buyers, are sustainability and cooperative purchasing initiatives moving in tandem? The answer is yes, according to respondents to the 2015 Government Procurement (GP) Forecast Survey. Almost half of the 500 respondents to the survey said cooperative purchasing programs (45.6 percent of respondents) and sustainability (42.2 percent of respondents) would significantly affect public procurement in the next couple of years. A total of six factors were listed in the survey questionnaire.

Next, survey participants were asked, “How much will economic, environmental and social sustainability issues influence procurement behavior over the next five years?” More than nine out of 10 of the respondents said those issues would significantly influence (53.5 percent) or will somewhat influence (36.78 percent) procurement behavior.

Environmental and sustainability requirements are driving changes in cooperative purchasing programs, says Christine Warnock, CPPO, CPPB. She is Chief Procurement Officer at the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services (DES) Contracts, Procurement & Risk Management Division. Warnock was a respondent to the 2015 GP Forecast Survey.

Many cooperative purchasing programs do cover sustainable products. One example is from the Bay State, whose governor issued an executive order in 2009 “to reduce their impact on the environment and enhance public health by procuring Environmentally Preferable Products and services.”

The state created a Toxics Reduction Task Force to help the government move from buying conventional, more toxic cleaning chemicals to using more environmentally friendly products.

Future environmental-sustainability initiatives will lead buyers to specify a growing variety of green products, says Ben Calia, CPPB, who is Procurement and Contract Services Manager at Lee's Summit, Mo. (population, 93,184). Calia took part in the 2015 GP Forecast Survey.

“I think there’s probably going to be a vast array of products, especially those that can be considered eco-friendly or bio-degradable,” Calia tells GPN. “Another growing category includes fuels that can be used as alternatives to oil and petroleum product sources.”

Calia says another product area that will be expanding includes materials that ensure the sustainability of building construction and maintenance. LEED levels of certification, Calia says, can be used to track the efficacy of those products.

Calia believes present and future sustainability requirements will lead to changes in cooperative purchasing programs. “Cooperative entities …serve or have the potential to serve such a wide area, and such a wide number of customers. It would be in their best interests to address those types of sustainability issues.”

Lee’s Summit’s procurement manager says several large states, including California, have more stringent laws and requirements pertaining to eco-friendly products, and that they have a lot of buying power.

Calia says that when public buyers look at their budgets and expenditures, they find that it usually costs more to buy sustainable products. “But when you look at the overall impact it has on the environment, and that is a consideration that goes into your decision-making process, then I think it would behoove cooperative entities to have that sustainability addressed when they are doing cooperative agreements.”

Michael Keating is Senior Editor at Government Product News, an American City & County sister brand.

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