A Sustainability Community of Practice

The Federal government has stringent procurement regulations that mandate a certain percentage of purchases are considered “sustainable.” But the question easily arises– exactly what does sustainable mean, and which standards and environmentally-friendly labels are the ones that meet objectives the most effectively? It can be quite subjective, and “subjective” is not a word that goes well with “sustainability.”

Nancy Gillis, director of the Federal Supply Chain Emissions PMO of the General Services Administration (GSA) explained to attendees in the “Furthering Supply Chains Through a National Community of Practice” session earlier today that the United States government is undertaking a dynamic effort to gather industry input through its Community of Practice (CoP).

“We’re looking for information regarding what you, the supply management professionals in the corporate world, are actually using in practice regarding metrics, tools, training and codes of conduct regarding sustainability,” she said. The CoP will be located on www.data.gov, which, Gillis noted, is a site that “all taxpayers should visit to get data on how we spend money”, and will be open to membership from industry, non-profits, associations and academia.

The idea is to share and discuss knowledge with peers and begin to determine which tools, codes of conduct, labels and initiatives are currently working–or not working, and share reasons explaining why and how. “In the end, this is a source for all of us,” noted Gillis, “And it’s not just for companies in the U.S. Anyone in the world can post to this site.”

Federal spending mandates are a little different from industry’s requirements, according to Gillis. “We at the GSA get pulled by executive order. We can either start from the beginning and do all of the work to determine what constitutes a sustainable supply chain, or we can find out what industry is already doing.”

So, what’s in it for you, the industry professional, in taking part in the CoP? Basically, this is a chance to define sustainable supply chains for different market sectors (and so far, Gillis and her team have identified 7 sectors from which they make most of their purchases) and find out what other companies are using. What are your peers including in their supplier codes of conduct? Which metrics are they using to track carbon emissions reduction compliance? That’s the type of information you’ll be able to see as more and more companies join and take part in the CoP.

From June 2012 through September 2012, the GSA will monitor the content of the CoP and reach out to leading companies and associations to invite their input. In September 2012, Gillis and her team will release their findings at the 2012 GreenGov event.

If you’d like to take part in the Community of Practice, visit http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/240789.

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