Membership Frequently Asked Questions

If my organization cannot issue payment fast enough to meet the deadline for an upcoming membership participation opportunity is there any way we can still participate?

Yes, you can start participating while your payment is being issued!  The Council currently only accepts check or wire transfer payments.  Because we know check payments can often take weeks to dispatch, we go ahead and grant membership privileges at the time when we process an application and issue the membership invoice.  Membership privileges will be terminated if payment is not received within 45 days of being invoiced.

My company doesn’t have dedicated procurement staff, but we want help with making our purchasing more sustainable. Can we join with the Purchaser Role?

If your company is NOT a supplier of goods or services to institutions, you may join in the Purchaser Role as long as the participating employees are staff with significant responsibility for guiding your company’s purchases.  If your company IS a supplier of goods or services to institutions, you may only participate in the Purchaser role if you have staff with significant purchasing responsibilities who are not also engaged in revenue-generating activities (marketing, sales, product development, etc).  Your operations staff, such as facilities managers, may fit this description.  As is the case with anyone participating in the Purchaser Role, your purchaser representatives may not represent or promote the capabilities of your company’s products or services within the Council’s activities.  Doing so could result in expulsion from membership.

I don’t belong to an organization? How can I join?

Only organizations may be members in the Council.  If you are an independent consultant, you may join as a Supplier member under the name of your sole proprietorship consultancy.

I’m a sustainability professional at an organization that supplies institutions. What role do I fit in?

It depends.  Some sustainability staff work entirely on the operations side of their organization, such as in facilities or in indirect procurement, and don’t have any responsibilities related to designing solutions, selling solutions or servicing customers.  These sustainability staff would be eligible to participate in the Purchaser Role.

Other sustainability staff are primarily engaged in revenue-generating activities, such as developing sustainable product lines or producing marketing for sustainable solution offerings. These sustainability staff would only be eligible to participate in the Supplier Role.

Some sustainability staff have responsibilities both for improving the operational sustainability of their company, including indirect procurement, and for growing revenue from preferable product/service offerings.  While these staff can speak knowledgeably to the purchaser perspective, they would only be eligible to participate in the Supplier Role.  This is because their participation in the Council will afford them insights into the marketplace and access to purchasing professionals that will unavoidably inform and advance their market-facing initiatives.  Furthermore, purchaser members have made it clear that in order to meet ethics requirements they need spaces within the Council where they can discuss specification and contract language for their upcoming procurements without tipping off staff at member supplier companies who could use that information to gain an unfair advantage over non-member suppliers. The Purchaser Role is how we distinguish who has access to these spaces (RFP discussion forums, procurement development ‘labs’ at conferences, etc).  Allowing sustainability staff with revenue-generating responsibilities to participate in these spaces would compromise purchaser’s ethics requirements.

Can my organization be represented in Council activities by a consultant, rather than a 'regular employee'?

Yes. At the request of a member organization, a consultant retained by the organization may be granted access to member benefits equivalent to those available to a regular employee of the member organization.  Retained consultants may represent the member organization in Council activities provided that they represent only the member organization and refrain from representing their own organization or other organizations.  See Membership Policies & Procedures.

What about procurement of goods for resale? I purchase products for resale and therefore am a purchaser with responsibilities related to product/service development and revenue generation. What Role do I fit in?

If the goods you purchase are resold to institutional purchasers, then your purchasing activities are revenue-generating.  Your success or failure in identifying and sourcing goods that meet the needs and desires of institutional purchasers can directly increase or decrease your company’s sales revenue.  Therefore, you would participate in the Council in the Supplier Role.  The Supplier Role will make you eligible to participate in Technical Advisory Groups that are developing procurement guidance for institutional purchasers to use when buying the products your organization sells.  This is something you would not be eligible to participate in via the Purchaser Role.  Furthermore, the Supplier Role will give you a number of opportunities to showcase to institutional purchasers how your sustainable sourcing work sets your company apart among potential suppliers.

While the Council’s focus is on addressing challenges facing institutional purchasers that are buying goods ands services for their organization’s own operations, it does recognize that direct purchasers and goods-for-resale buyers face many of the same challenges, such as product ingredient transparency, product lifecycle assessment, verifying sustainability-related product claims and more.  To the extent that the Council’s guidance programs can be useful to direct purchasers and goods-for-resale buyers, the Council welcomes that.  Indeed, members participating in the Supplier Role will have access to all the same guidance that members participating in the Purchaser Role will have.

That said, there are organizations that will be better able to assist direct purchasers and goods-for-resale buyers in many industries.  For example, The Sustainability Consortium’s focus is on providing guidance to buyers of consumer products for resale.  The auto industry’s Supplier Partnership is focused on increasing sustainability in auto parts sourcing.  The Sustainable Food Lab’s focus is on providing detailed guidance and metrics to buyers of agricultural food products, such as grocery stores and food service companies.  The Sustainable Apparel Coalition provides guidance to buyers of clothing for resale.  The Council believes that these types of industry-specific collaborations are important efforts and looks to accelerate their work by encouraging institutional purchasers to prefer suppliers that are leveraging the insights they produce.

Why are the Supplier Role dues so much higher than the Purchaser and Public Interest Roles?

A great deal of thinking, research and dialogue with the Council’s founding members went into the dues schedule.  Even so, we acknowledge that we may not have gotten it perfect.  We will review the dues schedule annually for potential revision.

Several guiding principles were developed in the process of developing the dues schedule.  One, the dues should scale with the size of the organization because the cost of servicing organizations will scale with their size, as will their ability to pay.  Two, the dues should correspond to the size of the value proposition and the cost of obtaining similar value elsewhere.  In the case of suppliers, we set the dues based on membership fees that suppliers, including Founders Circle members, typically pay for similar member benefits in other organizations that host communities of forward thinking buyers from organizations with substantial purchasing power.  Purchasers tend to pay much lower dues to participate in those same organizations. 

While we are committed to moving forward with the published dues schedule for 2013-2014, we do welcome and value your feedback.

Couldn’t 'smart' suppliers save a lot of money by joining in the Purchaser Role?

A supplier organization could join in the Purchaser Role if it has eligible dedicated purchasing staff, but its ability to extract business development value from participation would be minimal due to the fact that member benefits are tailored for each Role.  For example, only the supplier’s dedicated purchasing staff would be able to participate in the Council meetings, forums and Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs).  All participants in the Purchaser Role are forbidden from promoting their organization’s products and services, and are not eligible to participate in TAGs developing guidance related to products or services their organization sells.  (Supplier Role participants are eligible to occupy Supplier Representative seats on TAGs developing guidance related to products or services their organization sells.)  The supplier organization would not be listed in the Council’s Products & Services Directory, would not be able to participate in sponsorship and exhibiting opportunities, and would not be eligible to advertise discounts to Council members.

The Council has made these distinctions between the Purchaser and Supplier Roles in order to ensure that purchasers are represented in guidance development decisions by procurement professionals who do not have a financial interest in the outcome of the guidance, and to ensure that the business development value of participating in the Council is reserved for companies that are supporting the Council’s work at a commensurate level.