Sustainable Procurement—What You Need to Know

January 4, 2021

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Sustainable Procurement
red tomato beside green vegetable on white table sustainable procurement Winnipeg Metropolitan Region

Manitoba is making some big shifts toward sustainable procurement—which, for many people, sounds like a complex subject matter.

This week’s blog post will aim to inform you about what this term means, why you’re likely to keep hearing about it, and how it benefits Manitobans to consider making more sustainable purchases.

Let’s start off by addressing a common initial question:

What is sustainable procurement?

Procurement = purchasing / to obtain something.

Sustainable = able to be maintained.

In short — Sustainable procurement means making sure that the products and services we buy are as sustainable as possible, with the lowest environmental impact and most positive social results.

green leaves on white ceramic bowls sustainable procurement Winnipeg Metropolitan Region

Across Manitoba, many organizations and businesses are making changes—shifting toward practices and products that consider long-term impacts. Canada’s Top Green Employers, found here, include many Manitoban organizations including…

Here are just some of them…

Mountain Equipment Co-Op

  • A retail leader in understanding and minimizing waste, MEC and its employees conduct two annual “dumpster dives” to understand where they are generating waste and to identify opportunities for further improvement—the co-op has been tirelessly monitoring its waste stream for over a decade, having achieved and maintained impressive 90 per cent waste diversion rates since 2007.
  • MEC began developing the MEC Green Building System and Policy in 2007 to help improve building design and performance. Today, all facilities are operationally carbon neutral through a combination of significant reductions in emissions, as well as the purchase of renewable energy certificates (the most ambitious goals for the future are net-zero energy, net-zero waste and a 50 per cent reduction in municipal water use)
  • MEC has taken a leadership role in addressing unnecessary use of plastic across its operations—from eliminating single-use shopping bags over a decade ago, the introduction of “sushi-roll” packaging for MEC-branded gear (eliminating approximately 140 tonnes of plastic since 2010), gear donation, swap and repair programs (to extend the lifespan of its gear), to partnering with OceanWise and other industry players to find solutions to the serious issue of microplastics polluting the oceans

TD Bank Group

  • TD’s new building development guidelines include a focus on designing to meet LEED Gold or Platinum certifications as well as the WELL Building Certification program, which is a newer building certification that addresses air and water quality, natural light, adaptable furniture, and educational support for well-being measures
  • TD’s longstanding TD Friends of the Environment Foundation has provided over $90-million to over 26,000 local environmental projects since 1990.
  • Along with many green “firsts,” including being the first bank to issue a green bond in 2014 (followed by a bigger issue in 2017), TD announced the impressive $100-billion investment program (by 2030) for the development of the low-carbon economy, including lending to companies and projects with low-carbon operations and supporting local environmental projects in communities across the country.

brown tote bag on white surface sustainable procurement Winnipeg Metropolitan Region

Sustainable procurement practices don’t just apply to businesses. Everyday consumers like you and I could make small changes today to start purchasing in a more conscious way. This does not have to be complicated or expensive, and it doesn’t have to mean spending more time at the grocery store trying to read every ingredient on a product label.

Thanks to helpful resources from organizations like Lake Friendly, it’s becoming easy for consumers to know when they’re making sustainable purchases.

The next time you’re picking up a cleaning product like laundry detergent, surface cleaners, or dish soap, take a quick scan for the EcoLogo.


For a quick demonstration, check out this video by Lake Friendly’s Summer Green Team, which shows where to find some EcoLogo products in large stores.

Why are we talking about it?

silhouette of wind mill during golden hour sustainable procurement Winnipeg Metropolitan Region

As countries across the world are making changes to become more resilient, from finding ways to lower carbon footprints to upping the ante on business ethics, sustainable procurement is just one more way that corporations can ensure they’re doing business the right way.

Companies dedicated to sustainable procurement try to make economical and effective long-term decisions that benefit the company, customers, society, and the environment. And with consumers being more educated about their purchases today than ever before, it’s now becoming standard for organizations to put their best foot forward and show how they’re contributing to a better tomorrow.

What does it mean for Manitobans?

green trees near body of water during daytime sustainable procurement Winnipeg Metropolitan Region

2020 has brought many challenges with it, and has stretched the capacity for business, organizations, and individuals to think about the way we make purchases. As 2021 rolls in, now is the time for making small tweaks in the status quo and beginning to chart new paths forward.

Finding ways to make a difference to the environment can be as easy as changing the products you choose to buy. Over the holidays, there was a big push in Manitoba to buy local. This important change in consumer behavior gave a much needed boost to our province’s local businesses and, in many instances, was a step into the sustainable procurement arena—and a direction we must keep moving in.

This conversation extends far beyond just Manitoba. The United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes 17 goals that are an urgent call for action by all countries in global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth—all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.

Sustainable procurement plays a key role in achieving all of these 17 goals.

So, if nothing else, I hope you’ll take away from this blog the notion that it’s easy for each of us to make small changes toward living a more sustainable lifestyle. From the products we buy, to the food we eat, to the organizations we choose to support.

If there were ever a year to think about resolutions, it’s this year.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog where we dive into sustainable procurement for municipal governments.


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