Guidance v. Rating System: What’s the Difference?

The Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council came together to create a shared program of guidance, benchmarking, and recognition for leadership in sustainable purchasing. We are pursuing this goal in stages.

In 2014, we have focused on creating guidance.

In May, we released a set of Principles for Leadership in Sustainable Purchasing, which can be used, by institutional purchasers, as guidance to develop their sustainable purchasing policies and processes. Building on this foundation, the Technical Advisory Groups and Technical Advisory Committee have been  moving quickly to bring forth a more developed, comprehensive document for approval, the Guidance for Leadership in Sustainable Purchasing v1.0, which will be released in December.

The Council’s Guidance v1.0 will do the following:

  • Assists organizations in successfully incorporating procurement as part of an organization’s strategic sustainability initiative through the use of an integrated, cross-functional team. (You can read more about how this is accomplished through Sam’s post on our target audience).
  • Educates purchasing organizations on the most significant impacts associated with their various spending categories, and the various strategies associated with mitigating the impacts of the spend.
  • Guides purchasing organizations through the process necessary to select the strategies best for them today, given their unique constraints and needs (e.g. available resources, sustainability goals, organizational culture, organizational structure, location, etc.).
  • Provides the guidance necessary to set up the infrastructure to measure progress and continuously improve toward goals.

The Guidance v1.0 will open for pilot in January 2015. (Look out for my forthcoming blog on the pilot process – and how to engage – in the coming weeks). The pilot process will help us to understand how well the guidance is working, so that we can continue to enhance the document in future versions.

In 2015, we will start to enable benchmarking.

In addition to providing feedback on the Guidance v1.0 itself, pilot participants will be asked to work with the TAC and TAG’s to provide input on how to use the Guidance v1.0 as the framework for a Rating System for benchmarking and recognition. We will be asking questions like the following: If an institutional purchaser could achieve a maximum of 100 overall points in an SPLC Rating System, then how many points should be awarded for doing Scope 1, 2, and 3 GHG inventories? And how many points should be awarded for achieving meaningful reductions in the GHG emissions reflected in those inventories? We will work with the TAC, TAGs, and additional stakeholders to address these types of questions in 2015, so that we can release an SPLC Rating System v1.o for piloting in 2016. Like the Guidance, we expect that Version 1.0 of the Rating System will be imperfect, but it will be a start.

At a minimum, the Council’s Rating System v1.0 will:

  • Identify baseline criteria that purchasing organizations must be accomplish to be rated and rewarded as a leader.
  • Reward (i.e. associate points) for specific strategies that best address the impacts associated with a spend category. This means that some actions within the program will receive more points than others, given their level of impact relative to other actions.
  • Reward (i.e. associate points) with specific performance thresholds achieved, where these can be reasonably measured and validated.
  • Differentiate organizations from one another among various levels of leadership.

We’ve had great success in building Guidance v1.0 with an initial set of engaged and invaluable volunteers. This Guidance will prove beneficial to our community of practice and will also guide the first iteration of our rating system. Make no mistake, next year’s rating system development will be a complicated process that involves many, many stakeholders at the table. I personally look forward to another year of digging into complex issues with a group of smart, dedicated peers!

In 2016, we will start piloting a system for recognition of leadership.

If all goes as planned in 2015, we should be ready, in early 2016, to invite organizations to start using the Rating System v1.0 to measure their performance, benchmark themselves against their peers, and obtain recognition from SPLC for their leadership. We will share more information about the plans for this at the SPLC 2015 Summit in Seattle, WA on May 26-28. Stay tuned!

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