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Sustainable Procurement for Post-Secondary Institutions: Help you reach your Campus Sustainability Goals and AASHE STARS Gold

Updated: Apr 21

Register your interest in participating in Sustainable Campus Collaborative Campus Sustainable Procurement Workshop.

Does your campus have a Sustainable Procurement Policy?

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  • We would like to learn more about Sustainable Procurement

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In recent years, sustainability has become a strategic priority for post-secondary institutions seeking to minimize environmental impact, promote social responsibility, and drive positive change within their communities – while engaging students, staff and communities. A core component of a post-secondary sustainability strategy is sustainable procurement. By integrating sustainable practices into their procurement processes, educational institutions can not only reduce their environmental footprint but also foster a culture of sustainability and contribute to a more resilient and equitable future.

Why Adopt Sustainable Procurement?

Some of the most important reasons for adopting sustainable procurement practices include:


  • Cost Savings and Efficiency: Sustainable procurement can lead to long-term cost savings by reducing operational expenses, improving resource efficiency, and optimizing supply chain management. Investing in sustainable products and services often increases the durability, performance, and value for money of purchased goods and services over time.


  • Social Responsibility: Embracing sustainable procurement principles demonstrates a commitment to social responsibility and ethical sourcing practices that is important to stakeholders. By supporting suppliers with fair labor practices, diverse workforce representation, committed to reconciliation and community engagement initiatives, institutions demonstrate the values of equity, inclusivity, and social justice and increase the capacity of an employer to attract and retain the best students, staff and faculty.


  • Environmental Impact: Sustainable procurement helps mitigate environmental harm by favouring products and services with lower carbon footprints, reduced energy and water consumption, and minimal waste generation. By choosing eco-friendly suppliers and sustainable materials, universities can contribute to climate action and conservation efforts.


  • Campus & Community Engagement: A sustainable approach to procurement will create valuable opportunities for student, staff, faculty and community learning, research and engagement. Students and Researchers will find ways to learn from, do research into and help improve institutional approaches to sustainability. Community members, including donors and granting agencies will be engaged by the demonstration of values and impact of sustainable procurement.

Best Practices for Sustainable Procurement in Post-Secondary Institutions:


  1. Establish Clear Goals: Define specific sustainability objectives, targets, and key performance indicators related to procurement practices to guide decision-making and monitoring efforts.

  2. Engage Stakeholders: Involve diverse stakeholders, including faculty, staff, students, suppliers, and community partners, in the development and implementation of sustainable procurement strategies to enhance transparency and stakeholder buy-in. Ensure that stakeholders are educated about the value of integrating sustainability into purchasing processes and decisions.

  3. Integrate Sustainability Criteria: Develop and implement a sustainable procurement policy or guideline that ensures sustainability criteria are integrated into strategic planning documents, procurement policies, requests for proposals (RFPs), vendor assessments, and contract evaluations to prioritize environmentally friendly and socially responsible suppliers.

  4. Foster Deeper Supplier Relationships: Cultivate partnerships with suppliers committed to sustainability, diversity, and ethical business practices. Encourage dialogue, collaboration, and knowledge sharing to drive continuous improvement and innovation.

  5. Report and Communicate Progress: Regularly track, measure, and report on sustainable procurement initiatives using frameworks such as the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). Maximize points earned in the STARS report by documenting concrete actions, outcomes, and impacts of sustainable procurement practices.

  6. Ongoing Training & Continuous Improvement: It is important to continually train staff engaged in procurement processes to ensure they understand the benefits of procuring more sustainable products and services, what attributes make goods and services more sustainable, and the processes to follow to procure them. Continuous improvement is also integral to the effectiveness of the policy, as product and service innovation and approaches to sustainable procurement evolve.

AASHE STARS Sustainability Report and Sustainable Procurement:


AASHE STARS Sustainability Report is a comprehensive, customised and transparent sustainability reporting framework for post-secondary institutions to measure and benchmark sustainability performance. The framework is comprehensive, covering all Institutional functions and sustainability impacts, including Academics (Curriculum, Research), Engagement (Campus, Public), Operations (GHG Emissions, Procurement, Food, etc.) and Strategic Integration. It also integrates the seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals.


The STARS reporting framework supports Institutional Leaders strategic decision making and helps institutions engage key stakeholders, from those on campus, such as students, staff, faculty and off campus, such as donors, funding agencies and community. The framework awards points based on performance and then rates institutions from Bronze to Platinum. The framework helps Campus Leadership identify opportunities to improve performance and prioritise actions to improve performance.


AASHE STARS assigns up to 25 points to participating institutions that integrate sustainable procurement into “Operations” and “Planning & Administration” categories of the AASHE STARS Sustainability Reporting framework.


Operations (OP) up to 21 points)

An institution with comprehensive approach to sustainable procurement, with a sustainable procurement policy and process electronics, cleaning and janitorial supplies, paper, buildings, renewable energy food and beverages and sustainable dining can earn up to 21 points, while aligning campus values and operations

  1. Purchasing (OP 11 – 14, 6 points): An institution earns up to 6 points by systematically considering and prioritising sustainability when making procurement decisions.

    1. OP 11 Sustainable Procurement (up to 3 points): An institution earns up to 3 points from three separate components by demonstrating that Institution applies sustainability criteria when making procurement decisions, by systematically evaluating procurement options using

      1. an institutional sustainable procurement policy,

      2. a Lifecycle Analysis to evaluate purchasing options and

      3. sustainability criteria.

    2. OP 12 Electronics Purchasing (up to 1 point): An institution will earn up to one point based on the proportion of electronics that are highly energy efficient according to EPEAT or Energy Star.

    3. OP 13 Cleaning & Janitorial Purchasing (up to 1 point): An institution will earn up to one point based on the proportion of cleaning and janitorial that are Green according to .

    4. OP 14 Office Paper Purchasing (up to 1 point): An institution will earn up to one point based on the proportion of paper products that are recycled or certified sustainable by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC).

  2. OP 3 Building Design and Construction (up to 3 points): An institution will earn up to 3 points depending on the proportion of new and existing building space that are certified by a green building standard, such as LEED or Green Building Standard.

  3. OP 6 Clean and Renewable Energy (up to 4 points): An institution earns up to 4 points by meeting its energy needs by procuring a higher proportion of clean & renewable energy.

  4. OP 7 Food and Beverage Purchasing (up to 6 points): An institution earns up to 6 points for fulfilling 2 requirements, first that food products sold on campus are confirmed by third party to be produced locally and secondly for procuring no conventionally produced industrial animal products.

  5. OP 8 Sustainable Dining (up to 2 points): An institution earns up to 2 points for fulfilling 2 requirements,

    1. Campus Dining Operations support sustainable food systems, such as through a Policy, Campus Garden, Farmer’s Market, etc.

    2. Minimising food waste.


Planning & Administration (PA) (up to 4 points)

  1. PA 2 Sustainability Planning (up to 4 points): An institution earns up to 4 points for developing and adopting plans that promote sustainability.

    1. Plans can cover a variety of issues and opportunities materially impacted by Sustainable Procurement, such as Buildings, Energy, Food & Dining, Grounds, Purchasing, Transportation, Water, Diversity & Affordability, etc.


Implementing a Sustainable Procurement Policy that integrates sustainability into all aspects of institutional procurement, in conjunction with participation in the AASHE STARS Sustainability Reporting Framework, will help an institution achieve ambitious campus sustainability goals, demonstrate campus and community leadership and inspire a generation of responsible and conscientious citizens committed to building a better future for all.

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