History of the Council

While the Council officially launched in July 2013, the Council builds on two prior collaborations: The Keystone Center‘s Green Products Roundtable and a pilot project conducted with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.  The Council seeks to continue its history of constructive partnership and coordination with existing initiatives, with the goal of accelerating the market’s adoption of the sustainable purchasing best practices and tools they produce.

Green Products Roundtable 2008-2011

In 2008, The Keystone Center convened the Green Products Roundtable (GPR), a voluntary, multi-stakeholder forum comprised of approximately 35 members representing different actors and experts in the emerging green products marketplace.  Stimulated in part by draft bills introduced in the 110th Congress, as well as concerns expressed by knowledgeable experts on all sides of the eco-labeling debates, GPR’s mission was to improve the decision-making capabilities of green product makers, institutional and commercial buyers, and consumers by bringing further clarity to the green products marketplace in the service of having products that are better for the environment and human health.  To that end, the group produced a Lexicon of terminology relevant to the green products marketplace, developed guidance for organizations wishing to determine the credibility of green claims and the market actors making those claims, provided multi-stakeholder consensus input to the FTC’s green marketing rule making, developed a prioritization framework to guide institutional purchasers in identifying their greatest opportunities to reduce impacts, and created a business plan for a new independent non-profit that would promote the prioritization framework.  In 2012, the Green Products Roundtable formally concluded its work in order to dedicate its financial and intellectual resources to the launch of the Council. The GPR’s work is documented in a 2011 report: Accelerating Green Commerce.

Green Products Roundtable Members

  • The American University, Office of Sustainability
  • The Ashkin Group
  • Big Room, Inc.
  • City of Santa Monica,CA
  • Erb Institute, University of Michigan
  • Five Winds International
  • Greencurement
  • Green Electronics Council
  • Green Seal, Inc.
  • GreenGuard Environmental Institute
  • ISEAL Alliance
  • National Association of State Procurement Officers
  • Office Depot
  • The Overbrook Foundation
  • Responsible Purchasing Network
  • Shaw Industries, Inc.
  • UL Environment
  • University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment
  • Weyerhaeuser
 Collaborating Organizations

  • Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • RainforestAlliance
  • The Sustainability Consortium
  • U.S.GreenBuildingCouncil
  • World Resources Institute
  • World Wildlife Fund

Federal Government Liaisons

  • General Services Administration
  • U.S.Department of Energy
  • U.S.Environmental Protection Agency
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology

Prioritization Pilot Project 2012

In 2012, a steering committee formed out of the Green Products Roundtable with the goal of launching the Council.  Before launching the Council, the steering committee decided to pilot the idea of a sustainable purchasing rating system within the context of a pre-existing rating system.  The committee collaborated with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) to conduct a pilot project aimed at strengthening the purchasing credits of AASHE’s sustainability rating program, STARS (Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System), which is used by hundreds of colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. At the conclusion of the pilot, the Council provided formal input to the STARS program as part of the public comment period for the update to STARS 2.0.

The pilot was intended to test some aspects of Council’s proposed approach for providing guidance to institutional purchasers to help them to: 1) prioritize opportunities for influence; 2) identify existing leadership actions that address these priorities; 3) benchmark progress toward goals, and 4) receive recognition for advancement. The pilot helped the Council to refine this prioritization-based framework for applying institutional purchasing as a leverage point for reducing life cycle environmental and social impacts of purchased goods and services.

The pilot focused primarily on environmental impact reductions, but the Council ultimately expects to address the interconnections between social responsibility and environmental sustainability, and it was informed by previous work of the GPR, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the US General Services Administration (GSA), and by the recently released report, Toward Sustainability: The Roles and Limitations of Certification.

Looking forward, the pilot forms a foundation for the ongoing work of the Council in the following ways:

  • Created templates for a recognition program and decision resources that can be extended to other institutional purchasing sectors;
  • Informed a strategic plan and market analysis to enable financial self-sufficiency; and
  • Created energy and excitement about the potential influence of the Council on institutional purchasing at large – and thereby, assisted in fundraising for the full launch of the Council (including hiring a full-time Executive Director).

Launch Event (July 23rd, 2013)

The Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council officially launched on July 23rd with an event moderated by Joel Makower of GreenBiz Group.  It was webcast live from Washington DC, with over 1,000 organizations tuning in.  Materials from the launch event:

Founding Summit (August 27th & 28th, 2013)

The first meeting of the Council’s founding members and partners took place at the National Academy of Science in Washington DC on August 27-28, 2013.  Four goals were proposed for this meeting. 

Goal #1: Build consensus around the mission and vision of the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council.

The Council has emerged out of the collaborative work of the Green Products Roundtable, and many of the individuals and organizations currently involved in the Council played an important role in the work of the GPR over many years. At the same time, a number of individuals and organizations have joined the Council more recently, and the Launch Meeting will provide an opportunity for all participants to gain agreement around the core vision, mission, goals, and approach of the Council. The meeting will also provide an opportunity for all participants to question basic assumptions about the Council as it moves forward.

Goal #2: Finalize the governance of the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council.

The Council was recently incorporated as a non-profit organization, and it is currently in the process of applying for formal 501(c)3 tax exempt status. Until these processes are complete, the Council is managed by the Executive Director with oversight from a Steering Committee. At the Launch Meeting, nominations will be accepted for the founding Board of Directors of the Council, and a schedule will be established for election of the full Board. Attendees will also be asked to discuss and formalize the governance and decision-making processes for the guidance and recognition program.

Goal #3: Finalize the 2013-2014 Work Plan.

The Council seeks to begin providing guidance and recognition for leadership in sustainable purchasing and procurement as soon as possible. A slate of potential workstreams for 2013-14 is currently under development, and the full list of potential projects, together with an estimate of required financial and staff resources for each, will be presented to attendees at the Launch Meeting. Attendees will also be provided an opportunity to propose additional project ideas. Based on this discussion, the Council will assign priorities and timelines to the proposed workstreams in order to ensure that it is able to deliver value to its stakeholders in a timely fashion.

Goal #4: Formalize the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council’s Principles of Sustainable Purchasing.

At the GreenBiz Forum 2013 in New York City, the Council hosted a workshop to discuss a set of princples for sustainable purchasing and procurement that could be the philosophical basis of the Council’s work.  At the Launch Meeting, we will review and formalize these draft principles as an initial basis for a common vision for the Council and determine what process will be required to finalize the principles as a founding document of the Council. These principles are expected to act as a touchstone for the Council and its work on an ongoing basis.