Better Sustainable Purchasing Tools:

image   Integrated with financial systems

image   Integrated with other sustainability-related systems

image   Openness - online and optionally public

image   Aesthetically beautiful to motivate users

image   Enables behavior change

Chris O’Brien, American University, December 8, 2011.

Josh Saunders from Greencurement, who said that having to use multiple systems for a purchase is a challenge to sustainable procurement. Right now, he noted, one might have to go to supplier Web sites, a certification Web site, internal spreadsheets or an internal Web site, a manufacturer’s Web site, and of course, one’s own procurement systems to gather the necessary information for a single sustainable purchase. Integration is needed so that new tools can share data and information in an accessible and usable fashion, Mr. Saunders said.

Peter Graf of SAP noted that as soon as people have to use systems running at different companies, the process slows down dramatically. These systems should work more effectively with each other, he said. Another important aspect of integration is that procurement is not a self-contained process; it is connected to many components of the organization, such as sourcing, contracting, financing, analytics, and auditing. Procurement tools that incorporate all parts of the process and integrate information on the financial impact would be very useful.

None of the three tools described earlier—STARS, LEED, or ACUPCC-—have attained this financial integration, said Mr. O’Brien; however, they have all incorporated policies that require sustainable purchasing, even though they cover different aspects of it. In developing policy language to enable sustainable procurement of paper, for example, Mr. O’Brien said that in some cases he has to compare and contrast three different sets of guidance.

Usability of tools is also important, he added, noting that STARS is Web-based and straightforward to view and navigate. LEED certifications and ACUPCC, by contrast, are based on spreadsheets, and managing the voluminous amount of data and numerous tabs can make data gathering for these programs challenging. Engaging people with these tools is important, he said; to achieve sustainability goals, people need tools they can relate to and use readily or behavior will not change very quickly.

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