Public procurement is a distinct field of professional practice. A basic understanding of processes, terms, and organizations will increase your ability to successfully work with procurement professionals in your local or state government to help build a strong environmentally preferable procurement policy. In this section, we will provide you basic information on public procurement so that you can successfully engage with procurement professionals.
Cooperative purchasing organizations help develop and administer cooperative contracts used by state and local governments, public school districts and universities, special districts (e.g. fire, sewer, water), as well as nonprofits.
There are many benefits to cooperative contracting. Collectively, states are able to leverage their spending through a single solicitation that obtains best value pricing and superior contract terms. Cooperative purchasing organizations emphasize that they help governments get the best value from contractors considering price, quality, reliability, warranties, and service while protecting the government’s interests with favorable terms and conditions.
The two most prominent cooperative purchasing organizations for the public sector are the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) ValuePoint program, and OMNIA Partners formerly called the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance.
NASPO, the National Association of State Procurement Officials, is a non-profit association dedicated to strengthening the procurement community through education, research, and communication. It is made up of the directors of the central purchasing offices of the 50 states, District of Columbia and territories of the United States.
NASPO ValuePoint is a unified, nationally focused cooperative alliance aggregating the demand of all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the organized US territories, their political subdivisions and other eligible entities, spurring best, innovation and competition in the marketplace. The NASPO ValuePoint Cooperative Purchasing Organization LLC is a nonprofit, wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO).
OMNIA Partners, Public Sector, formerly called U.S. Communities was founded in 1996 as a partnership between the Association of School Business Officials, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities and the United States Conference of Mayors. U.S. Communities aggregates the purchasing power of more than 90,000 public agencies nationwide by offering Participating Public Agencies the ability to make purchases through existing, competitively solicited contracts between a supplier and a lead public agency.
OMNIA Partners, Public Sector does not make decisions about what kinds of products to contract, it facilitates the use of supplier contracts awarded by public agencies that are members. Once a “lead public agency” awards its contract to a supplier using a competitive solicitation process, it allows other Participating Public Agencies in need of similar products and services to make purchases through the existing contract through OMNIA. OMNIA does not issue the solicitation for the contracts or participate in the bid selection process with suppliers.
A number of organizations exist to aid municipalities, states, and institutions adopt and implement sustainable procurement policies. Two organizations with excellent resources for cities, counties, and states, in particular, are Responsible Purchasing Network (RPN) and Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC). These organizations offer free resources and webinars on sustainable procurement and even more resources, training opportunities, and consulting for their members who pay an annual fee. Learn more about these two great organizations via the links below.
In addition to these organizations, other NGOs provide excellent resources on procurement to municipalities, cities, and institutions. Center for Environmental Health (CEH) and Health Care Without Harm are two excellent sources of materials on sustainable procurement.
Third-party certifications are a very important tool to use to guide the procurement of sustainable products. This helpful factsheet shows and describes a number of third-party certifications and ecolabels that purchasers commonly use when looking for sustainable products. It can be useful in creating or implementing a sustainable procurement policy.
King County, Washington's ecolabels webpage shows the ecologos recommended by the county and allows users to filter, group, and sort the logos by information fields.
This informative webinar by Responsible Purchasing Network is an excellent introduction to what is sustainable purchasing. The webinar covers "greenwashing" and how purchasers can use environmental certifications to find sustainable products.