The West Michigan Sustainable Purchasing Consortium (WMSPC) has the ability to contract with vendors for environmentally preferable goods and services at lower prices because of the collective purchasing ability of its members. The WMSPC Board provides the leadership and oversight for the consortium. The Delta Institute and SRG, independent third parties, assist the WMSPC board with membership administration, research and identification of green products, development and award of RFP's, vendor management, and maintenance of the Consortium website.
The Consortium was created through the vision of the Community Sustainability Partnership. The Community Sustainability Partnership is a diverse network of community organizations in West Michigan who embrace and support sustainability guiding principles in their planning and operations and are striving to make a positive impact in our community. Establishment of the West Michigan Sustainable Purchasing Consortium is one way the Partnership is supporting the businesses and organizations in our community.
The goal of the WMSPC is to improve conditions for achieving a healthy community by identifying and purchasing products and services that have a reduced environmental impact as compared to similar, conventional products and services. Through such purchases, WMSPC intends to spur economic opportunities for companies interested in manufacturing or supplying sustainable products. Specifically, WMSPC aims to:
- Reduce or eliminate toxicity, particularly long term persistent toxicity
- Conserve natural resources, materials, and energy
- Reduce waste generation by maximizing recyclability and recycled content of the purchased products
- Educate businesses and residents on the merits of environmentally preferable products
- Encourage regional partnerships
- Reduce costs for members
- Provide members with opportunities to easily purchase environmentally preferable products at a cost-competitive price, as compared to traditional products.
WMSPC consolidates the purchasing volume of its members. Agreements are negotiated for commonly used equipment, supplies, and services that have a low impact on the environment, are cost-effective, and promote economic development in West Michigan. To meet these goals, the Consortium will:
- Identify sustainable products that members can purchase
- Evaluate the environmental, economic, and social benefits of products being considered for purchase
- Coordinate the bidding, contracting, and delivery processes on behalf of the membership.
- Consideration will be given toward minority, woman-owned, or otherwise disadvantaged businesses
WMSPC members will issue their own purchase order directly to the preferred supply vendor. Participation in preferred supplier agreements is voluntary for WMSPC members and each member will independently purchase and pay for its own requirements. The WMSPC is committed to utilizing technology to the fullest in the procurement process, including the use of vendor websites, online ordering, and electronic payment.
In February 2006, a group of Grand Rapids area businesses, academic institutions, and a municipality convened to discuss the ecosystem impairments in the Lower Grand River Watershed. To facilitate this discussion, the stakeholders used Delta Institute's Eco-EMS tool to profile their environmental impact in the region and determine easy-to-implement components of an environmental management system that would benefit the local ecosystem. The purpose of the meeting was to develop voluntary, pro-active programs to improve local watershed impairments- such as toxics loading, waste minimization, storm water and other discharges to local wastewater treatment systems. Sustainable purchasing was identified by the meeting attendees as a strategy that could be adopted to measurably help reduce the amount of toxics and other pollutants to the watershed.
To this end, the group continued to meet on a regular basis to identify sustainable purchasing opportunities that they could undertake. It was determined that one way for the group to have a measurable benefit on the watershed as well as spur sustainable economic development in the region would be to establish a purchasing consortium. The West Michigan Purchasing Consortium was officially launched in late 2007.
What is Sustainable Purchasing?
Sustainable purchasing is a comprehensive form of environmentally preferable purchasing. Environmentally Preferable Purchasing means "products and services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products that serve the same purpose," according to the Instructions for Implementing Executive Order 13423 (PDF). This comparison may consider raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance, or disposal of the product. Sustainable purchasing further considers local sourcing and ecosystem impacts.
Sustainable purchasing provides a powerful opportunity to reduce environmental impacts by influencing the relationship between purchasers and suppliers. While some manufacturing processes require the use of hazardous material, many purchasers are inadvertently buying pollution without realizing they are doing so. The emphasis on sustainable products also has the potential to spur economic development by bringing suppliers of sustainable products to the region. Additionally, sustainable purchasing supports the objectives of the triple bottom line: social equity, environmental improvement, and economics.