At a late July webcast hosted by American University and GreenBiz, the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC) (www.purchasingcouncil.org) held its long-awaited launch event. GreenBiz reported record attendance for the webinar, signaling that the procurement community was anxious to learn the latest developments regarding the SPLC. During the webinar, presentations were made by the hosts and by various members of the SPLC Steering Committee and Staff. Joel Makower of GreenBiz moderated a panel discussion regarding the challenges and opportunities facing sustainable procurement.
The SPLC, grown out of the former Green Products Roundtable that had been incubated by the Keystone Center (www.keystone.org), has spent the last nine months or so preparing for its launch by piloting with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (www.aashe.org) obtaining funding, establishing its Steering Committee and (small) staff and aligning with various strategic partner organizations. Now, starting with an August 27 – 28 Founding Summit at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC, the focus shifts to generating consensus on mission, vision and values, creating and populating working groups, establishing frameworks and creating the content that will guide procurement professionals as they seek to buy greener and more socially-responsible goods and services.
At present, the SPLC thinks it will follow the LEED paradigm of rating procurement sustainability on a scale of “Principles for Leadership” that leads to Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum ratings for purchasing organizations. According to the timetable presented at the launch event, the ratings scheme is a good two years away; much work is to be done before handing out gold stars.
During the webinar, presenters pointed out that institutional purchasing currently represents $10.1bn of the U.S. economy. If other developed countries have proportionate percentages of economic activity, then institutional purchasing has big environmental and social impacts. The advent of the SPLC, if it provides guidance and incentives (in the form of ratings) to procurement professionals and organizations, could mean a paradigm shift in what is now basically the Wild West of sustainable procurement. It will benefit everyone to follow developments as the SPLC moves forward.