Cornell Purchasing to advance B-Corp, sustainable purchase tracking

Campus Sustainability Office January 10, 2019
Cornell Sustainable Purchasing Brochure
The Sustainable Purchasing Guide for Cornell provides resources for how to change business purchasing to reduce waste and encourage better buying practices.

Cornell’s Procurement and Payment Services department is advancing the capacity for users on campus and central administrators to track sustainable purchases from different types of organizations.  The new tracking efforts will help demonstrate the percentage of funds spent supporting sustainable business.  Purchasing maintains a set of Sustainable Purchasing Guidelines for use by anyone on campus who makes purchases for their unit, office, or department.

In addition to current accounting, Purchasing is looking to begin tracking purchases from sustainable suppliers or Certified B-Corps. Certified B-Corps balance purpose with profit, holding themselves legally accountable in terms of impact on workers, consumers, suppliers and the environment.

Currently Purchasing tracks purchases from from businesses based on locality and business ownership.  Local is defined as Tompkins County and adjacent counties, while regional is defined as New York State and adjacent states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont, and Pennsylvania). The following are lists of local and regional suppliers with whom Cornell has done business.  Purchasing maintains a spreadsheet of these purchases on their website.  Procurement also indicates whether a business is local on the preferred vendors list, making it easy for purchasers to select both a reputable and local resource.

Purchasing also tracks and has a goal of supporting businesses in other diversity categories, including minority-owned, women owned, small disadvantaged, HUB Zone, veteran owned and service-disabled-veteran owned businesses. The goal is to "give reasonable business opportunity" to these businesses, and to purchase "goods and services from such concerns to the fullest extent possible, consistent with this policy and the efficient performance of operations." 

According to the Procurement and Payment Services website, “the goal of the Supplier Diversity program is to provide a resource that will assist the university community in locating and establishing relationships with small and disadvantaged businesses.”  In 2018, Cornell spent a total of $44,935,408 on these purchases – a 17% increase from just four years earlier. 

For personal or home spaces, Cornell has also finding sustainable products easy with e-SHOP. Similar to "wish lists" on sites like Amazon, e-SHOP's Fast Tracks offers two ways to find items you order often:

  1. A pre-defined list of items frequently purchased at Cornell, listed by category – computers, office supplies, lab supplies, paper and toners.

  2. Create your own Fast Tracks list of items you order on a regular basis or just store items you'd like to order. You can also share personal Fast Tracks folders with others.

  3. Take a look at the e-SHOP Quick Guide (PDF) if you are not sure how to navigate the site.

Sustainable purchasing is crucial to upholding Cornell’s sustainability goals as outlined in both the Climate Action Plan and the Campus Sustainability Plan. It’s important to choose products that are local, socially and environmentally friendly, and resource efficient. The Sustainable Purchasing Guide (PDF) helps users determine how to buy the best products for their campus office or lab.