The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

July 24, 2013
California takes the lead on new green procurement standards

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The state of California is getting in on a pioneering effort to establish sustainable green standards for procurement practices.

The State of California Department of General Services and the City of San Francisco have joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office Depot, FedEx, the National Association of Procurement Officers, various universities and market advisers as founding members of the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council.

The council was created to do for procurement what the LEED U.S. Green Building Council council has does for architecture--create a set of green standards and leverage sustainable knowledge across sectors, whether, private, government, or academic--for the purchase of green goods.

"What we don't have is an integrated program for agencies to holistically address their purchasing responsibility," said Allison Kinn Bennet, senior advisor to the EPP Program for the EPA. "Dare I say, institutional purchasers are overwhelmed by all the cooks and cookbooks in their kitchen."

Those cookbooks including varying standards for what constitutes a green product, as well as a multitude of different sustainable rating systems and a lack of ways to measure outcomes.

"Consumption, that is purchases of goods and services, is the demand engine that drives our economy . . . [and] that [engine] drives all of the social and environmental impacts of that economic and industrial activity," said Jason Pearson, executive director of the council, who presented the plan in a webcast Tuesday.

Council members said that purchasers don't recognize the power they have to protect the environment and the planet.

"Procurement is a tremendous point of leverage in our economy," said Kevin Lyons, professor of Supply Chain Management at Rutgers University.

Of the $15 trillion spent on consumption each year in the United States, 17 percent or $2.6 trillion is spent by the government, Pearson said.

States in particular, due to their size and management infrastructure, have a unique opportunity to take a leadership role in this field, he said.

"Some states have embraced the challenge of implementing sustainable purchasing more than others," he said. "[And] California is one of the states that has embraced sustainable purchasing."

The council expects to roll out a pilot version of its rating systems within 18 months and hopes to have the full program operational within the next two years.

PHOTO: A 'Green Dolphin Street' daylily, center, at the Amador Flower Farm in Plymouth on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. Randall Benton/The Sacramento Bee.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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