From Guidance to Rating System

How the Council’s evolving programs will enable successful benchmarking, program evaluation, and self-assessment of organizational sustainable purchasing programs.

The Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council came together to create a shared program of guidance, benchmarking, evaluation, self-assessment, and leadership recognition in sustainable purchasing. We continue to pursue this goal in stages.

In 2014, we created guidance.
In May 2014, we released a set of Principles for Leadership in Sustainable Purchasing, which can be used by institutional purchasers as guidance to develop their sustainable purchasing policies and processes. Building on this foundation, the Technical Advisory Groups and Technical Advisory Committee all moved quickly to bring forth the Guidance for Leadership in Sustainable Purchasing v1.0, a more developed, comprehensive document for implementing a strategic sustainable purchasing program.
Guidance v1.0 accomplishes the following:

  • Program Development. Provides a framework for incorporating procurement as strategic component of an organization’s sustainability initiatives.
  • Strategic Prioritization. Guides purchasing organizations through the process necessary to select the strategies best for them today, given their unique circumstances.
  • Program Management. Assists in setting up the infrastructure to measure progress and continuously improve toward sustainability goals.
  • Category Guidance. Explains the most significant impacts and current best practices for mitigating the impacts associated with more than 20 product and service categories.

Guidance v1.0 was released for Pilot in February 2015. The Guidance v1.0 Pilot Program is helping the Council to understand the extent to which the program objectives are achieved, the necessary tools and resources to better enable its implementation, and how to best structure and deliver the content to optimize the program’s usability.

In 2015 and 2016, we will build a Rating System.
A rating system provides consistent criteria, scoring, and comparison across the programs, processes, or outputs evaluated against it. The higher the score (i.e., rating), the better the program is at successfully achieving the goals of the Rating System. In the Council’s case, the goals refer to the environmental, social, and economic outcomes associated with institutional purchasing. Similarly, the more a score improves over time, the more efficient and effective the program is becoming at achieving these goals.

Programs like the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Building Design and Construction Rating System provide an evaluation and scoring of a commercial or multi-residential building, allowing buildings to be compared to one another based on a set of common metrics. Other programs, like the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark, highlight both absolute performance and performance relative to peers based on a set of common metrics, updated regularly.

The Rating System will be flexible.
The SPLC intends to create a system that evaluates the performance of an organization’s sustainable purchasing program and encourages its continued improvement.

At a minimum, the Rating system will allow for benchmarking, program evaluation and self-assessment through, at minimum, the following strategies:

  • identifying baseline criteria that purchasing organizations must meet within their sustainable purchasing program; and
  • assigning points to specific strategies that best address the impacts associated with product and service categories within a sustainable purchasing program.

As the Rating System develops in 2015, it will increasingly allow:

  • benchmarking relative performance against common metrics, previous scores, and industry peers;
  • evaluation of the effectiveness of the organization’s current sustainable purchasing program;
  • identification of opportunities to improve the sustainable purchasing program’s performance;
  • self-assessment of an organization’s sustainable purchasing program; and
  • assigning points to levels of improvement, in terms of environmental, social, and/or economic performance outcomes, measured either directly or through appropriate proxy measures.

Starting in 2016, SPLC will pilot the Rating System v1.0 as a tool for third-party validation—and certification—of organizational purchasing leadership, offering organizations the option of:

  • third-party certification of program assessments; and
  • public recognition for leadership performance level and improvements over time.

Like all of SPLC’s resources, the Rating System v1.0 will be piloted as an initially imperfect working prototype, intended to evolve over time. That said, the pilot version will still provide tools necessary for organizations to begin making dramatic improvements in the environmental, social, and economic performance outcomes associated with their purchasing.

If all goes as planned in 2015, we should be ready, in early 2016, to invite organizations to submit their performance, program evaluation, and assessment data to obtain third-party validation from SPLC for their leadership.

Are you interested in helping the Council build Rating System v1.0?
During the Rating System v1.0 Kick Off on Day 2 of the SPLC Summit, we will announce the rating system development timeline and process, including member participation opportunities, such as joining our Technical Advisory Groups (TAG), the primary contributors of rating system content. A new application window for TAG seats will open in June.

We have had great success in building Guidance v1.0 with an initial set of engaged and invaluable volunteers. This Guidance has already proven beneficial to our community of practice. Make no mistake, the forthcoming rating system development process will be a complicated process that involves many, many stakeholders at the table. I personally look forward to digging into complex issues with a group of smart, dedicated peers.

Please consider joining us!

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