In early 2007, Ontario city leaders determined that improving sustainability was a “core value”, and began the push to become one of the most sustainable cities in California. The city implemented several sustainability initiatives as a result, including development of green procurement practices in conjunction with the California Sustainability Alliance.
Currently, Ontario’s green procurement policy emphasizes the purchase of recycled products, as stated in the Municipal Code and in the Purchasing Department’s Policies. However, beyond just recycled content, it is also important to look at other environmental attributes of products, such as energy consumption, toxicity, air and water pollution, materials efficiency (including packaging), and the disposal impact at the end of useful life. Additionally, it is also valuable to adopt a single, comprehensive procurement policy rather than initiating a series of smaller, discrete projects with no solid overall framework to sustain them.
In partnership with the California Sustainability Alliance, Ontario has completed a General Plan Update that includes broad sustainability goals, and the city has increased its efforts to weave sustainability practices though all city departments. These new developments will help pave the way for the city to pursue more comprehensive and effective green procurement practices in the future.
Greening one’s procurement practices involves much more than simply purchasing recycled paper. A comprehensive procurement policy should incorporate a broad set of actionable steps that reduce overall negative effects on the environment as well as on human health. The key resources and guidelines that the California Sustainability Alliance developed with Ontario are described below:
Through interviews and research conducted with the city of Ontario, the California Sustainability Alliance identified some key challenges and barriers Ontario faces in greening its procurement practices and policies.
To increase the capacity of city departments to procure green products, the California Sustainability Alliance and the city of Ontario developed a green procurement section on the Purchasing Department’s Intranet page. The webpage is designed to effectively promote green procurement without requiring significant investment of staff time and attention.
In addition to continually developing its Intranet webpage, Ontario is investigating other steps to further its green procurement practices, including updating its municipal code and purchasing procedures to include language that promotes the purchase of goods with broadly defined sustainability attributes, beyond simply considering recycled content.