Vendors are key to the success of our Sustainable Procurement Program.
- Sustainable contracts
- Priority contracts
- Tools, resources and guidance
- MPCA case studies
Tips for vendors
Responding to technically complex product specifications
- Ask questions! Use the Q&A process outlined in the Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Bid (RFB)
- While many sustainability improvements are cost neutral or even lead to cost savings, don’t be discouraged if you think complying with the requirements may increase costs. The State anticipates that there may be cost implications as a result of its required specifications and expects those costs to be reflected in bid prices.
- Develop relationships and utilize the manufacturer to obtain the information you need to understand if your product meets the specifications and/or to help you complete your response to the solicitation.
- Obtain previous solicitations or review the specifications posted on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) website to allow yourself more time to review the required product specifications. See state contracts page.
- Contact technical experts at the MPCA to address questions about your products.
- Look up sustainability requests from other customers to help get ahead of things — they might have similar requirements.
- Know that these challenges are not unique to small suppliers! Large companies find this challenging too.
Responding to requests for ecolabels, standards or certifications
Having to get a certification is not a new thing, and sustainability is not alone in this. Much like safety standards, affirmative action requirements, etc. – our requirements reflect state priorities. The state requires certifications because sustainability is a core value for us.
One value of ecolabels and certifications is that they make things fairer and level the playing field. You don’t need a science degree to understand if your product meets the sustainability requirements. Standards, certifications, and ecolabels help us avoid greenwashing and falling prey to confusing or even untrue claims. With standards and labels we can make it clear what is acceptable or not and how to go and get certified by a reputable program.
In some cases, the State requires certified products, other times certifications earn you additional points. The special terms and conditions in the solicitation will indicate whether the certification is mandatory or desirable. Read the criteria for the specified standard carefully, and estimate how easy or difficult it will be to meet the criteria. You may already be doing many of the things they ask for, you just may need to document them better.
For manufacturers, consider the costs:
- Fees vary to get certified and are not necessarily published online, so inquire.
- There are usually application fees, certification fees, and re-certification fees. Some charge license fees.
- Certifiers usually have a sliding scale for smaller producers.
- Costs may also include making operational changes to meet the criteria, and administrative time to do the paperwork.
- Work with a manufacturer that offers one or more third-party certified products.
- Some certified products actually don’t cost more – talk your current manufacturer and compare costs with other manufacturer catalogs.
- Review existing requirements as early as you can; learn which requirements are most common in your sector. It's highly likely that other customers will be asking for these as well.
- Keep costs down by:
- buying in bulk
- streamlining the purchases
- eliminating the purchase of unnecessary items
- buying concentrated items (for chemicals)
- centralizing purchasing
Costs may be offset by the benefits of gaining the certification, so review which certifications your customers are requesting, what is considered to be credible, and then choose carefully.
Check the U.S. EPA’s Recommendations of Specifications, Standards, and Ecolabels to ensure you are choosing a reputable standard, certification, or ecolabel (if the State hasn’t already recommended or required a specific one for your product/service category).
Responding to reporting requirements (after the contract has been awarded)
The State uses the data in vendor reports to estimate the environmental benefits of buying sustainable products and to understand what state contract users are buying. To help with the reporting requirements:
- Work with manufacturers to provide the information needed for the report and make it a requirement for them to send it to you.
- If it the information is not available online, know who the actual person is who will send you the information so you are not scrambling.
- Ask questions of the state if you are unclear on the reporting requirements.
- If reporting frequency or format is a barrier, ask if a different schedule or format is possible (e.g., quarterly instead of monthly). Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council is promoting convergence with such reports, creating templates, encouraging purchasers to ask the same questions and use the same formats.
- Customers may ask you for this information, so set up a reporting system to be prepared for future requests.