Sustainability is a moving target and staying informed on environmental trends and projections is key, says Stacy Gregg, procurement manager II for the State Fiscal Accountability Authority at the South Carolina Department of Procurement Services.

Many states and cities already have mandates and goals for sustainable procurement programs. “It is important, however, that procurement professionals are leading their entities in the discussion and planning for these efforts,” Gregg (photo at right) says.

It’s hard to predict when new sustainability targets might bubble to the surface, Gregg adds. “As we have witnessed in recent years, social expectations may change rapidly and without warning,” Gregg says.

As stewards of public resources, public purchasers should be prepared to make adjustments when needed, Gregg explains. ”When legislators respond to the concerns of their constituencies with new requirements, policies or laws, including sustainability requirements and goals, we must be prepared to follow.”

New global standard in the works

ISO 20400, a global standard “Sustainable Procurement – Guidance,” from the International Organization for Standardization, will be released by the end of March. It will provide guidelines for organizations, including governments, which want to integrate sustainability into their procurement processes.

Agencies will use ISO 20400 as a guide, says Josh Jacobs, Technical Information and Public Affairs Manager at UL, the independent, not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization. Jacobs also serves as chair of the US Mirror Committee for ISO 20400.

“Organizations will be able to use this standard to audit to. So an agency will be able to have an expert come in and say ‘Here is where you are deficient, here is where you could do better and here is where you are doing well in.’”

Dennis Murphey, Chief Environmental Officer for Kansas City, Mo., believes the Trump Administration will implement changes in environmental policies that could influence sustainable procurement. As a city staffer, Murphey promoted the adoption of KC’s sustainable procurement ordinance. “It is crystal clear that federal government priorities will refocus on greater reliance upon fossil fuels and away from any emphasis upon a continued expansion of renewable energy sources,” Murphey tells Government Procurement. He adds that it’s still unclear whether the new administration will support energy efficiency programs.

Murphey (photo at left) offer this sobering conclusion: “So, while the federal government prioritizes looking in the rear view mirror of the past rather than through the windshield of the future, other countries —China in particular — will step into this void and exploit the economic opportunity to be the leading producer of solar energy systems and the country that deploys renewable energy to the greatest extent.”

Murphey predicts that drinking water will be under the microscope in 2017. “We have seen — and I believe will continue to see — a greater emphasis upon clean water initiatives at the local level. The Flint Mich., water crisis revealed a significant public health threat that is much more widespread than we realized prior to the crisis in Flint.”

Murphey says drinking water quality is a priority for his city’s water department, “and has provided free testing to homeowners who may have concerns about the quality of water from their taps, based upon the stories regarding Flint.”

Public Policy Changes

Green purchasing policies in government are evolving, say Bob Perkins, Procurement Manager in Ada County, Idaho (photo on right). He says government entities that haven’t adopted some form of green procurement program by now will do so through policy initiatives. “Those that already have will likely start to morph their green policies with social and economic policies. What we may likely end up with in the future is an evolution of those factors that lead to an overarching commonsensical policy for government agencies,” Perkins explains. That policy, he adds, may speak to sustainable practices with an eye towards social stewardship and dollar leveraging. “In other words, smarter decisions that lead to responsible buying.”

Perkins outlined a few examples of social procurement policies: “They might include preference for small disadvantaged businesses, such as a Minority or Women Business Enterprises (MBE/WBE), or it could be seeking certification from suppliers that the products/raw materials they are selling were made in the USA.” Perkins says we are likely to see more of these made-in-USA certification programs during the Trump Administration years.

Perkins offers the following potential supplier certification conditions and goals:

--That the product did not come from known countries where sweatshop or child labor exists; or

--That the product was acquired from a rehabilitation program that helps the disabled by providing job opportunities.