Objective Definitions for Sustainable in a Procurement Code

Given the aforementioned efforts at local and global levels, arriving at an objective definition for "sustainable" appears to be a daunting task. Further, the development of metrics is confounded by the lack of such an objective definition. Without a doubt, a sustainable procurement code should include a definition of sustainability and an explanation of how the code promotes and achieves sustainability. For example, sustainability may be applied to the need for procuring particular goods or services. Sustainability may also be applied to the actual physical good or service. Yet further, sustainability may be applied to broader aspects of the provider (labor, pay, family leave, taxes, etc.).

Where sustainability applies to the need for procuring goods or services, the focus should be on the government addressing needs of the public. For example, if new furniture is not necessary and possibly considered a luxury, a decision not to purchase new furniture will inherently be a sustainable decision, at least until the furniture no longer functions properly. On the other hand, if a local company has designed sustainable furniture, then the government may choose to accelerate the decision to purchase new furniture if, over the long run, this results in a higher degree of sustainability.

With respect to sustainable goods or products, an article in the Wall Street Journal, "Is Your Grocery List Politically Correct? Food World's New Buzzword Is 'Sustainable' Products" addressed several issues surrounding the definition of a sustainable product [28]. The article quotes Jerry DeWitt, spokesman for the Sustainable Agriculture Network program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture: "[T]here are probably over 600 definitions of 'sustainable'"; it then states that the most widely accepted definition is three-pronged: products that are made in a way that is (i) profitable, (ii) environmentally sound, and (iii) beneficial for local communities. The article also asks the question "How Local is Local?"

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