Stronger choices in sustainable procurement

With the great power of public dollars, Oregon has great responsibility. Our state’s procurement choices—the goods and services we buy to run our state agencies, schools and local governments—can do far more than deliver quality at a fair price. With the right tools in place, Oregon can harness the power of procurement to drive innovation and promote the health of our people, our environment and our economy. In doing so, we can lead the nation to make lasting sustainable change in the marketplace.

Almost twenty years ago, Oregon made explicit the government’s responsibility to make choices that not only meet current needs, but also ensure that future generations can meet their needs. The Oregon Sustainability Act was a first step in adopting a procurement philosophy that places value on environmental, economic and societal benefits—values that support sustainable procurement as defined by international standards. 

Since that time, a number of states have outpaced Oregon in turning a procurement philosophy into a practical strategy. What will it take to put Oregon in the lead once again, investing in Oregon values to reap the best returns for public well being? 

In 2017-18, Oregon Environmental Council brought together a group of 12 thought leaders in sustainable procurement over the course of seven months. Working with our Project Consultant for Market Innovation (and former staff member) Colin Price, the Oregon Safer Products Procurement Workgroup (the Workgroup) was charged with developing recommendations for decision-makers on the policy, infrastructure, and procedural strategies necessary for Oregon to deliver the most public benefits from procurement—and lead the nation in advancing sustainability. 

A full report of their findings can be found here. 

In brief, the Workgroup’s recommendations include: 

1. Build a comprehensive program that makes Oregon a national leader in sustainable procurement. Establishing a sustainable procurement program with strong fundamentals, including a robust policy framework with a comprehensive approach, will be most effective at protecting people and the environment while mitigating risk and saving taxpayer money.

2. Embrace transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement. These principles are hallmarks of effective and responsible government and public procurement. A sustainable procurement program that fully integrates them will further demonstrate Oregon’s leadership among states and reflect our legacy of good government that works for its residents and businesses.

3. Engage key stakeholders and build on existing efforts. Businesses, governments, nonprofits, and communities are partners in accomplishing the goals and objectives of a sustainable procurement program. Integrating and expanding on successful efforts already happening in the private, nonprofit, and public sectors, including past and ongoing activities at Oregon Department of Administrative Services, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and others, will allow a state program to increase impact by leveraging limited resources.

4. Enable and support Oregon’s procurement professionals. Fully utilizing the commitment and expertise of Oregon’s public procurement professionals, project managers, and other staff involved in public procurement decisions will make the sustainable procurement program strong and resilient. Building strong champions and implementing clear and consistent sustainable procurement procedures will be critical for the State to exert national leadership.

5. Integrate sustainability throughout the procurement process. Oregon’s procurement process offers significant opportunities for addressing the many social, health, and environmental challenges currently facing Oregon, our country, and our world. Implementing current sustainable procurement best practices, including planning, specification development, bid evaluation, contract management, and tracking procedures, will further strengthen Oregon’s procurement process. A comprehensive sustainable procurement program will help reduce risk and save money.

Read the full report here (PDF document).

About the Workgroup
The Oregon Safer Products Procurement Workgroup (the Workgroup) brought together 12 leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors with decades of experience in procurement. Convened by Oregon Environmental Council and former staff member Colin Price, Workgroup members generously donated their time and expertise, sharing presentations, conducting research, and deliberating together on how to deliver the most public benefit from taxpayer dollars. The Workgroup arrived at a set of findings and recommendations for state decision-makers to advance sustainability in Oregon’s state procurement efforts.

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