Thoughts on the City of Edmonton’s Sustainable Procurement

On Wednesday, I received an email from David Staples, a columnist at the Edmonton Journal.

Professor Gehman:

I need your advice on something. I’m looking for an expert in sustainability issues and contracts… The city is buying 250 bike racks, and in the procurement contract it strikes me there is a ton of red tape for such a small purpose. I also wonder if the policy will work to cut down greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainability, or if there might not be better ways of doing it, more elegant ways, as opposed to this way, which strikes me as a make-work project and one that is difficult if not impossible to verify.

Among other requirements, the City of Edmonton’s request for proposals asked vendors questions such as:

2. Environmental Practices/Responsibility
a) Does your organization have a written policy, commitment or vision stating that it will operate in an environmentally sustainable manner? Is this statement publicly available? If yes, please provide the link below. If no, please provide a copy with your bid/proposal submission.
b) Explain how does your organization apply environmental or sustainability criteria when making your own purchasing decisions? Provide examples on your environmentally responsible companies as merchant partners and how they achieve sustainability and any reporting or metrics available.
c) How does your equipment and or operational process strive to preserve energy use, provide specific metrics to justify your answer.
d) In principle, bicycle racks would feature below criteria, describe how your company measures to these standards as possible and applicable:
• no components that are derived from the earth’s crust (e.g. petrochemicals and metals), unless those ingredients are 100% captured and reused.
• no components that are persistent in nature (e.g. plastic), unless those substances are 100% captured and reused.
And a production process that:
• does not contribute to the increased concentrations of substances from the earth’s crust or the buildup of persistent compounds in nature,
• uses only sustainable renewable energy or energy produced in a carbon-neutral manner;
• does not rely on practices that systematically physically degrade land and ecosystems; and
• does not rely on practices that undermine people’s capacity to meet their basic needs.
3. Social Practices/Responsibility
a) Provide documented procedure on how workplace health and safety, including requirements for job-appropriate safety training and/or certification for employees (including yourself) and all sub-contractors?
b) Does your organization provide employment opportunities to people with physical or mental “employ-abilities”? If yes, please elaborate and provide supporting documentation.
c) Does your organization participate in or contribute to community development programs, social organizations or charities? If yes, please elaborate and provide supporting documentation. Describe how does your organization operate in a socially responsible manner and strive to strengthen and positively influence the community?

Despite Mr. Staples opposition to the City’s efforts, I decided to take the time to comment for this story. You can read the comments he chose to report in the story filed in today’s Edmonton Journal — “Does the city’s new environmentally friendly purchasing plan make sense?