Sustainability and Procurement: Excellence in the Public Sector

Sustainability and Procurement: Excellence in the Public Sector


Procurement has always been an important part of supply chain, and a robust sustainable procurement strategy contributes to integrating external suppliers and internal buyers into a system that promotes communication and reduces unnecessary waste. In order to stay up-to-date on procurement, an undergraduate research project was completed to analyze and learn from external best practices. The comparison of UCalgary‘s procurement approach with that of the public and private sectors provides a critical lens to review the current process and the opportunity to improve the purchasing strategies on campus from a sustainability perspective.


This research project involved developing an understanding of the status quo at UCalgary and then looking for additional sources of information to engage in several external comparisons. This included meeting with sustainability staff from other institutions and looking at the academic literature. It was found that the direct following of industry norms is a method used by the private sector to design the most suitable procurement strategy. An analysis of UCalgary’s supply chain areas indicates that there are many aspects of operational purchasing with room for improvement. Areas such as food and beverage and building operation and maintenance can easily be addressed through minor adjustments to the procurement approach.  UCalgary should also consider a trend to make its procurement system “smart” which means implementing mature technologies and welcoming new technologies for future development.

Next Steps:

Sustainable procurement has been a topic of interest for the last decade; however, there is a dearth of academic literature on the topic. Sustainable procurement, especially within the public sector, is a research gap that others may consider exploring more deeply. In order to advance its sustainability procurement approach, UCalgary must create a team with members from all relevant departments and contracting suppliers to understand its procurement bottlenecks and constantly exchange information with other institutions to be at the cutting-edge of sustainable procurement.


This research was funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sustainable Development Goals.